Topping up the vino this Christmas….

Monday, November 12th, 2012

When’s the right time to start thinking about Christmas? Everybody has their signal, the Oxford Street lights going on usually start things off for me but Christmas songs on the radio before December is a no-no. Mr B and I are hosting both our families on Christmas Day this year, it’s going to be a snug affair in our little London house but as it’s the first time we’ve done it I’m definitely starting to plan things way earlier than usual.

Adapting to my new role as Christmas-maker-in-chief will be quite different to my usual role as Vino-topper-upper but as my bump will be getting in the way of my usual Christmas Cheer this year I’ll be handing over the reigns to Mr B. Here are some words of wisdom I’ll be sharing with him to make sure the glasses are full and everybody has a very merry Christmas!

The Vino Topper-Upper:

Christmas Day is unique for the sheer number of wine opening occasions it offers! Any discerning Vino Topper-Upper will relish the theatre and opportunity to cram all the best wine drinking traditions into the day. Like any good workman though you’re only as good as your tools so preparation in advance can be key. If you’re not hosting at your place try to scope out the glassware available at the hosts’ and bring along back up equipment if needed. You’ll want everyone to share in the celebration of the day so don’t let a short fall in Champagne flutes ruin your thunder.

Whether yours is a large or small gathering a check list of staple vino supplies so no one feels disappointed is a good idea; Champagne or sparking wine for an aperitif, sweet sherry for Grandma if she likes that sort of thing, white wines for the starter, red and white for the main, sweet for dessert, port for the cheese and mulled wine for mince pies in the evening should do it. When guests arrive suss out what wine they’ve bought and whether it’s for opening on the day. Fridge space will be scare so pop white bottles in the garden or on the balcony to chill outside to avoid stressing out the Chef!

Topping up the wine is one thing but a good vino-topper-upper will be a sociable creature so although you’ll want to impress you won’t want to spend hours in the kitchen making cocktails. Go for something you can create in seconds and still get all the oohs and ahhs. The aperitif is the best occasion; add 2 tsp of peach puree or peach juice to Prosecco for Bellinis and orange juice to champagne or sparkling wine for a classic bucks fizz. A fresh bottle of cassis will go down a treat too, but don’t be tempted to use the dregs of a bottle opened last year, the colour fades to brown over time and it’ll make a lack-lustre kia royale. Pop a raspberry, strawberry or cherry in the top for that extra little je ne sais quoi.

Opening what the guests have bought along can be a great way to taste some new wines but it’s a good idea to check that they weren’t intended as a gift for the host before you crack the screw or pull the cork! The unpredictability of this exercise will test even the most accomplished of Vino-topper-uppers so here are some general food and wine pairing tips so your reputation is left intact:

Dry whites: for a classic smoked salmon or fish starter (Sauvignon Blanc based wines, unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio)
Off dry whites: for pate or terrine starters (Semillon, Riesling and Pinot Gris)
Light red wines like Pinot Noir and Nero d’Avola from Sicily or Italy are the most versatile for matching with Turkey and all the trimmings or oaked Chardonnays for white lovers
Christmas pudding: sweet wines (from anywhere these days, look out for Montbazillac from France for a budget friendly alternative to Sauternes)
Cheese: sweet wine again (particularly with Stilton) and/or port, don’t forget to pass the port to the left!

Mince pies…. your show is nearly over, but before you relax gather all the half full bottles of red and pour into a saucepan, add the mulled sachets or oranges dotted with cloves and bring to the boil. Serve unceremoniously in mugs for that real snuggled up at home Christmas feeling. Put your feet up, turn the telly on, and relax……

This post was written in conjunction with Lurpak as part of their Christmas makers promotional campaign.

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