A New World Christ­mas

Fiona Beck­ett talks to wine­mak­ers in Canada, Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia and South Africa about the food and drink tra­di­tions that make their Christ­mas spe­cial

Decanter - - NEWS - Fiona Beck­ett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restau­rant re­viewer

‘While the turkey is in the oven we step out­side for some fun in the snow. There are snow­shoe­ing tracks and skat­ing’

Canada, Matt Du­mayne

New Zealand-born Matt Du­mayne is the winemaker at Okana­gan Crush Pad in the Okana­gan Val­ley, so he has ex­pe­ri­enced Christ­mas in both the northern and south­ern hemi­spheres. Also a keen chef, he was named Top Foodie of the Year by Canada’s Western Liv­ing mag­a­zine in 2017.

Given that Thanks­giv­ing in Canada is cel­e­brated in mid-Oc­to­ber, when we’re thick into har­vest, the Christ­mas hol­i­day is the first real down­time I get since mid-Au­gust. It’s a time to relax, get back into the kitchen and also en­joy the out­doors.

I used to cel­e­brate Christ­mas in New Zealand by go­ing to the beach and hav­ing the typ­i­cal bar­be­cue of lamb, roasted veg­gies and coleslaw. Now Christ­mas in­volves roasts, fire­places and win­ter sports.

Turkey wasn’t a typ­i­cal menu choice when I was grow­ing up, so I’ve been ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent tech­niques since I ar­rived in Canada. Typ­i­cally it is stuffed and roasted true to our Bri­tish and Ir­ish roots. This year I plan to take a large turkey breast, pound it flat and layer with a Canada goose breast and savoury bread dress­ing (see recipe). This will get rolled and wrapped with ba­con – Cana­dian maplesmoked ba­con of course!

The roll is oven roasted and reg­u­larly basted with turkey stock. When it’s ready, I slice it thinly and serve it with a sim­ple cran­berry chut­ney, roast pota­toes and veg­gies – I love Jamie Oliver’s shred­ded brus­sels sprouts with ba­con. A Cana­dian Cae­sar cock­tail (vodka, Clam­ato juice, Worces­ter­shire sauce and hot sauce – gar­nished with lime and a cel­ery stick) is gen­er­ally to hand!

I’m not a big fan of su­gar so we tend to pass on dessert and typ­i­cally we start off with cheese as an ap­pe­tiser. There are lots of little lo­cal cheese-mak­ers around.

While the turkey is in the oven, we all step out­side for some fun in the snow. At that time of year it can be -10°C and there can be a foot of snow. Liv­ing on the win­ery’s 129ha Gar­net Val­ley Ranch, there are miles of snow­shoe­ing tracks, a pond for skat­ing – and of course get­ting the four-seater quad stuck in a snow drift is a given.

An out­door bon­fire is al­ways an op­tion over the Christ­mas break. We’ll hud­dle round with hot Cana­dian whiskey drinks – whiskey, brown su­gar or honey and hot wa­ter – with roasted sausages on sticks and toasted marsh­mal­lows for the kids.

To drink there will be some bub­bles for sure. Hay­wire’s The Bub 2015, fol­lowed by Bollinger La Grande An­née, then a glass of Mein­klang Grüner Velt­liner, which I dis­cov­ered at The Wine­mak­ers Club in London last March. There’s usu­ally a Pinot show­down be­tween our Hay­wire Free Form Red (100% Pinot from Gar­net Val­ley Ranch) and a Valli Gibb­ston Vine­yard Pinot Noir, grown by Dun­can Billing who’s now our di­rec­tor of viti­cul­ture. You can’t en­tirely take the day job out of Christ­mas!

‘In Ar­gentina, Christ­mas Eve is the big­gest cel­e­bra­tion and ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily cooks some­thing spe­cial to share’ Ale­jan­dro Vigil

Ar­gentina, Ale­jan­dro Vigil

Ale­jan­dro Vigil is the head winemaker at Bodega Catena Za­p­ata. He also has his own wine­mak­ing project, El Ene­migo, and an award-win­ning win­ery restau­rant Casa Vigil.

I’ve al­ways spent Christ­mas with my fam­ily; for me the most im­por­tant thing is to share such a spe­cial mo­ment with them. My wife Maria and I have two chil­dren, Juan Cruz Oc­tavio, who is 10 years old, and Maria Gi­u­liana Francesca who is six years old. We live in Chachingo in Maipú, where El Ene­migo’s Bodega Aleanna is lo­cated, and spend Christ­mas at home. My par­ents and broth­ers al­ways come over too. For us the most im­por­tant thing is our fam­ily.

In Ar­gentina, Christ­mas Eve is the big­gest cel­e­bra­tion and ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily cooks some­thing spe­cial to share dur­ing din­ner, so the main meal is the evening of the 24th. The 25th is usu­ally a more re­laxed day. As it’s sum­mer, we spend it out­doors: we roast a pig and pre­pare dif­fer­ent sal­ads, while the kids en­joy the swim­ming pool with their cousins. It’s a won­der­ful time to have fun.

There are two other tra­di­tional recipes that we will pre­pare over the hol­i­day. The first is stuffed chicken with grilled pep­pers, car­rots, toma­toes and dried mush­rooms hy­drated with wine. The sec­ond is rolled flank steak, stuffed with grilled pep­pers, chives, pars­ley, ba­con and Parme­san cheese, which I roast then flambé with whiskey!

We usu­ally drink Bur­gundy. It epit­o­mises ev­ery­thing my grand­fa­ther said a wine should be: light in ap­pear­ance, but with enough struc­ture to pair with al­most ev­ery type of food: easy to drink, but com­plex. Jean-Marc Roulot rep­re­sents the sort of white wines from Bur­gundy that I like: fresh with a won­der­ful age­abil­ity. What you see in the vine­yards, you find in the wine.

We’ll also drink wines from the Jura, such as Pierre Over­noy’s. Jura wines are made by a tra­di­tional method that re­flects a whole wine­mak­ing cul­ture. Then we might have a Co­mando G from Rumbo al Norte, made from very old Gre­nache vines, and of course a Mal­bec. Luca Mal­bec from Laura Catena and Alma Ne­gra from Ernesto Catena show two dif­fer­ent vi­sions of Mal­bec fo­cused on the ter­roir and grower rather than the pro­ducer.

I never trained as a chef but we love food and run a win­ery restau­rant called Casa Vigil. The idea be­hind it is for peo­ple to feel as if they are at home, en­joy­ing recipes from our fam­ily, made with fresh, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, along with a glass of wine – or many glasses! Casa Vigil is in a peace­ful set­ting, sur­rounded by a beau­ti­ful land­scape with 100-year-old trees. We think the per­fect pair­ing for food and wine is fam­ily and friends.

Aus­tralia, Sue Bell

Sue Bell de­scribes her­self as the winemaker, di­rec­tor and gar­dener at Bell­wether wines in Coon­awarra. She was named the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Viti­cul­ture & Oenol­ogy Winemaker of the Year 2014. Her win­ery is in the his­toric Glen Roy Shear­ing Shed, dat­ing back to 1868.

Christ­mas is a time when I catch up with fam­ily. My elder broth­ers and I live five to six hours’ drive apart in South Aus­tralia, Vic­to­ria and New South Wales and we share the host­ing, so two years out of three it in­volves me tak­ing a long road trip across ru­ral Aus­tralia. That can be fun with the hu­mour of the bush in sum­mer – think Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and Santa sce­nar­ios with tem­per­a­tures around mid-30°C. Poor Santa in that heavy red suit!

What we eat de­pends on who’s host­ing. Some years are very tra­di­tional: I have an English sis­ter-in-law and my broth­ers love the clas­sic Christ­mas turkey. But I pre­fer to fo­cus on beau­ti­ful fresh seafood from the cold South­ern Ocean when I’m host­ing. I’ll serve south­ern rock lob­ster with Nigella Law­son’s mango and chilli salad to match.

I love to pre-cook a ham to eat with a beet­root salad, or even cook a Pek­ing duck. Sal­ads herbs and fruit come from my own veg­etable gar­den. Mint and co­rian­der get used a lot over Christ­mas, along with rasp­ber­ries and straw­ber­ries, which usu­ally get scoffed in the gar­den by my daugh­ter!

My mum makes what she calls a frozen ice cream fruit­cake for dessert. It’s like a semifreddo filled with Grand Marnier, dried apri­cots, glacé cherries and toasted al­monds and pis­ta­chios – and I ab­so­lutely love it.

Fun­nily enough, my job is al­ways to sup­ply the wines. Fizz is a must for us at Christ­mas, so I mix it up with some­thing French, English and of course Tas­ma­nian. Last year it was Tait­tinger, Wis­ton and, my favourite, House of Ar­ras. My fam­ily love to drink my wines but I like to show them other wines that I have en­joyed dur­ing the year. I usu­ally pull out some older vin­tages later in the day.

I’m quite used to cater­ing for a crowd at the win­ery but I know some peo­ple are daunted by it. My top tips would be to or­gan­ise some ex­tra fridge space – sep­a­rate drinks re­frig­er­a­tion is a must – and share the work.

We al­ways play cricket in the af­ter­noon, in­ter­spersed with naps and drinks breaks, some­times un­der a sprin­kler! The se­ri­ous­ness of the Christ­mas Day cricket all de­pends on who is bat­ting. My broth­ers are quite com­pet­i­tive and now their sons are too. For­tu­nately my neph­ews have equally tal­ented part­ners who are great role mod­els for my daugh­ter, so we all have a go re­gard­less of skill!

Last year we were all glamp­ing out­side in Glen Roy’s bou­tique camp­ground in our bell tents. Although it’s usu­ally around 30°C in the day, nights can still be cool in Coon­awarra and we might even have to light the inside fire, which is rare – but it can hap­pen!

South Africa, Anthony & Olive Hamil­ton Rus­sell

Anthony and Olive Hamil­ton Rus­sell own one of South Africa’s iconic es­tates, in the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley. Both born and brought up in South Africa (Olive can trace her an­ces­try back to the 1690s), they cel­e­brate Christ­mas at home with fam­ily.

Hav­ing the beau­ti­ful sea­side vil­lage of Her­manus on our doorstep means we have many friends from all over the world pop­ping over to the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley to join us for long sum­mer lunches at the win­ery or for sun­down­ers among the vines. We also love vis­it­ing the nearby beaches for sun­set swims and pic­nics – a big ad­van­tage of a south­ern hemi­sphere Christ­mas.

A week or so be­fore Christ­mas we throw a large gar­den party at our home, Brae­mar. We al­ways re­lease the new vin­tage of our Hamil­ton Rus­sell Vine­yards Chardon­nay in mid-De­cem­ber, and it usu­ally makes its first ap­pear­ance here.

Our four daugh­ters are older now, and scat­tered around, so it’s a big treat for us to have them all here over Christ­mas. One of our fam­ily tra­di­tions is to bake gin­ger­bread Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions. We use only these to dec­o­rate our self-cut Mediter­ranean pine tree, and try to only do so when ev­ery­one is here. This rit­ual is ac­com­pa­nied with plenty of chat­ter and Cham­pagne.

On Christ­mas Eve we in­vite fam­ily friends to join us for a ca­sual seafood sup­per – fresh wild oys­ters, alikreukel (giant sea snails, which our winemaker dives for), cray­fish, fresh caught line-fish from Walker Bay and hand-picked sal­ads from our or­ganic veg­etable gar­den. We’ll have our own wines, but gen­er­ally some Ch­ablis, Sancerre and Mus­cadet as well.

Olive Hamil­ton Rus­sell ‘We love vis­it­ing the nearby beaches for sun­set swims and pic­nics – a big ad­van­tage of a south­ern hemi­sphere Christ­mas’

Christ­mas morn­ing is very much a fam­ily af­fair and starts with Cham­pagne, toasted slices of panet­tone, and presents around the tree. We of­ten have Anthony’s 82-year-old mum here, our sib­lings and their chil­dren, for a lovely multi-gen­er­a­tional lunch. It is usu­ally warm and sunny, so we start with a cold soup. This year I’ll serve cu­cum­ber soup fol­lowed by roast stuffed turkey. Even though we are in the south­ern hemi­sphere, we still pre­fer turkey for lunch, with duck-fat roast pota­toes and Pino­tage and cran­berry sauce (see recipe).

We’ll have red and white Bur­gundies from our cel­lar on the ta­ble, but we al­ways share an older mag­num or jer­oboam of our Hamil­ton Rus­sell Vine­yards Pinot Noir, which ev­ery­one signs af­ter­wards. We had a 1983 not too long ago, which was on great form.

Pavlova is a lovely, fes­tive pud­ding, es­pe­cially topped with lo­cal red berries and kiwi fruit, plus mint from our herb gar­den. Klein Con­stan­tia’s Vin de Con­stance is a real treat with this, and works so beau­ti­fully with cheese as well that we can con­tinue sip­ping this his­toric wine, while slowly pick­ing at a board of lo­cal cheeses into the late af­ter­noon.

Right: Gar­net Val­ley Ranch, Okana­gan Crush Pad, Canada

Above: The Vigil fam­ily’s tra­di­tional Stuffed chicken Above: Ale­jan­dro Vigil with wife Maria and chil­dren Maria and Juan

Above: fresh seafood, which Sue Bell likes to serve when she’s host­ing Christ­mas

Be­low: Sue Bell

Above: Sue Bell’s fam­ily en­joy glamp­ing in Glen Roy’s bou­tique camp­ground at Christ­mas

Above: a view of the coast from the top of the Fyn­bos Re­serve at Hamil­ton Rus­sell Vine­yards Left: Anthony and Olive Hamil­ton Rus­sell

Above: bak­ing gin­ger­bread tree dec­o­ra­tions is a Hamil­ton Rus­sell fam­ily tra­di­tion

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