It’s Champagne for breakfast, syrah with the barbecue and sherry with the pud… Master of Wine Emma Jenkins sorts out the Christmas drinks.
for the festive table
Ialways write this particular column with an internal wail, going something along the lines of “What?! Christmas already?! What happened to the year?!” Despite my perennial best intentions, the festive season again looms with no diligently purchased and wrapped presents tucked away, no plans for the who/what/ wheres of Christmas dinner, no tree lights unravelled... frankly, just no idea at all really. Oh well, there’s some comfort in such familiar territory, and of course I’m always safe in the knowledge that come December I have plenty of wine on hand! So it’s definitely time to get on to my favourite Christmas “chore”: planning the menu and its accompanying wines. Whatever your festive style, a handful of wellchosen wines will always elevate the occasion.
As we have small children, our Christmas Day starts early. It’s also one day when it’s never too early to open a bottle of sparkling wine, so breakfast is a glass of Champagne served with scrambled eggs adorned with a festive sprinkle of salmon roe. Sparkling wine is the ultimate festive mood setter, and it handily partners any seafood on the menu rather well too. New Zealand’s vibrant sauvignon blanc is another great seafood match, and marries well with the fresh salads that grace our summer Christmases.
It can be hard to go past the classic turkeywith-all-the-trimmings, especially paired with a good bottle of pinot noir, but for something different and fun, try a decent Australian sparkling shiraz. Glazed ham suits rich chardonnay, aged semillon or a lighter pinot noir – the latter is also superb with salmon. If your speciality is roast beef or lamb, or you love to fire up the barbecue, be sure to grab New Zealand syrah or merlot/cabernet blends.
I’ve never been able to say no to my motherin-law’s Duncan Family Christmas Pud with Shirley’s Brandy Cream Sauce (I’m salivating just typing it); its fruited richness chimes perfectly with a sweet ‘PX’ sherry. But if you prefer pavlova or trifle (maybe all three?), then a late-harvest riesling or sweetly fizzy moscato will hit the spot.
A good specialist wine shop can provide great suggestions to match your budget and menu, plus they often have glassware for hire – very handy if you’re catering for a crowd.
Include plenty of non-alcoholic options too; the gourmet soda mixes now available add a touch of glam beyond the usual OJ/lemonade.
Once the feeling of impending panic has abated, I become impatient for Christmas Day to arrive, eager for the true pleasures of special meals enjoyed with laughter and loved ones. I wish you all a safe, happy and joyful Christmas.
Sparkling wine is the ultimate festive mood setter.