From Nick Adams MW
Christmas is not only the time to celebrate but to indulge. Good food, wine and company are integral to the success and memories which make this time so special. I have highlighted several suggestions for various themes and plans you may have for Christmas:
- Parties – hosting a drinks and canapés party for a group of people
- Christmas day lunch – the big day itself
- Special occasions – eg hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner, or frankly just indulging yourself
The featured wines which are in most cases under the banners of “crowd pleasers”, “try something different” or “treat yourself”
One of the great pleasures of the day is sitting by a fire, maybe opening your presents, and enjoying a glass of something nice with a selection of nibbles and canapés. One of the most conventional drinks is to open some fizz, but it’s down to you. Sticking with the bubbles theme though I would recommend the following, starting with a Champagne treat:
- Ayala Brut Majeur NV – a lovely Champagne which does not break the bank. Also, importantly it is made in a true “aperitif” style – by that very delicate, refreshing and quite mineral – a real appetite lifter
- Or the immaculate Spanish “Cava” from the brilliant new wave Penedès producer Raventós i Blanc – truly authentic which has an orchard fruit led quality and is ultra-crisp and mineral – very refreshing
- If you fancy a New World (and Rosé) take on the Champagne model, then go for the excellent Quartet Brut Rosé NV from California, with its toasty notes and stone fruit qualities
Parties and Informal Gathering
This is about providing crowd pleasing wines which match nibbles and canapés without breaking the bank.
No doubt many of us will be hosting family and friends at various times over Christmas and New Year. If you are planning such an event and will be serving nibbles and canapés to accompany, what you need are good value, all-round crowd-pleasing wines. Quite often, when planning, you are probably looking for a white, a red and maybe a sparkler which will please most people without breaking the bank – and which are also versatile with light foods. Here are my suggestions:
- Prosecco Vallate, Veneto Italy – maybe no surprises here. The most popular sparkling wine style in the UK right now and ticks all the boxes for an off-dry, fruity, easy drinking wine which also works well with light foods
- Picpoul de Pinet Baron de Badassière Languedoc – hugely popular Southern French modern style white wine it delivers with upfront, citric fruit flavour and a gentle texture and mouthfeel. Made from the local Picpoul grape, it is unoaked and no more than medium bodied, but nicely crisp. Prefect, again with light foods and canapés
- Merlot Reserve Chateau los Boldos Cachapoal, Chile – Chile does the Merlot grape very well and this is a soft, bright, black fruits flavoured wine, with a rounded and juicy mouthfeel. No more than medium bodied, not too dry but with enough personality for slightly richer nibbles and canapés
Christmas Day Lunch
Christmas Day Lunch – the big one! Although this is a big day the cook, or cooks, also carry a fair degree of responsibility to put on a good spread whilst also trying to relax and enjoy the day themselves. So, let’s look at the options and suggestions
- Traditional Turkey
Where else to begin? And we start with a twist. Good quality, free range turkey can be mildly gamey (like Guinea Fowl) and depending on how it has been cooked it can work surprisingly well with a light bodied red or fuller bodied rosé, as with (the more obvious choice) a dry white wine.
And don’t forget that the “trimmings” often come with a salty and tangy edge to them (eg sausage, bacon, stuffing). Also, if you are doing traditional bread sauce (with clove studied onion as its base) then you are also adding dairy and soft spice notes. In general, for white avoid anything that is heavily oaked as this conflicts with these flavours. Equally you want a white which has some weight, punch, and fruit.
Regarding a red, opt for a lighter bodied red, which is fruity but not too tannic – and serve it cool (15 minutes in the fridge) as this lifts the whole profile if the wine with the food. Basically, any crisp, dry, unoaked white which you normally enjoy will work, but if you want to be a little different….
- Crowd Pleaser – unoaked fruity white: Côte de Gascogne Duffour Père et Fils Southwest, France
Outstanding value for money, dry, with bold citrus fruit and a fine texture, unoaked
- Try Something Different – light red: Valpolicella Allegrini Veneto, Italy
Perfect texture and weight, light tannins, and juicy cherry fruit
- Treat – classic white, Burgundy: Chablis Premier Dru Beauroy Burgundy, France
Dry, but not too rich with red apple, stone fruit and mineral notes – elegant and refined
- Roast Beef
Many people opt for this British classic and it is also great cold in evening sandwiches, or on Boxing Day with salad and roast potatoes. With its savoury richness, fibrous texture, and infused fat it will come as no surprise that a dry, fuller bodied, more tannic red is a strong recommendation. And please don’t worry if you are not usually a fan of this style, because the drier tannins merge perfectly with the fatty richness and protein texture, to elevate the pure savoury character of the beef – whilst in reverse the soft fruity character of the wine is also elevated by the absorption of the tannins: result – a perfect marriage.
- Crowd Pleaser: Kaiken Clásico Mendoza Malbec, Argentina
Dry, plump with ripe blackberry fruit, moderate tannins, and a touch of spice
- Try Something Different: Bodegas Garzón Tannat Reserve, Uruguay
Dry, quite rich with plum fruit, soft spice and quite juicy
Plush, full bodied and refined. Cherry liqueur, leaf tea and herbal notes with silky tannins and oak
- Game (can include Lamb here) – incl Goose, Duck, Pheasant, Vension etc.
Approach game not unlike with beef, but game is often more fibrous, and although sometimes fatty to start with (classically goose and duck) this rapidly drains away and does not quite infuse into the meat as with beef and lamb for example. Good game is also nicely textural and very savoury. And do go for the trimmings, like classic bread sauce, redcurrant jelly, game chips …
Also, it is a myth to think that all game must be, or has been, hung for long periods – please do not be put off as most hasn’t and doesn’t need to be! Full bodied, savoury, and rich reds work well in general. All those mentioned in the Beef section will work, but with game New World reds can come into their own. Lamb, duck, and lighter game birds, such as Guinea Fowl, Quail and Partridge, also work very well with Pinot Noir
- Crowd Pleaser: The Liberator Syrah Stellenbosch, South Africa
Medium bodied with blackberry fruit and nicely peppery
- Try something different: Talò Malvasia Nera San Marzano Puglia, Italy
Supple, smooth dark fruits and a touch of spice from this southern Italian indigenous grape
Dry, savoury and long with black plum, vanilla touch of chocolate and a vanilla dusting
- Ham on the bone
This is an old and often forgotten classic – and a real seasonal treat. A great way to enjoy Christmas Eve, along with some good soup and a cheeseboard. There will always be an element of salt, but it should not be “salty” if that makes sense. Good, cured ham should be moist and (maybe surprisingly) taste of pork. It is one of those dishes which can be served with a white or red wine, but the red must be light bodied and have good acidity (and again serve cool as mentioned before). Rosé is also an option here. Whites which work best are unoaked, with plenty of acidity (this really cuts through the salt). Any white wine with a “tangy” note to it works well – again probably no surprise to you.
- Crowd Pleaser: Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand
Dry, zesty, citric with notes of passion fruit
- Try Something Different: Azevedo Vinho Verde Loueiro | Alavarinho Minho, Portugal
Crisp, mix of citrus and stone fruit, light bodied, unoaked
Dry, crisp, bold red berries, more-ish