Keep it simple is my wine-drinking motto at Christmas. There are some people who argue that this is the time to pull your finest, dust-covered bottles from the back of the cupboard, to give your nose and palate a Yuletide treat, but I take the view that quantity is as important as quality. The last thing you want to do is run out of wine as your in-laws come waddling up the driveway. If this isn't sufficiently terrifying, imagine having to watch the Queen's speech sober.
Unless you're an unreconstructed wine buff, don't waste your time buying dozens of different wines. Christmas Day can be a maelstrom, so don't complicate things with your choice of vino. Far better to use my Christmas survival kit. This consists of some fizz, a basic red and white, a quartet of more interesting wines to have with lunch, a sweet wine to partner the pudding and a Port for the cheese. With January credit card statements in mind, I've tried to keep to a budget. Only my Champagne costs more than £10.
I like to have two types of bubbles to hand at Christmas: a cheapie for Buck's fizz and impromptu parties and a decent Champagne to drink as an aperitif before lunch. The Kumala Brut Chardonnay (£6.99, Sainsbury's), a ripe, soft, creamy Cape fizz with attractive tropical fruit undertones is ideal in the first instance. And for Champagne lovers, the R de Ruinart Brut (£24.99, or £10 off if you buy two bottles, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up) is an elegant, nutty, nicely mature bubbly with considerable complexity and a fine, tastebud-tickling mousse.
Decent plonk is an important Christmas staple chez Atkin. It's not easy to find drinkable stuff under £3.99 these days, but after several hundred hours spent hunched over the spittoon, I've come up with two winning wines. Try the 2000 Mimbral Chardonnay (£2.99 from 12 December for four weeks, Somerfield),a modern, buttery, lightly oaked white from the Penedés in Spain and Tesco's Argentinian Red (£2.99), a fruity, cherry and bramble-like glugger.
These are both eminently drinkable - indeed, more drinkable than they deserve to be at this price - but you wouldn't want to quaff these wines all day. Over lunch (and for all I know beyond), you should serve something with a bit more depth and complexity. I've chosen two whites to partner a fish course and a pair of reds for the turkey. The whites are both from the New World, while the reds are from the Old.
The whites are the 2001 Peter Lehmann Barossa Semillon (£5.49, Oddbins), a ripe, citrus fruity, cream soda-like white with understated oak; and the 2001 Springfield Special Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc (£6.99, Waitrose), an intense, cut-grass and gooseberry fruity white from the Cape, that's mid-way between the Loire and New Zealand in style. My reds are the 2000 Crozes Hermitage, Etienne Barret (£6.99, Safeway), a youthful, peppery, blackberry fruity Syrah from the northern Rhône with a kiss of oak; and for claret lovers the 1998 Château Mazeris, Canon Fronsac (£9.99, Oddbins), a supple, fleshy, Merlot-based red that underlines what a good vintage 1998 was on the Right Bank.
I don't know about you, but my tooth seems to get noticeably sweeter at this time of year. (Must be those tins of Quality Street.) That's why I always buy a bottle or two of something sticky. With Christmas pud, you must serve Seppelt's DP63 Rutherglen Show Muscat (£7.49, Waitrose), a mature, perfumed, raisiny, ultra-sweet number from Australia. And with the cheese, how about the fiery, spicy, intense 1996 Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage (£9.99, Majestic; buy two save £2). This is a wine to carry from the lunch table to the fireside. Perfect for that three o'clock rendezvous with the Queen.