To quote the words of that most famous singer, Andy Williams, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’, and indeed it is. Christmas will soon be upon us, and some of us are preparing for that pilgrimage home to see our loved ones. From the moment I put up the tree, usually via a trip to B&Q for some tree lights due to the annual blowout, the festive season starts. Every year I talk to consumers about our wine range at a festival in Winchester. The sight of a decorated tree, the splendor of the historic Guildhall and the sipping of mulled wine whilst browsing the annual festive market, certainly gets me into the festive spirit.
Fortunately, I’m not hosting this year, having drawn the short straw for the last two years. However, the spectacle of driving home for Christmas, Chris Rea style, on a crisp morning to see the family is something I shall enjoy. Having all my favourite people in one place, is a moment I savor, something I’m sure you also enjoy. Christmas is also that magical time of year when we wrap presents by the roaring fire, sing carols in the high street and brush the dust off that Monopoly box, in a bid to get to Mayfair first!
The season is also a great time of the year to go wine shopping. Just like baking a cake or buying that perfect tree, finding those ideal bottles for the big occasion are key ingredients for the yuletide celebrations. From crowd pleasers to fabulous fizz and even something spirited, I’ve come up with some festive treats to help you enjoy Christmas just that little bit more….
The welcome fizz
> Nyetimber Classic Cuvee
Get your festive celebrations off to the perfect start with a glass of the fizzy stuff. Pop open a glass of this perennial award-winning classic from the pioneers of English sparkling wine. The gentle tingle of the bubbles on your tongue, coupled with some David Essex playing in the background, will get your celebrations off with a bang. A creamy, rich classic with apricot, melon and toast flavours, everyone will certainly love this sublime Sussex sparkler!
The Christmas Eve extravagance
> The Chocolate Block
There’s nothing like a warming red to enjoy before the big day kicks off. My dad is always a big fan of smooth red wines from South Africa, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too. The rich, opulent and flavoursome red reminds my fellow specialist of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. One sip leads to a smile, just as if you have found that lucrative golden ticket! It’s one of wines where the taste wraps around you like an old leather armchair, warming you up after a spot of carol singing in the High Street. If you’re having a Christmas Eve get together over some food, its lovely with a joint of roast beef or venison, even saving a drop for Father Christmas to enjoy later that evening.
The big day arrives!
> Domaine Gerard Thomas Saint-Aubin, Premier Cru
It’s the morning of the big day, Jack Frost has painted a delightful scene outside and I know you’re itching to get out of bed! With Band Aid playing, there’s that moment of calmness whilst everyone upwards their presents, if someone gets wine I find this a good excuse to pop to the kitchen in a frantic bid to avoid the questions about the suspect bottle! Unfortunately, the calmness is short lived as the sounding of the oven timer heralds the start of lunch preparation. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to festive meats, however my late grandad always insisted on having a proper turkey on Christmas Day with all the trimmings. None of the stuffed alternatives, which are much easier to cook. My experience of opting for this alternative option is something I shall truly remember, and the standard choice resumed the following year. So, with the turkey in the oven it’s time to choose that all important ‘turkey tipple’!
Christmas Day lunch calls for something a bit special, so I’ve chosen this delicious white Burgundy. Produced in the renowned Cote-de-Beaune, this premier cru borders the much-acclaimed vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet. Rich and full bodied in style, Gerard Thomas produces this wine to challenge that of its pricier neighbour for quality. Bursting with aromas ripe peaches, lemons, limes and subtle sweet spice, it’s complimented by hints of vanilla and a touch of buttery oak. Domaine Gerard Thomas Saint-Aubin, Premier Cru is the perfect foil for your Christmas plate.
The after dinner indulgence
> Domaine Pouderoux Maury Grande Reserve
I have to admit that I’m not the world’s best baker. Occasionally the fire alarm has been used as a sort of timer in order to inform me when something is ready! On the other hand, my mother is an absolute whizz in the kitchen when it comes to cake making. Pairing chocolate and wine can often be a dubious task so, to make it easier, think about which fruits work well with chocolate. The obvious ones that spring to mind are cherries and raspberries, just like a Black Forest Gateau – something else to add to my Christmas shopping list! Maury is an absolute gem of a sweet wine from Southern France, using 100% Grenache Noir where the fermentation is stopped early to retain the sweetness. Much more refreshing than Port in its style, use it as your action hero during December, as it can be paired with either chocolate-based desserts or the natural festive choice, Christmas pudding.
The Boxing Day brew
> Einstok White Ale
Once the family has departed and all that wrapping paper has been put out for recycling, it’s time for a brew – but not the PG Tips variety. However, here’s a tipple I discovered whilst attending a recent press tasting. Produced in Iceland and featuring the complex flavours of orange peel and coriander and brewed with pure Icelandic water, it’s a diamond delight. If your Boxing Day buffet contains all that leftover turkey or that popular festive choice, the prawn ring, they both pair with this northern novelty superbly. If you’re looking to pair food and beer over Christmas, check out the experts at beerforthat.com for some fabulous combinations.
> Getting into the Yuletide spirit Six O’clock Gin
Following the big day you might require a tipple to help to raise the spirits. Gin is the perfect solution, whether consumed with a splash of tonic or as part of a festive cocktail. Produced in South Gloucestershire by Bramley and Gage, Six o’clock is the time when Edward Kain, great grand-father of the current owners, took his tonic when he worked in the Merchant Navy – a perfect excuse for ‘gin o’clock’. You may not have the energy to wait until six to indulge in its fine balance of botanicals, including coriander, orange peel and elderflower. Calling for a cocktail? Mix with gently warmed orange and cranberry juice to make a soothing Warm Gin Cup. Whatever the occasion, you can always rely on some ‘ginsperation’.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!