The 12 Drinks of Christmas
by Paul Ruel - Monday December 19, 2016 1:12 pm
With so much tasty food on offer at Christmas time, it is important to get the best out of your drink matches. If you’re not sure which tipple to pair with your turkey, or what will go down a treat with your trifle, the WSET’s ‘12 Drinks of Christmas’ is here to guide you through.
On the first day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me… a glass of mulled wine.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a cup of warming mulled wine. Add a dollop of honey to sweeten to your taste, or slices of orange and lemon if you prefer something fruitier. For the base wine, choose a juicy red with plenty of body, such as a Chilean Merlot or Australian Shiraz.
For a really versatile Christmas white, try an Albariño from North West Spain. The grape’s natural acidity, ripe peach and pineapple flavours are equally enjoyable alone or when paired with a range of light dishes, including soft cheeses and dressed white fish.
On the third day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a New Zealand Pinot Noir.
For those who aren’t fans of white, New Zealand Pinot Noir is a wonderfully fruity red which is perfect for starting off the Christmas meal. Pinot Noirs from the Central Otago region are often more powerful and rich than the fruit forward wines of Marlborough.
On the fourth day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a Moscow Mule. This ginger beer and vodka cocktail is a perfect accompaniment to party canapés. Its powerful, distinctive taste means it can be drunk with a range of food, without being overwhelmed by anything spicy or strongly flavoured.
A lovely accompaniment to a smoked salmon starter, Sauvignon Blanc’s fresh acidity cuts through the oil in the fish. Displaying crisp citrus flavours, the grape compliments salmon’s traditional lemon garnish, while the acidity in the food softens the wine, making it taste richer and fruiter.
On the sixth day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.
For any vegetarians at the table, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon works well with a scrummy nut roast. Its rich flavours mean that it can stand up to this weighty dish, and its tannins will be softened by the salty roast.
On the seventh day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … an oaky Chardonnay.
Oaky Chardonnay had a bad rap for a while, but it’s rising in popularity again. The rich flavours in these wines compliment the buttery notes of the Christmas turkey and stand up to the stronger flavoured elements of the traditional meal, such as gravies and stuffing, making it a great white choice for the table.
For those looking for something a little more refreshing or low in alcohol to celebrate with, a white wine spritzer with a slice of orange and an ice cube or two is a delicious choice. Go for a fresh, unoaked style of white such as a Fiano from Italy. White port and tonic also fits the bill - garnished with a sprig of mint and slice of lemon, this drink is making a comeback.
On the ninth day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a Beaujolais Cru
Wines from the 10 Beaujolais Crus are bursting with the fresh fruit flavours of the Gamay grape, complimenting pigs in blankets and cranberry sauces alike. While basic Beaujolais can get overwhelmed by the strong flavours of the Christmas meal, the Cru areas such as Fleurie and Moulin à Ventproduce the best wines of the region – fuller in body, with more flavour intensity.
On the tenth day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a Tasmanian Sparkling WineWith Prosecco in shorter supply this year and Champagne often proving too pricy for a large party, toast the festivities with a quality sparkling wine from outside of Europe. Regions making great value wines, using the same method as Champagne, include Tasmania, the Anderson Valley in California and Marlborough in New Zealand.
On the eleventh day of Christmas the WSET recommends to me … a Bourbon Whiskey
For an indulgent, sippable after-dark drink, go for a measure of good quality Bourbon. Bourbons are full of smoke, vanilla, coconut and spice flavours from ageing in new, charred oak barrels. They’re surprisingly food friendly, matching well with chocolates and cheeses.
Long a Christmas favourite, sherry is much more versatile than people think. A crisp, dry Fino sherry is a great aperitif wine with nuts, crisps and olives, while richer Oloroso sherries pair well with cured meats and cheeses. For something sweeter, the dried fruit character of Pedro Ximénez (aka PX) sherry is the perfect partner to a Christmas pudding or a spoonful of trifle.