TW Magazines header

Let the Festivities Begin

Issue: Dec '12 TW11

The Festive Season is upon us and I am devoting the column to wine and food as I hope to encourage as many of you as possible to break out of the traditional mode and use Christmas as an opportunity to broaden the horizon of your palate.

Christmas Morning
I believe it is not uncommon to start the day with a glass of Buck’s Fizz – usually bone dry Prosecco, Cava or Champagne mixed with some acidic orange juice. I feel jaded at the thought! Unless one is used to 11 or 12% alcohol early on, there is a risk of wooziness before lunch. Try a Moscato d’Asti 2011 Tacchino (£10) – at only 5% alcohol with refreshing acidity and a very agreeable sweetness, this gives you a lift rather than a kick and thus better able to withstand the rigours of the day.

A little nibble late morning
Lunch can be late on Christmas day so I am partial to a smoked salmon blini or five and I can see the Chablis or Sancerre shelf being reached for. STOP – try something different – Verdejo 2011 Con Class, Rueda (£10.50). This terrific Spanish grape has made great progress over the last few years – this shows wonderful depth and balance but with a lightness of touch.

The Christmas Turkey …or Beef …or Goose
The biggest challenge is not the choice of meat but how to match the wine with all the trimmings. Turkey is essentially bland and only a large quantity of butter rubbed under the skin combined with your finest free range bird will change that. So, you need something for the chipolatas, bread sauce, roast potatoes, cranberry jelly et al. Red burgundy is the failsafe red and while I might be tempted by a luxuriant Grand Cru from a top producer, I am currently heading for Otago in New Zealand. Not Central Otago – so terribly last year – but the emerging Waitaki Valley in Northern Otago where fabulous gravelly soils are producing wondrous examples. Try the John Forrest 2009 Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir (£29). Absolutely super and won the Trophy for Best New Zealand Pinot Noir at the International Wine Challenge this year. Do look out for Forrest wines – the owner used to be a research scientist endeavouring to make sheep woollier and has found his niche now in Marlbough, Hawkes Bay and Otago! This wine would also go well with beef or goose but given the choice of beef I would drink the Edizione 2010 Cinque Auctoctoni Farnese (£25). This is an utterly beguiling, intense red made from five different southern Italian grapes. Amazingly rich and dark and full of berry fruits it is extraordinary.

Onwards to Dessert
Christmas pudding is always a challenge – so much richness to contend with. Traditional Sauternes doesn’t do it for me so I head to the South of Spain for a rich Pedro Ximenez. Gloriously decadent and oozing sweet sultana essence, the PX 2008 Dulce de Pasas, Toro Albala (£14 per half) is magnificent and highly likely to be something you have yet to experience. For the chocolate based dessert I seek out the lesser known fortified reds of Maury and Banyuls. Usually made from Grenache or Syrah they have a richness that partners a ganache or rich mousse really well with the fortification cutting through the intensity.

The Cheese course
Aren’t you full yet? Forget the Brie – check out exciting artisan cheeses at The Teddington Cheese and create a revolutionary cheese board that spits in the eye of convention. If nothing else, drink wines from the same region as the cheese.

Whatever you do make your wine choice bold, daring and take the chance to try something new! Merry Christmas!