Festive Drinking

If you drink wine, then there is a huge probability that you will be drinking it on Christmas Day. From the risqué glass of fizz in the morning to the half bottle of port that serves as a nightcap many hours and glasses later, it is an essential part of the festivities. So rather than babbling on about the best wine to drink with turkey, I thought I would write about some of the dos and don’ts of Christmas drinking.

Don’t spend too much money on wine gifts

Twice what they normally spend on a bottle of wine is a good rule. Buying overly expensive bottles of wine puts everyone under pressure. “I spent a fortune on it but the chap in the shop told me it was a great wine, what do you think?”. This rarely leads to comfortable drinking. If you are not sure what the recipient drinks, then fizz is usually a safe bet and so much more appreciated by teachers than the mountains of chocolate they are usually given.

Try and go to your local wine merchant

Wine is such an important part of Christmas that getting it right really does seem worth the effort. If you go to your local wine specialist they can help you find what you are looking for, match the wine to your food, your palate and your budget. They often have wines on tasting and it all seems so much more fun than asking some spotty youth stacking shelves where the Chablis is.

Make sure you get some quaffers in

While your wine rack might be bursting with your favourite wines to drink on the day, it is usually worth stocking in a few less expensive easy drinkers. They are handy for when you come back late, a little unsteady looking for a final glass. Waking up to find that you drank that amazing Burgundy you were saving and can’t remember a thing about it never makes a good start to the day

Buy a few good Champagne stoppers

There’s something lovely about drinking Champagne in the morning. The bubbles, the crisp acidity and the slightly decadent feel are a great start to a special day. Though starting it with several glasses of Champagne can end up making it a very short day and I’m not a fan of half bottles. So, buy a decent Champagne stopper and you can pop it back in the fridge for later in the day.

Do take time to decant

Pulling the cork and letting the wine breathe does very little for the wine apart from the wine at the top of the bottle. It really needs to be decanted. If you don’t have a decanter or room for one on the table, then jug the wine. Just pour the wine into a jug and leave it there for 30 minutes and then pour it back into the bottle.

Don’t blame it on the port

I love port at Christmas as the sweet fruits of port are a great foil for the tangy blue cheeses that seem such a part the festive season. It does make me smile though when people tell me that port gives them a hangover. So, it was not the couple of gin and tonics, the half bottle of Champagne, the two large glasses of white, the bottle of red and that delicious sweet wine that has left you feeling a bit under the weather? No, it was the tiny glass of port.

Don’t skimp on the classics

Just because it says Chablis, Sancerre, Chateauneuf on the label, or any of the other wine names that we recognise as being special, it does not mean that we are getting a good wine. There are good producers and very bad ones out there and if any of these wines are selling too cheaply, then you should probably avoid them. A cheap Sancerre is usually full of acidity and no fruit. It is often a far better idea to get a good Sauvignon from the Loire (look out for Menetou Salon) than a cheap Sancerre.

No need to follow the white meat white wine rule

I know I said that I would not talk turkey, but it is hard to avoid when writing about Christmas drinking. Turkey is a dry meat and needs a fruity wine to match and that can be luscious Chardonnays or Rieslings, but it is equally happy with red wines. Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir or anything from Beaujolais are great matches.

I can write about a mass of other things; get a pudding wine, use proper glasses or even some of the best ways to avoid a hangover on Boxing Day, but this feels like enough. The Christmas Day meal is meant to be fun and too many rules are never a good template for jolly.

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