Raise a glass to Christmas festivities

From wine to after dinner beverages, Leslie Williams unveils his drinks menu for the festive season.

Christmas is the one time of year I feel somewhat normal.

I should explain – I spend most of my days throughout the year thinking too hard about food and wine, and matching one with the other; on Christmas Day this is considered normal behaviour.

By now you surely have your own Christmas traditions when it comes to food and wine and far be it from me to impose my views on what you should do, but in case you are curious these are the styles of wine I will be drinking on Christmas and St Stephen’s Day with leftovers.

I’ve tried to not go overboard on prices, but do remember that Christmas is a time for spoiling yourself so don’t stint too much. Christmas day is not the best day for that special bottle you have been hoarding for years, especially if you have guests, better to stick with an old reliable but perhaps upgraded to the next level.

SPARKLING

You will need lots of sparkling wine in your Christmas arsenal. Champagne prices are as bad as ever (the good stuff at any rate) so I’m suggesting an excellent Crémant d’Alsace instead. In addition, a couple of bottles of inexpensive Cava or Prosecco in the fridge is the perfect way to deal with unexpected visitors.

The Graham Norton Prosecco Frizzante is on offer in SuperValu for €10 this Christmas but be warned it will have very light fizz. Instead I would opt for SuperValu’s Cava for an extra two euro.

Barciño Brut Cava, Spain - €12.

Stockist: SuperValu

Lemon zest and citrus aromas with a touch of almonds, light and crisp with a lingering hint of Marietta biscuits.

While good on its own, this is also perfect for making a Kir Royale with Crème de Cassis or get creative by using Crème de Mûre or even Grand Marnier.

On Christmas morning why not try Buck’s Fizz (2 parts fizz to 1 part Orange Juice) or a Mimosa (1 part fizz to 1 part juice) – fizz goes great with egg dishes and the acidity cuts through the fat in a fry.

Crémant d’Alsace, France - €22.

Stockists: No. 21 Off- Licence, Cappagh Stores Galway, Salthill Liquor Store, Hole in the Wall, Corkscrew.

This is one of the best (non-Champagne) sparkling wines I tasted in 2018. Packed with creamy lemon and textured soft apple fruits, brisk and refreshing and with good lingering mousse.

CHRISTMAS DINNER

We fret and worry too much about the Christmas dinner wine so feel free to ignore this section and serve your favourite wine – turkey goes with everything.

If you are having goose I recommend a good Alsace Riesling and if you prefer red opt for a good Pinot Noir or a fruity Austrian Blaufrankisch or Blauer Zweigelt.(try O’Briens or Karwigs).

Stonier Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Australia - €23.95.

Stockist: O’Briens

From a cool Pacific influenced peninsula to the south-east of Melbourne this is one of Australia’s classic Pinot Noirs and at a great price.

Bright cherry and red fruits, supple, juicy and complex with lovely taut, herbal-tinged fruits on the finish. Stonier Chardonnay at the same price is also excellent.

Louis Latour Nuits St Georges 2015, Burgundy, France - €74.99

Stockists: Fine Wines Limerick, Wine House Trim, Ardkeen, Martins Fairview

Louis Latour is one of the great names in Burgundy and while they did go through a quality blip a few years ago they seem to be back on form.

I tasted this wine earlier this year and loved it – yes it is expensive but it is Christmas! Brimming with earthy sweet red fruits, textured, hugely complex with lingering.

Meyer-Fonné Riesling Katzenthal, Alsace, France - €24.95

Stockists: l’Attitude 51, Bradleys, Le Caveau, Greenman, Ballymaloe Garden Shop

Riesling is a classic match for smoked salmon and for goose.

This is perhaps an unconventional choice for turkey dinner although I think it works, especially with a bronze turkey and it is one of the few wines out there that can cope with Brussels sprouts.

Aromas of tropical fruits and sweet apple, ripe on the palate with a peachy mineral character and bright acidity on the finish.

DESSERT WINE

Christmas pudding deserves something equally rich and full flavoured, especially if you have fed it with some extra brandy or whiskey. My favourite match is port but I also like the French Roussillon fortified wines such as Banyuls and Maury (e.g. Gérard Bertrand in O’Briens).

TIP: If you are planning on lighting the pudding before serving it, use a white spirit such as vodka or poitín which both hold their flame longer than brandy.

Dulong Sauternes, France - €12

Stockist: Dunnes Stores

This is great value and although it might not be a perfect match for Christmas pudding it does have a good lightness of touch which will be welcome after all the rich food of Christmas dinner.

This will work well with pâté and rich starters but also with fruit desserts and cheese (especially blue cheese). This is also my choice for after dinner TV.

Honeyed lemon and orange peel aromas, caramelised apple and sweet lemon fruits with a pleasing little kick of acidity on the finish.

Warres Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port - €25.99

Stockists: SuperValu, Molloys Liquor Stores

This has been aged for an average of 10 years in smaller barrels than are used for Ruby and LBV ports so is a lighter tawny colour.

Aromas of dried fruits, almonds and figs with a long finish. I like this chilled – 8-10 C – and in the unlikely event that you have some left over it will retain its freshness in the fridge for a couple of months.

AFTER DINNER

Legendary Silkie Irish Whiskey - €39

Stockists: L Mulligan

Whiskey Shop, Redmonds Ranelagh, Independents. Sliabh Liag Distillery in Donegal roared into my consciousness earlier this year with their Dúalamán Maritime Gin made with five seaweed botanicals.

Their first whiskey blend has been sourced well with lively citrus and toasted almond aromas and a textured spice tinged crisp finish.

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