Christmas Day Drinking
'Twas the night before Christmas and the Champagne flutes clink, such a magical time ...but what do I drink?
It's that time of the year where over indulgence is acceptable that extra glass of wine or two is encouraged, but with so many drink options and plenty of festive treats available what's the best tipple for you to enhance that much deserved Christmas joy?
It's very important to start the day properly, bearing in mind that it's one of the few days of the year when pre-noon drinking is guilt free. Blue cheese and pork pie has always been my family's traditional Christmas breakfast. What better to accompany this than a nice glass of Port? The perfect excuse to crack open that older vintage that's been in your wine rack gathering dust for what feels like forever. Even a Crusted Port can go down fantastically. Port's intensity holds up to the strong blue cheese, and has plenty of sweetness to wake you up ready for the day ahead.
Let's not forget the Mimosa - classically Champagne and fresh orange juice. I personally prefer to use a sparkling wine that is slightly lower in acidity than Champagne. The acidity from the orange juice balances the wine out perfectly. The best Mimosa I have had was a combination of Mexican sparkling wine and freshly made orange juice. And yes, Mexican sparkling wine is a thing! Alternatively, try Californian or Australian. If you're feeling extra adventurous try Orangecello (like limoncello but orange based). A 25ml measure toped up with any sparkling wine is a brekky revelation, and a super pairing for smoked salmon and cream cheese. It is however best to pace yourself this early in the day - with all the excitement you may not be able to squeeze in that much needed afternoon nap.
The whole year has been building up for this moment: Roast turkey, stuffing, every variety of potato imaginable, pig wrapped up in more pig, honey roast parsnips, the green balls of sadness (aka Brussel sprouts), bread sauce, cranberry sauce. With such a huge flavour profile on the plate it's difficult to know where to start when pairing a wine or indeed any other beverage. Christmas dinner is time to bring out the big guns. No holding back, such rich food needs a wine with equal intensity. I try and avoid tannins with this meal; the high amount of salt on the plate can make highly tannic wines seem bitter or harsh. Save your heavy reds for Boxing day's cold beef and ham. Turkey and Burgundy are a super combination. A big buttery white or an aged robust red. Pommard is always a good option along with Nuits-saint-Georges. Aged Bordeaux with more refined tannin should also work a treat. Valdiguié is a grape verity for the adventurous. Grown in the south of France it creates light and approachable wines, however when its grown in a hotter climate (Napa California for example) it has a flavour that resembles cranberrys with a fuller body and no tannin. It's like a liquid cranberry sauce! The main obstacle with this feast is the Brussel sprouts; they can make almost any wine seem faulty on the palate with their sulphur and earthiness. This is how I deal with them. Cook them with pancetta and pistachios - chorizo also works a treat but isn't very traditional. Masking the flavour is the key! Or the most effective way is to not include them at all. Stick to peas, parsnips and carrots and all will be well.
The traditional Christmas pudding soaked in brandy or sherry and then presented precariously on fire to the table. This deserves an aged PX sherry - the dried fig and prune work hand in hand with the dried fruit and sweet seasonal flavours. If the dessert is served with a cream or ice cream I tend to steer more toward a five or six puttonyos Tokaji - this wine packs a lot of acidity and with its autumnal aroma and rich palate of grilled fruit it balances wonderfully. Remember to save room for cheese and the rest of the breakfast Port! Then a strong coffee with a cognac or an Armagnac to wash it all down with. If all goes well you can make your way to the sofa to play charades and Pictionary behind closed eyes.
Enjoy Christmas day and drink whatever means the most to you. A bottle of English fizz is becoming a very popular festive choice, for example. But most importantly don't forget to leave a good quality sherry out for the big man, Fino "en rama" I believe is his favourite bone dry tipple. Drink well and have a very merry Christmas.