Xmas comes but twice a year

Why, when you've survived as many Christmas and traditional Sunday dinners (roast whatever and all the trimmings) as I have in the past 70-mumble years, why would you want to add another to the list?

Because you're still hungry? You enjoy this sort of nosh? Probably both. But mostly because at this end of the Earth where Christmas falls almost in the height of summer, the celebration of Christ's birth and Santa's coming is still thought of and regarded as a winter festival.

So come June and winter proper the traditionalists (me excluded) celebrate it as such by having what they've already had, cooking another slap-up dinner, wearing funny hats and pretending it's Christmas.

For others whose appetites are bigger than their bellies it simply provides another opportunity to pig out though, as is increasingly the case, it is also a chance for many to enjoy the traditional Christmas dinner they passed up for a barbecue and salads back in December. Whichever, it is also an opportunity to break out the wines we tend to save for special occasions, or, and hopefully, those which will complement the food being served.

In other words, wines that are not necessarily expensive, but will strike a balance between the weight of wine and food so that neither overpowers the other.

Which means maybe a silken pinot noir, a syrah, a Bordeaux-style blend for the red meats; perhaps a riesling, a chardonnay or viognier for the white meats; something special for the pud and rather decadent and sweet for the fruit and the cheese.

And let's not forget some bubbles for openers and a fortified to finish.

Some suggestions:

Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle ($30)
A classy, non-vintage blend of mostly pinot noir and chardonnay that's pure and crisp with many of the characters we expect from champagnes twice the price. One of several fine bubblies made in the deep south by master winemaker Rudi Bauer.

Trinity Hill 2010 The Trinity ($22)
A popular, fruit-driven Bordeaux-style blend from Hawke's Bay that's created from near enough to equal shares of cabernet sauvignon and franc, which provide the colour and the currants with the balance mostly plummy merlot. Rich and juicy, ready and waiting.

Matua Valley 2010 Reserve Release Syrah ($22)
Ridiculously priced for a trophy-winning red and has been selling on special for even less. An elegant, aromatic Hawke's Bay syrah with a red-berried core fleshed out with florals, white pepper and spice. Another smooth and satisfying lamb-friendly red.

Mills Reef 2009 Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot ($24)
The timing should be as near to perfect as it gets to broach this substantial, mostly cabernet Hawke's Bay blend. It's supple and strong, awash with currants and plums, and seasoned with spice. Excellent value.

Buller Fine Old Rutherglen Muscat (about $28 for 750ml)
Whatever the vintage, this fortified Australian muscat compared by someone to sweet motor oil is a must for the plum pudding and will go with the smelly cheeses, too. If unavailable then look for another of these rare Rutherglen beauties.

Wooing Tree 2010 Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir ($28)
A hand-picked, single-vineyard wine from this part of the world at less than $30 makes this Cromwell pinot a bargain buy. Silky smooth it's driven by plums with cherries, berries and a twist of spice.

Seifried 2010 Winemakers Collection Sweet Agnes Riesling ($19)
A much-awarded sweet white from Nelson which is named for the maker's wife Agnes. Fresher and livelier than many of its ilk, its concentrated mix of citrus and stonefruit lingers on.

Sacred Hill 2011 Halo Chardonnay ($25)
The cheaper of a series of excellent chardonnays which make this Hawke's Bay winery a one-stop shop for this prince of whites. Typically creamy smooth with stonefruit and citrus flavours with an overlay of of nuts and vanilla. Take your choice.

The Southland Times