Once again, the festive season is upon us and, just to remind you, take an innocent walk through any shopping centre on a lovely autumnal day and, without warning, Noddy Holder will start screaming ‘It’s Christmaaaas’ into your ear.
It’s also that time when we skate on ice, get caught up in Sellotape, listen to the Queen and indulge ourselves in that annual game of Trivial Pursuit. There’s no vaccine against it, so time to get into the mix. There’s nothing more satisfying than working in the wine industry at this time of year, listening to everyone’s plans and adding a little magic to their festivities by offering a tipple suggestion or two.
Now is the time to open that favourite bottle that you’ve been eyeing up in your wine rack for so long, following half a day’s adventure into the musty attic attempting to locate the Christmas decorations. I’ve recently moved house so my next task will be to see where the removal folk have left the tree!
My family are very close to me and whether I’m hosting or driving home for Christmas Chris Rea-style across the frost-laden Fens, it’s a great opportunity to catch up on what they’ve been up to over a glass while lunch is being prepared in the kitchen, again usually over another glass or more!
Christmas is a fabulous opportunity to share the good times and great drinks with family and friends, so I’ve come up with some fabulous festive treats to help you enjoy Christmas just that little bit more….
I always love welcoming the family into my home with a glass of the fizzy stuff, however you don’t need to break the bank to bring out the bubbles. From friendly, fruity Prosecco to rich and elegant Champagne the choice is yours. My choice this year to provide a spark of upbeat zing is Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV, an English fizz from Hampshire. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the yuletide season.
Once the family have settled in and the cold bite of the winter’s night makes its presence outside, there’s nothing more pleasant than enjoying a warming red in front of the fire and maybe to also accompany the viewing of your favourite festive soap on the telly. This rich Castillo de Olite Navarra Tinto from the ancient kingdom of Navarra is a product of the Manzanos family, who have tended their vines since 1890. It has flavours which wrap around you like an old leather armchair from a hotel lobby, warming you up after a spot of carol singing in the church. If you’re hosting this year and favour a hearty meal before the evening draws in, this pairs beautifully with a joint of roast beef or some freshly carved gammon.
The church bells herald the arrival of Christmas Day and for some of you with children, the opportunity of a lay in after consuming all that food the night before is all but a distant memory. I remember myself and my cousins waking the family up in the early hours, most of the bleary-eyed, to begin a mad scramble to the tree to see what Santa had delivered. After the floor has been littered with a kaleidoscope of colourful wrapping paper, the calmness and enjoyment of present opening then turns to the frantic task of preparing the family lunch.
My grandad always insisted on having a proper turkey with all the trimmings, which provided the perfect centrepiece on the dinner table. The stuffed alternatives were a definite no no especially after I opted for this one snowy Christmas and never heard the last of it. With Wham playing in the background and the turkey cooking merrily away in the oven, it’s time for that all important ‘turkey tipple’!
Pinot Noir has an unbelievable versatility with festive food and this smooth, velvety Joseph Drouhin, Chorey-lès-Beaune is a guaranteed Christmas crowd-pleaser. Packed with red fruit flavours of cherries, raspberries and cranberries it will tantalise your tongue with fabulous flavours whilst also providing enough weight to compliment the meal.
Whenever I watch the Great British Bake off I drool with envy because when it comes to baking my skills sit somewhere between remote and non-existent. On the other hand, my mother is an absolute whizz in the kitchen when it comes to baking with a keen eye for chocolate, then again, who isn’t. Pairing chocolate and wine can often be a dubious task but hand me a glass of Waitrose & Partners No.1 Crusted Port and I’m as happy as a sandboy.
The rich and opulent character of Port not only act as central heating to warm you up after that bracing afternoon stroll with the family, but also provides sweet fruit flavours of cherries and raspberries to pair with chocolate-based desserts. Plus, if you don’t possess a sweet tooth and you opt for something rather savoury, then a slice of rich and creamy Stilton makes for the perfect marriage.
Following on from the big day you may be left with a mountain of festive foods, so bring on the Boxing Day buffet when your leftover meats are joined by an array of pickles, warm baguettes and freshly carved ham. Maybe the odd celery stick? When it comes to unscripted meals, this Waitrose & Partners Elbling also works well with spicy foods too whilst being additionally versatile with fish. Feel free to unleash the famous prawn ring!
After the family have departed it’s time to unwind and put your feet up, maybe enjoying the satisfaction that Christmas is over for another year and someone else maybe be hosting in 12 month’s time? Time to throw a few logs on the fire and snuggle up with a wee dram and your favourite book. There might even been some sport to watch on the television. I’ve always enjoyed a trip to bonnie Scotland to savour the wonderful spectrum of Whiskies on offer to taste, whether its floral, fruity, smoky or spicy there’s something for everyone’s palates. Bursting with honey, apple and butterscotch notes Chivas Regal 12-Year-Old Scotch Whisky. Take a trip to the distillery if you happen to be in the area throughout the year to raise a wee dam to ‘Scotland’s water of life’. Slainte!
Raising a virtual glass to you all and wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year!