Father Christmas has a great cellar and always provides a top bottle of wine but sometimes a bit of guidance is all that's needed to ensure the day and the booze, flows smoothly.
From the start of the day it's all about the festive fizz. If you enjoy a glass first thing whilst the kids tear open their stockings and feel like splashing out on a top treat you can't go wrong with an English sparkling wine. You can expect the flavours to be really bright, zippy and shrill - it's not just a great choice because it's local but its quality is off the chart. Look out for the wines of Furleigh in Dorset and Camel Valley in Cornwall but this Christmas I'll be sipping my local Sussex fizz from Ridgeview - their Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs is a spark in a glass, perfect for igniting the festive frolics. The key thing to remember if you want a really good quality fizz is look for lots and lots of bubbles - they shouldn't prickle your tongue, they should caress it and there should be a wealth of them, like a trove of glory bursting gently into your face. If it's sheer value you're after, nip to Aldi for a slurp of their Champagne Brut NV Philizot for £12.99. That's right, Champagne for just over a tenner - dive in, no trunks required.
Later on I'd go for a glass of Italian Prosecco to chug some more mellow bubbly but remember it doesn't need to be expensive - own label is fine such as Tesco Simply Prosecco NV for £6.49 or if you want the top drawer kit, Jeroboams.co.uk have Col Vetoraz Prosecco 2011 for £12.95 per bottle in a case of 12 - outstanding. Whilst you're waiting for the turkey gravy to thicken pour your Prosecco paired with some simple torn up chunks of mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil, a few basil leaves, salt and pepper - an absolutely divine and superbly simple wine pairing.
Now, onto the meal... always pair your wine to the biggest flavour on the plate. Turkey is actually quite a mellow flavour, so you're best off matching your vino to your stuffing. If you're having a fruity stuffing or bread sauce maybe, go for a rich white wine, a Roussanne, or a Marsanne or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa. If you're having a meat based stuffing it's all about the red - a beautiful, spicy Rioja fits the bill a treat and Viña Pomal Reserva 2008 in Majestic is a belter on offer for £9.99. However, if you're having cranberry sauce lashed all over your bird then crack a juicy bottle of Zinfandel from the USA - Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel is in Waitrose for just over a tenner and is a hearty bear hug of a wine.
For those non-meat eaters amongst you who prefer a nut roast, go for a nimble red such as Pinot Noir - New Zealand has some splendid examples that are fruit-fuelled masterpieces, or for more of a splash-out go for an aged red Burgundy from France. When you age a wine all it does is make a wine taste more savoury. It's similar to the difference between feasting on a bowl of fresh juicy blackberries or guzzling a hearty plate of mushrooms on toast - if you're somebody that likes fresh fruit go for a young fruity white wine, if you prefer earthy, truffly flavours go for older wines like a Gran Reserva Rioja. There's no right or wrong here, it's about your preference, mood, food match and most of all about what you love best. But for an all round belter that will surprise and delight in equal measure this Christmas, Marks and Spencers have a stunning red from Lebanon - Cadet de Ka 2008 for just £8.49 has a marvellously subtle spice to it and is real class in a glass. If you want to find out more about ageing and even what wine will go with the leftover turkey curry, have a look at my easy guide to wine, Both Barrels: http://www.ollysmith.com/shop/categories/wine-both-barrels-signed-copy/ which I'd be delighted to sign and personalise for you and yours this Christmas - or tweet me for wine tips @jollyolly.
Right, to pudding! If you want the right sherry for your trifle go for a sweet Oloroso; it means fragrant. You can get dry Oloroso that tastes as tangy as an elastic band being pinged into your nose or sweet Oloroso that tastes much more luscious and raisin-like. If you imagine the world's biggest sultana being squeezed directly into your face that's what you can expect from a sweet Oloroso! With your Christmas pudding Tawny Port is a great match. It's not necessarily the world's most fashionable drink but it's sweet and lovely and it tastes like Christmas pudding in a glass. If you're not a fan of trifle or Christmas pud though, take one scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream and pop it in an espresso cup and pour a few glugs of Pedro Ximenez sherry over it - PX is so richly sweet it feels like an entire planet of figs and dates being crushed into your mind and it takes pudding to a sexual dimension. Sainsbury's do Taste the Difference 12 Year Old Pedro Ximenez (50cl) for £7.99 and if you've any left over after Christmas just rub it into my back.
If you want to put a smile on other people's faces here are my top five festive booze based gifts:
• When it comes to red, Rioja is a real crowd pleaser.
• Looking to impress? Opt for a Vermentino from Italy - a snappy white wine that will appeal to fans of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
• Want good value? Sicily, the South of France or Portugal are the places to look. But in 2013, keep your eyes fixed on Romania for the very best bargains.
• For something truly festive go for a Late Bottled Vintage port - also known as LBV. It's good value for money and an absolutely delicious drink. Pair it with Stilton and feast on the glory of the gods. For just £8.99 Aldi will dose you with a bottle of their admirable Maynard's LBV which is deep, dark and delicious booty.
• If you wanted to give me a present I'd ask for a bottle of sweet Hungarian Tokaji every time - it's sweet and nothing for me pairs better than a chilled glass of luxuriously sweet Tokaji and a cuddle by an open fire.
Finally, tips for mulled wine. Never boil the booze because you lose the alcohol and it makes your herbs taste bitter; add a vanilla pod for sweetness; don't use brandy because it gives it a bit of an edge, add port instead because it give sweetness and adds colour and it enriches the flavour - it's like adding beef stock to a gravy! Here's my top recipe:
1 bottle Red Wine
1 x cinammon stick
1 x star anise
half an orange studded with 3 cloves
1 x vanilla pod halved lengthways
100ml fresh orange juice (no bits)
100g dark brown muscovado sugar
• Put the orange juice and sugar into a pan and stir. Warm until they are fully blended.
• Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, half orange studded with cloves, vanilla pod and leave to infuse for a minute.
• Add the bottle of red wine and port and warm gently for 10 minutes.
• Remove the orange and spices and serve warm
Remember, we can't all rely on Santa to bring the booze so order your supplies as soon as you can and never be afraid to order online - you can get some fantastic discounts and the delivery is as good as Rudolph landing on your roof! If you want all out top value for money, Cuvée Chasseur 2011 in Waitrose is a French red that's hard to beat for £4.69, Asda Marsanne 2011 is a decent French white for £3.98 and Tesco Cava Brut NV is about as good as fizz gets for £4.99. Happy sipping!
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