Friday, 9 December 2011

God rest you merry, Gentlemen...and ladies - it's Christmas Part 2

Last time I gave some recommended wines for all those occasions that involve wine over the festive period – and if you missed it, you can catch up here: Now, however, the focus is on the big day itself.

I wouldn't normally recommend wines to go with your cornflakes, but at Christmas the normal order is turned on its head. And I'm assuming that breakfast is more of a brunch; later, more leisurely and certainly more luxurious than normal. Straight fizz might seem too much of a shock to the system for most, but brave souls could ease themselves into the day with a glass of Prosecco – its clean, fresh fruit and touch of sweetness is ideal.

For many of us, though, Buck's Fizz has become a tradition. Please, DO NOT buy the pre-mixed bottles. Buy the best orange juice you can (or even squeeze your own) and combine (in whatever proportions you enjoy) with either Prosecco or Cava. The predominant taste will be the orange juice, so go for budget bubbles.

We all love Christmas dinner, but we wouldn't want to eat it every day. Let's face it, it's a bit of an endurance test for the body, so pre-lunch you need a wine to get the juices and the appetite going in order to fortify for the feast ahead.

Champagne is the pre-prandial aperitif par excellence and now is a good time to produce a really fancy bottle if you have one. Blanc de blancs (ie made from 100% Chardonnay) are a good choice, as they have plenty of crisp fruit and nervy, mouthwatering acidity.

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2005 - Special introductory offer £26.99 at Sainsbury's, £38 from Great Western Wines
Lovely light style, with fine acidity and long-lasting flavours of apple, flowers and white pepper.

If you serve smoked salmon at some point, then Champagne is of course a perfect companion. You could go for something with a bit more body here.

Berry Brothers Own Label Champagne - £25.95 per bottle, down to £23.35 a bottle if you buy 6, from
Christmas might not be the day to plonk a bottle emblazoned Tesco or Waitrose on the table (though personally I wouldn't mind). Berry Brothers' own label, though, is far more the thing. Produced entirely from top Grand Cru vineyards in the village of Mailly, this is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, giving it more power and structure than a Blanc de Blancs. Aromas of pear give way to a palate of spice and crisp apple, with the length and structure to stand up to food. A great match for smoked salmon too.

Alternatives to fizz as aperitifs would be really top class Sauvignon Blanc, from its heartland in the Loire Valley.

Château de Tracy Pouilly Fumé 2006 - £17.50 from The Wine Society
No oak, just the unadorned grapes treated gently to give delicately perfumed fruit with persistent flavour.

Sancerre Le MD de Bourgeois 2010 - £22.49 from Les Caves de Pyrène
Much more full-on and assertively fruity, but with great mineral intensity, this will certainly give the tastebuds a good wash and brush up.

Turkey, or whatever your chosen bird, is really not in the equation when it comes to choosing a wine. Think of all the different flavours that we pile onto a single plate – stuffing, gravy, sprouts, roast potatoes, sausage and bacon...I could go on. It really isn't possible to match them all, so you need to choose a wine that will not be overwhelmed, but will not try to fight with all those flavours either.

Think, also, about who is round the table. If you have a group of fine wine lovers, then by all means dig out your treasured bottles of fine, aged claret or white Burgundy. But for most of us, we are in multi-generational groups, some of whom might not touch wine for most of the year. So choose something that will please a crowd and won't frighten the horses.

Le Faîte 2007 - £14.99 from Adnams Cellar and Kitchen (branch in Richmond)
Arrufiac, Petit Courbu, Petit and Gros Manseng – you don't need to have heard of the grape varieties to enjoy this unique white wine: big bold fruit, big-boned but with refreshing acidity.

Domaine Roche Audran Cuvée César 2009 - £12.58 from
The southern Rhône is a great source of wines that are generous of fruit and body, with a food friendly whiff of herbs. This 100% Grenache wowed a group at a recent wine dinner and is certified (in a good way) biodynamic.

Brouilly Domaine Durand “Pisse Vieille” 2010 - £8.95 from The Wine Society
It may be shy about trumpeting it on the label, but this is a Beaujolais. Deliciously, juicily, red fruited stuff that will suit a multitude of food and palates. By the way, “vieille” means old and “pisse” means...well, what it sounds like. Don't let this put you off.

Rioja Reserva – such as Cune Reserva 2006/7 - £11.95 from Waitrose
The barrel and bottle ageing that Rioja Reservas undergo lead to mellow wines which are versatile with food, so they are always good to have to hand for Christmas.

Yes, the marathon is not finished yet. If you opt for pudding, then you need something to go with – or indeed instead of.

Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat - £12.40 for a half bottle from
Australian liqueur muscat is just about the closest you can get to Christmas pudding in liquid form. Lusciously viscous with flavours of dates, raisins, caramel and spice, it can stand up to the richest, sweetest pudding.

Tawny ports also rub along nicely with the sweet spice of Christmas pudding, mince pies and the like. These are widely available, but try and get hold of a 10 year old (or even better, 20 year old), as these will have more mellow nuttiness. And you can keep going with it if anyone is still up for some stilton.

Good luck! See you on the other side.

1 comment:

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