WHAT TO DRINK THIS CHRISTMAS
Everyone here at Onshore Cellars is looking forward to Christmas, I hope you are too. At this time of the year, we get asked the same questions: What does one drink on Christmas day? What does one serve? Which wine goes with what food?
So to help out everyone I’ve made a specially curated Christmas Collection on https://onshorecellars.com with all the different types of wine, bubbles and spirits needed to see you through the festive season. On top of that, as a little present from Onshore Cellars, we’re offering a minimum of 15% discount on all the products in the Christmas Collection. To guide you through, here are my thoughts, as an expert wine guy, on what to drink and when this Christmas. These are just some of the options I’ve chosen, but take a look for yourself, there are some real Christmas Crackers (oh no…my first dad joke of the season)
Arrival Drinks – It’s aperitivo Time
Living in the UK for so many years the 24th December was a day to party. The 25th was family time but the 24th was friends, either down at the pub or at a mates place. This year, as things are a little different, and being a responsible young man, I’ll be spending the 24th, 25th and 26th in a bubble with the same people. But this won't stop Christmas Eve as a celebration. So how do you start things off? My two go-to option: Bubbles or G&T.
For bubbles, I like to go for something a little different so I’ve gone back to my roots with an English Sparkling Wine. One of the best producers has to be Ridgeview and their classic non-vintage Ridgeview Bloomsbury is a great all-rounder. Made from the same grapes as Champagne, in the same method of Champagne and with the same ageing as most Champagne but it’s from Sussex!
One of my top Gins right now is The Botanist Gin, from Islay in Scotland, an Island normally famed for Whisky. Using 22 botanicals it’s a herbal floral gin with plenty of Juniper, as you’d expect but also lemon zest, sweet spices, vanilla, floral and a herby flavour reminiscent of Herbs de Provence. I’m always impressed with its balance considering the number of botanicals used.
Now is the time for easy drinkers, approachable wines and which don’t necessarily need to be enjoyed with food. Therefore, Christmas Eve Whites need to be crisp and refreshing. Wines that slip down easily, have good intensity and are just perfect for continual glass top-ups. I'm looking at an elegant classic like the Ladoucette Pouilly-Fume or the world-renowned fruity Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Alternatively Chablis always goes down well with a crowd. Unoaked Chardonnay with lovely green apple flavours, the William Fevre Chablisshould not be forgotten.
For Christmas Eve Red Wines, look to smooth medium to full-bodied reds, with not too many drying tannins. It’ll be cold outside so you want something nice and warming but not so big it sends you to sleep. So look toward Spain, Italy and southern France. I’ve gone for a lovely smooth, medium-bodied, cherry packed Sangiovese; La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Plus the all-night drinking, crowd-pleasing Viña Alberdi Rioja Reserva. Or a show-stopping Châteauneuf- du-Pape from a small independent winemaker called Domaine Mourchon in the Rhone Valley. It’s warm, complex, full-bodied and has a lovely touch of spice.
CHRISTMAS BRUNCH CHAMPAGNE
We know that Christmas day rituals are very much dependant upon having children and also which country you come from. But still there is no excuse to not have champagne with your Christmas breakfast or brunch. Eggs Benedict or smoked salmon with smashed avocado and scrambled eggs with a glass of top-notch champers will set the festive tone for the day.
This year I’m starting the day in style, an old favourite. One of the best Non-Vintage Champagnes, Louis Roederer’s Brut Premier. It’s fresh enough for the morning as it has these lovely summer fruit flavours but also rich enough to stand up to the breakfast eggs. Plus the fact that it’s 20% off this December will make it taste even better.
THE MEAL ITSELF…TIME TO BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS
Hands down, the best wines for Christmas dinner are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Whether it’s Turkey, Chicken or Goose these two grapes are your friends. I love New World wines but my family has an unwritten rule, that we always go traditional for Christmas lunch, so for me, it’s French wines from the Burgundy Region.
Which is why I think the best wine for Christmas Launch is Meursault or Puligny Montrachet. Find a good producer from a good vintage and I am in heaven. For example, the Joseph Drouhin Puligny Montrachet is lean yet still complex enough to stand up to the flavours in the meal, plus is drinking brilliantly. On the other hand, the Jadot Mersault 1er Cru Perrieres 2015 is an absolute humdinger of a wine, from a seriously good year. You think it is going to be fat but no, soft, mellow and a finish to die for.
For reds, 2014 and 2015 are drinking so well right now so I recommend the light and fruity Gevrey Chambertin and Nuits Saint Georges by Bouchard. However, if you are willing to step it up, the 2014 Pommard Premier Cru is more intense, has nice weight and depth, is slightly crunchy and has a wonderfully long finish.
NEW WORLD: With all that being said there are two wines, which if it wasn’t for my self imposed ‘french wine Christmas meal rule’, I would be drinking and cannot recommend enough. They are from California, both 2016 and are stunning wines: Flowers Chardonnay and Flowers Pinot Noir. Pioneers of Sonoma Coast wines, I first tasted Flowers wines 13 years ago at a tasting in central London and every wine I’ve ever had from them simply ooze class. They are so elegant, refined and have a clarity of flavour I adore. I might not be drinking them on Christmas Day but they’re in my rack to enjoy over the festive period.
Luscious Dessert Wines:
This is one of the very few days in the year when everyone seems to have a dessert wine. I think it is a shame they are not embraced more, I love them. There are so many different styles out there; Tokaji, Sauternes, Ports, Vendage Tardives, Ice Wines etc etc etc.
When studying for my wine diploma I curated a sweet wine tasting with 3 fellow students. 38 different sweet wines in one tasting and the variety and value for money is remarkable. Needless to say, I’m in love and you should be too, just remember the golden rule….eat something sweet at the same time! If your mouth has already adjusted to the sweetness, all you will be able to sense is the phenomenal flavours, not the sweetness.
For the traditionalist out there I’ve selected a 2010 Chateau Suduiraut – Sauternes. For those who want something a little different, something well priced, complex and glorious with stone fruit desserts then the 100% Chenin blanc Domaine des Baumard - Quarts de Chaume 2015 is for you. Me, personally, I’m going left field with one of the best sweet wine I’ve had in years… Marques de Poley - Amontillado Viejisimo, Solera 1922*. This sweet sherry is 100% Pedro Ximénez (unbelievable poured over vanilla ice cream) and is drawn from barrels which have been fractionally blended (Solera) ever since 1922. Meaning that there are still traces of the original 1922 sherry n the barrels, a little bit is bottled every year and then the barrels are topped up again. *very limited quantity
What’s next…a siesta! for some, but at some point in the evening a cheese board will make an appearance. So this is when the Ports come into their own. I’ve selected the Quinta de la Rosa LBV, deep, rich, velvety smooth and stacked full of dried fruit flavours.
LBV means Late Bottled Vintage. This refers to the fact that expensive vintage port is bottled after only two years in barrel, then does all of its ageing in bottle. Meaning you have to hold on to it for over 15 years before it’s even remotely drinkable. Whereas an LBV is exactly what the name implies, it is a Vintage Port which does all of its ageing in the Barrel and then Late Bottled so it is ready to drink.
Then comes the digestive, many people like whisky such as our ever-popular The Macallan Amber but I am more of brandy guy. Try the outstanding Hennesey XO. It’s not just the delicate flavours, the softness in the mouth, the spicy notes and hints of chocolate it’s the whole experience. The shape of the bottle, the big round glasses, feeling like I am in an old fashioned English gentleman's club. It’s a drink to accompany contemplation.
26th - BOXING DAY RECOVERY
By now some people will have had enough of food and wine to last them for another year. But there are always a few people, my self included, who want a glass of something good on boxing day evening. Not a lot, just to open something good which one can sip whilst curled up on the sofa and watching a movie. A wine which can be enjoyed with the leftovers, the last morsels from the cheeseboard.
I have been debating if I will open the merlot dominant Chateau Client 2012 Pomerol which I know is drinking well. But I’ve opted to travel the world with this glass so I’ve selected an Aussie GSM and an Argentine Malbec. Many of you will know our super-popular Hey Malbec! but fewer people know the same producer makes a premium version, and it is well worth the extra few euros. Republica del Malbec by Matias Riccitelli is a Malbec lovers dream. Silky smooth, dark morello cherry flavours and a long lingering finish. Yes, this is epic steak wine but it is also just epic red wine.
Torbreck hail from Barossa Valley in Australia and are most famous for their +€500 Laird Shiraz but thankfully they make a range of Shiraz and Shiraz Blends wine which is more my budget. My current favourite is The Steading 2014, a similar blend to a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, it’s a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Intense, powerful, spicy with layers of dark fruit and whiff of liquorice. This is a fireside hug in a glass.
These are merely my suggestions, as a veteran of many a wine lovers Christmas, I simply wanted to pass on my thoughts and recommendations.
Whatever you end up drinking, whoever you spend time with and however you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to you all.