The UK’s most enthusiastic oenophile spills his secrets for furnishing festive cellars.

Olly Smith, dubbed ‘Jolly Olly’ on account of his sheer, palpable and infectious gusto for his work, is a multi award-winning wine expert. He is also, as the millions devoted viewers of Saturday Kitchen will attest, a much-loved TV personality, as well as being the author of several books, a columnist and the host of his own podcast, A Glass With. On that last, he rattles circuitously through the life stories of his celebrity guests – from Ranulph Fiennes to Marco Pierre White; Dawn French to Sam Neill – while gloriously glugging glasses of wine. It is lively, it is fun and it is an absolute must-listen.

He knows a thing or two, then, about what he drinks. And here, he magnanimously shares his very top tips for buying well and slurping in style and with merry abandon this Christmas. We’ll drink to that.

With the Christmas turkey, classic wines work a charm.

To get the best without breaking the bank, buy smart from a decent online independent wine merchant, where own labels can often deliver the goods. For a brilliant red Bordeaux punching above its price point this Christmas, Tanners Super Claret Haut Médoc 2015 (13%) is £14.95 and a rich smart treat to savour.

Fortified wines are fun!

Why wait until the big day to crack open a port or a sherry? For a wine that tastes like liquid Christmas cake, The Wine Society has an Australian superstar for £11.50. Click the link and dive into The Wise One Tawny made by Bleasdale. It’ll pair a charm with Christmas treats from mince pies to pud. Do keep it in the fridge and sip a small glass throughout December – it’s as comforting as a portable fireside.

Save on fizz by buying smart.

Crémant from France is made in the same way as traditional Champagne but from a different region – and in this case, a unique blend of grapes too. M&S has its Classics Crémant NV (12%) for £10 which is so superb it really makes me wonder why we ever pay more for our bubbly.

Try white wine with cheese.

A sumptuous white with Cheddar may sound counterintuitive, but the saltiness of the Cheddar works a charm with the rich glossy texture and gentle peachy zing of the wine. For an indulgent treat, Le Faîte Blanc 2016 (13.5%) is £20.95 from Corney & Barrow and a fulsome glass of glory.

Portugal has some top value reds and whites that remain bafflingly cheap.

If you’re looking for a party red, this bottle from the Dão is terrific.

Dive into Olly’s podcast! Hear the drinking tales of celebrities from Sting to Pink, Dawn French and Ainsley Harriott on 'A Glass With' available on Apple, Spotify, all good podcast providers, or free for you to listen online.

By Nancy Alsop
December 2020

Olly Smith
Simon Berry
Gustav Temple

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.