Tips for Improving your Wine-drinking over Christmas
Christmas is one of the great times of year to expand your horizons when it comes to wine and other tipples and to experiment a little. With that in mind, we asked our lovely wine guy Stanley Park (firstname.lastname@example.org) for his tips on making the most of the festive season from an oenophile’s point of view. This is what he said:
• Don’t buy lots of the same thing – mix it up and have lots of different wines to choose from, with different prices and styles to match various times of day and the informality and formality of different meals.
• Think about your budget a little and about how much that buys in any one wine-making region. For instance, £15 goes a long way up the quality ladder in Austrian Grüner Veltliner but not very far in White Burgundy; £12 can buy you a star wine in Languedoc reds but not much in Bordeaux, and so on.
• If you want to drink classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy, spend as much as you can on them, get some pedigree and make them your true special-occasion wines.
• For all your other drinking, surprise yourself: have some Grüner Veltliner, Albarino, Eden Valley Riesling and Fiano in the fridge, and some Aglianico, Bandol and feral Rhône blends on the sideboard.
• Think of all the wines you are going to serve throughout a meal. Change them constantly, keep the interest level high, consider matching the different dishes and think about how one wine will follow another. The more elegant a wine you start with, the more elegant the wine you can stay with throughout the meal.
• For an afternoon tipple, try aged Mosel Riesling – this is its time, when you’re relaxed and contemplative. It’s a complete drink, low in alcohol and yet full of lovely nuance.
• Try not to expect too much from the really ‘important’ wines that you’ve selected for the special day. It’s better to have your expectations exceeded all week by really nice wines that were far better than you thought they would be rather than one big blockbuster that cost a fortune and doesn’t come up to scratch. (That said, as I write this, I’m looking at my ‘special day bottle’ – Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 – and thinking: do I really have to share this with my mother-in-law?)
• If there are a few of you, magnums are lovely – they age better and give a wonderful sense of occasion. Even if it’s only a magnum of Champagne to begin with, it sets the scene.
• Drink a Champagne that you really like, not one that happens to be on special offer or is the most recognised brand. Explore some small-grower Champagnes – they will often be far better value and much better drinking.
• Have some fun – enjoy some Aperol Spritz, a Prosecco with basil and lemon. Learn a couple of classic cocktails, whatever takes your fancy…
• Drink really good artisanal spirits. There are lot of great small-batch gins, vodkas and whiskies around. Make sure to get good mixers – Fentimans or Fever-Tree.
• Go beyond the brands when it comes to Cognac and digestifs. Find those small families making pure examples of their art and not over-marketed status symbols.
• Don’t blame that little glass of Port for your next-day hangover. It might be something to do with the heady mix of gluttonous overeating, Champagne, white wine, red wine, beer and the dreaded mulled wine that went before. Yet somehow it’s always that little glass of Port that gets the blame...
• Finally, try to wean yourself off Sauvignon Blanc – we’re drinking far too much of this grape variety. If you have to have it, choose something with nerve and poise from the Loire and not some overblown flowery concoction from elsewhere.
• Make your resolution in the New Year: no more Sauvignon. One day at a time. So many other things to drink...
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