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Winter party wines: 25 at £20 or under

Just in time for the festive season, members of the Decanter in-house tasting team have been rushing around to many supermarket and merchant tastings, on the hunt for wines that punch above their weight, at all price levels. Here we bring you their pick of the best under £20 to get your party started.

So you’re throwing a party. Of course you are. It’s that time of year, after all. And you’ll need to get the drinks organised. You enjoy a decent bottle of wine, and know a fair bit about it. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. So whatever other options you’re considering for the lo-no/designated driver/cocktails/craft beer crowd, the wine is likely to be your responsibility (and let’s face it, who needs an excuse to go out and buy lots of nice wine?).

So here are a few suggestions, pulled together by the party-loving Decanter team – all wines we’ve run across at recent tastings, which we’d serve at our own parties. They’re all affordable at £20 or under, and should be fairly easy to find.

Surprise the wine connoisseur in your life this Christmas!

Pitching it right

But to start, a few hints on party etiquette. No, not ‘don’t do that dance with the lampshade on your head again’, though that’s useful to keep in mind.

First, think of your guests. If your social circle is anything like ours, there will be a few knowledgeable wine enthusiasts, a few who are interested but less educated, some who like what they know and know what they like, and the inevitable smattering of those who might accidentally take a swig from a nearby vase of flowers without noticing the difference.

So it’s not an occasion to go overboard on the fine wines. That bottle of 1982 Mouton Rothschild can stay securely locked away in the cellar.

Your choice should be reasonably mainstream, too; the ‘interesting’ natural wine that smells of overripe barnyard, the headache-inducing 16.5% abv red and the semi-sweet curiosity from the East of Azerbaijan are probably treats for another time. You don’t have to stick to supermarket standards and well-known labels, but the reaction you’re aiming for is ‘this is nice, what is it?’, not ‘what on Earth is this?’.

Also think about food. Or rather, don’t. You’re looking for wines that will work on their own, or with a wide variety of flavours if you’re serving snacks and canapés. Something that only works well with cheese or fish is way too specialised.

And then there’s the season to consider. It’s winter, so you could happily lean towards more robust wines – though easy-drinking lighter whites are a perennial standby, and pale rosé has escaped its summer-only designation to be a year-round favourite.

And the last hint? Don’t take it all too seriously. While you may be very proud of your carefully chosen selection, this is clearly a time to wear your knowledge lightly – after all, a party is all about conversations and connections, and the wine should be an accompaniment (even better, enhancement) to that rather than the main event. But what if anybody refuses your wine and insists on drinking that bottle of £4.99 plonk they brought with them? Well, you know where the door is.

Winter party wines: 25 at £20 or under

Wines chosen by members of the Decanter team

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