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Need to pick up a bottle or two of tipple to take to an upcoming Christmas party? Selecting something that’ll impress your friends – and stay within your budget – can be daunting. To help, we called on a local spirits and wine experts to help you navigate the liquor shops with finesse.


Sarah Heller – Hong Kong-based wine expert and Asia’s youngest Master of Wine – shares with us her thoughts on top bottles, both more affordable and premium options.

Wine expert and Asia’s youngest Master of Wine Sarah Heller

What to look for

‘Festive wines should tick a number of boxes,’ she starts. ‘One, they should appeal to a broad range of tastes – not too inexpensive or hyper-expensive, and not extreme styles like heavily oaked reds or blousy aromatic whites. They should be refreshing and moderate in alcohol (13.5% max is ideal), because if you’re going to be drinking them all night with a series of increasingly rich dishes, you don’t want to feel too full too early in the evening – and you want to be standing by the end of dinner! Finally, they should be food-friendly: not too powerful in flavour and nice refreshing acidity always help — you don’t want to have to change wine every course.’

If you’re going easy on the wallet

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV: ‘While Champagne is the obvious choice for the celebratory season, why not shake things up with an English sparkling wine; there’s a biscuity richness to this wine despite its northern growing environment that may make you want to drink this with your meal as well as before it.’

Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon 2011: ‘Your guests will be surprised by the toastiness of this style despite the fact that it has no oak treatment; it’s also wonderfully refreshing and low in alcohol; great for a pre-meal aperitif.’

Jean Paul Balland Sancerre Rose 2016: ‘I love Sancerre rosé as a food wine; it’s based on Pinot Noir and always made with a bit more contact between the skin and the juice so that you get more flavour and texture than in the classic, super-light rosés.’

Clau De Nell Anjou Cabernet Franc 2015: ‘Cabernet Franc is a highly under-appreciated component of the classic Bordeaux blend that reaches great heights in the Loire Valley — it’s lightness of body and food-friendly charm make this a great holiday choice.’

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2013: ‘I love New Zealand’s Syrah style. It’s generally lighter in weight and more refreshing than elsewhere in the New World while still retaining the dark-fruited spiciness that Syrah admirers love, and is a great food wine.’

If you’re splurging

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2016: ‘New-wave New Zealand Chardonnay brings the finesse and “mineral” quality that white Burgundy lovers adore with a more generous helping of fruit and sunshine, which makes for a more crowd-pleasing package.’

Argiolas Turriga Isola dei Nuraghi Rosso 2013: ‘This exotic mix of Sardinian grape varieties treads a fine line between richness and freshness, so will happily pair with both the lighter and heavier elements of your meal.’

David Duband Vosne Romanee 2015: ‘This village-level wine from a charming, ripe year in Burgundy will keep the Pinot-philes in your life happy!’


Here, Yvonne Cheung – Chef Sommelier of The Upper House and a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers – shares with us her thoughts on choosing a festive spirit and her favourite affordable and premium spirits for festive season celebrating.

Chef Sommelier of The Upper House Yvonne Cheung

What to look for

‘For festive liquor, comforting brown spirits such as aged rum or whisky always get me in the mood. When the weather is a touch cooler, it’s so soothing to enjoy those spiced, rich overtones in these distinctive bottlings,’ she says. ‘A good sipping spirit is a wonderful way to reminisce about the past year, and of course, they help to digest that indulgent meal with loved ones. Rum and Whisky are incredibly complex spirits due to their raw ingredients, ageing environment, blends and exposure to barrels and oxygen over time. The options and regions to explore are endless – I’ve selected a few strong examples.’

If you’re going easy on the wallet

Zacapa 23 Solera: ‘I gravitate towards the ever popular Zacapa 23 Solero dark rum from Guatemala – it has a perfume redolent of warm banana bread.’

Flor de Cana 18: ‘From Nicaragua, this one is much more forward, and suitable to mark the end of the meal if you’ve already had wine during dinner.’

Michter’s Straight Rye: ‘Michter’s Straight Rye has a little more lift – they take their whiskey seriously, so that we can focus on enjoying it.’

If you’re splurging

Mount Gay XO: ‘From Barbados, its “regular” counterpart is well known and popular; this one shows beautiful finesse, though it’s hard to find.’

Plantation XO: ‘This blend is truly sophisticated and needs no garnish.’

Bowmore 25: ‘What you expect from an elegantly aged Scotch – it shows a latticework of fruit, toasted nut and smoke, with a very long finish.’

Discover a range of festive gathering-friendly wines and spirits, including many named here, in-store at Watson’s Wine and Liquid Gold at Pacific Place. Happy indulging!