Festive drinking made simple
The run-up to Christmas sees supermarkets and wine merchants laying on lots of special offers, offering some great wines at bargain prices, so this is a good time to stock up on wine and spirits without breaking the bank in the process. Here are a few suggestions for drinks to enjoy over the holidays. “Cheers” or as they say in Italy “salute”!
From celebratory pop to elegant flutes of fizzing, chilled bubbly, champagne and celebrations go hand in hand. This year rose or pink champagne is the fashionable tipple. However, there are lots of excellent sparkling wines available for a fraction of the cost. Look out for Italian prosecco, Spanish cava and New World sparkling wines. Don’t forget that the English now make some great, award-winning sparkling wines well worth investigating.
Bucks Fizz, made from two-thirds sparkling wine, to one-third orange juice is great for a breakfast treat – add a dash of Cointreau if you have some for an extra citrus kick. For a pre-meal aperitif serve Kir Royale, made from one-fifth cassis (a blackcurrent liqueur) to four-fifths fizz.
Matching wine and food is something that people get very nervous about. I always say, don’t worry – it’s just common sense. If your dish is a delicate one, then don’t choose an overpowering wine. Similarly, if your main dish has strong flavours, find a wine that will stand up to them. Choosing wine is a very subjective matter, so go for wines that you know you enjoy.
In my opinion, most dry white wines go well with turkey, so there are lots to choose from – including white Burgundy, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red wine with your turkey, opt for fruitier, lighter reds, such as Pinot Noir, Shiraz or Syrah and Spanish Carnarcha.
Serving a luscious dessert wine with your Christmas pudding adds a nice, celebratory touch. For a real treat, try Hungarian Tokaji which has a great rich flavour. Fruity muscat-based dessert wines, such as Frances’ Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise are another excellent choice, while a sparkling Moscato d’Asti is a great pick-me-up.
What to drink with cheese
I’m very partial to having an after-dinner cheese board for guests to sit and linger over. A glass of good red wine is a classic accompaniment for a cheeseboard, but do experiment. Spicy-tasting blue cheeses such as Stilton or Roquefort are great with sweet dessert wines such as Tokaji, and are also excellent with port. Dry Amontillado sherry or Armagnac go well with sheep’s milk cheese and matured hard cheese such as a farmhouse Cheddar.