Christmas and its accompanying traditions are just around the corner. That can mean different things to many people, but for lots of us it’s a chance to spend time with family and friends, exchange pressies and watch 'Love Actually' for the 20th time.
When it comes to food and drink, we are equally set in our ways. Some customs are a big part of the day – it just wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey and all the trimmings then the pudding laced with alcohol.
But it is possible to break out of the routine without casting aside the habits of a lifetime. When it comes to deciding on the drinks to accompany dinner, this might just be the year to spice up your celebrations with something a little bit different. And, with less than a month until the big day, now is the time to get the stocks in and maybe try out some of the alternatives.
One tradition that is tough to shake is the popping of corks to kick off the celebrations. It sets the tone for the celebrations and is a habit that most of us are reluctant to give up. And, to be honest, you can’t really beat a good champagne such as Janisson which is from one of our preferred boutique winemakers in France. But if you like the idea of starting the day with bubbles but want to be a little more adventurous, head East to the foothills of the Alps, where Yves Duport uses traditional methods and indigenous grape varieties including Mondeuse to produce a Bugey that is beautifully balanced and lighter on the wallet.
If you’re starting the meal with pâté, a sweet option is normal – Sauternes is our favourite, although a Riesling from Bernhard Mehrlein in the Rheingau area of Germany is a drier alternative, packed with fleshy and ripe citrus flavours. Alternatively, just stick to the Bugey fizz, which is also a good match.
To the turkey, and top choices are a Sauvignon Blanc – we believe we are spoiled for choice here, but Little Beauty is great value for a special occasion – or perhaps a classic Chardonnay, such as a premier cru from Chablis Fourchaume. But red is also a great accompaniment and a Pinot from the Switzerland-based Scottish winemaker McCulloch Les Deux Cimes has the right balance of dark fruit and spice. Or, if you are daring to be different, the Nero d’Avola from Ciello in Sicily undergoes only basic filtration, meaning there may be traces of cloudiness in the wine but it will display a richer texture. And it should go well with your food.
L’Art du Vin’s French roots mean we favour cheese before dessert, but that’s an argument for another day. Whether it’s trifle or a heavy Christmas pudding, our choice will be a fortified Grenache from Lafage which comes in 50cl bottles or a Beaume de Venise, made with Muscat, which is lighter in colour and flavour. It will bring back memories of sun-kissed summer months and will have you planning your next holiday as you round off your meal.
Some traditions are hard to shake off, so port with cheese and brandy after dinner are an ideal conclusion to the big day. But one thing that, thankfully, is now firmly in the past is the ritual of granny blowing the cobwebs off the half empty bottle of sherry she hid away at the back of the cupboard last year.
Joyeux Noël !