Dreaming of a wine Christmas
Christmas is, as we’re all told, the time of joy to the world. I find that the joy quotient is infinitely increased with liberal quantities of good wine, as well as fine food and enjoyable company. Here are my tips to make Christmas Day go with a pop, rather than a whimper.
A glass of champagne is the perfect way to accompany the orgy of present opening on Christmas morning. Winston Churchill said of champagne that it “imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is equally stirred, the wits become more nimble.” What better way to stiffen the sinews for the day ahead?
Churchill favoured champagne over all other drinks (which is quite a statement considering his love of booze) and he prized Pol Roger above all champagnes. I’m in total agreement with him there. It’s still a family-owned business among a sea of marques that are now part of huge multinational luxury empires and it goes about the business of winemaking in the right way.
(Churchill was estimated to have drank 42,000 bottles of the stuff during his lifetime, so it’s no wonder that the champagne house put a black border around its labels after he died. Odette, the formidable matriarch of the Pol-Roger house, was even invited to Churchill’s state funeral.)
Churchill was estimated to have drank 42,000 bottles of the stuff [Pol Roger] during his lifetime, so it’s no wonder that the champagne house put a black border around its labels after he died.
He also said: “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.” I find myself in agreement with him on that too.
If you fancy pushing the boat out you could buy a bottle of the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut, although examples of the admired 2004 vintage will set you back at least £100. But their standard wine is absolutely delicious.
Personally, I prefer white wine to champagne. That’s possibly quite a shocking admission for someone brought up in France and whose (vinous) heart remains there, but I don’t actually like fizzy drinks. So I shall be perfectly happy drinking white Burgundy while my family enjoys fizz instead. Perhaps because it’s Christmas I might treat myself to a Meursault, a hint of luxury with its honeyed and buttery notes.
I’m sure I’m not alone in viewing turkey as by the far the most boring meat. It’s the carnivorous equivalent of a blank canvas. But, like many of you, I shall be gnawing my way through a plateful of it on the big day, though unlikely to go for seconds as I always save myself for the cheese fest at the end.
Pinot noir is the grape variety that for me goes best with poultry...its gentler flavour and more supple body perfectly suits lighter meat like turkey.
Pinot noir is the grape variety that for me goes best with poultry. That’s not just because I love Burgundy, but because its gentler flavour and more supple body perfectly suits lighter meat like turkey. Within Burgundy for reasons that I can’t fully explain I always think that a good Chambolle Musigny is the perfect though increasingly expensive match for turkey. Otherwise, I’d choose claret, a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Don’t be tempted to go for a heavier red wine, such as a Syrah or Shiraz as they say down under. They’re just too heavy for a Christmas lunch and are likely to leave you completely unable to stand to attention for the National Anthem ahead of the Queen’s Speech.
I think Christmas is one of the few times when you can really indulge by contentedly sipping a succession of glasses of brandy or port – or both – as the afternoon stretches out lazily, and not a little hazily, into the evening.
A brandy that is readily available which, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above all others is Delamain. It’s another family-owned house and is one of the oldest cognac producers, founded over 350 years ago. It’s matured for at least 25 years (much longer than is necessary for an XO – ‘extra old’) and so is smoother than a mink wearing silk pyjamas. Its Grand Champagne Cognac is a wonderful festive indulgence that won’t set you back a fortune.
Aged tawny ports are unsung heroes: a little lighter than traditional port, they offer some wonderful wines, packed with fruitiness, for comparatively little money.
Another gift that keeps on giving is vintage port. A bottle of Warre’s 1985 will be passed appreciatively among our assembled family, but a tawny port, preferably over 20 years, would do perfectly well. Aged tawny ports are unsung heroes: a little lighter than traditional port, they offer some wonderful wines, packed with fruitiness, for comparatively little money. Delicious.
If you’re having a large group why not consider a tappit hen of port? It’s a 2.25 litre bottle (equivalent to three normal-sized bottles) with a distinctive shape (a knob on top makes it look vaguely like a hen, hence the name).
Why not drop me a line to tell me what you’ll be drinking on Christmas Day? I’d love to hear your thoughts on timeworn classics or new discoveries. Otherwise, I’ll raise a glass to toast your health and happiness over the festive period. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!