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Blog5 Expert top tips to winning at Christmas Day drinks

5 Expert top tips to winning at Christmas Day drinks

The world of wine can seem unnecessarily complicated. With different rules for different drinks and a plethora of choice on offer at the supermarket, navigating the aisles to find the perfect tipple for each and every festive occasion can be rather daunting. 

That’s why we tasked the country’s major producer and supplier of wines to your local supermarket to advise how you can win at Christmas drinks like an expert this year. 

From buying the right selection of drinks for dinner, what to serve at kitchen discos, how to nail THE festive cocktail of the season, or serving fizz like a pro, we have you covered.  

  1. Look like an expert with the fizz  

The popularity of sparkling wines such as prosecco and Crémant has shot up in recent years, but there are pitfalls awaiting those who wish to serve up the perfect glass of fizz. 

Wine expert and buyer Kathryn Glass travels the world to find the best wines and – as such – knows a few things about sparklers. Here’s her top tips for getting it right.  

Chill your fizz for four hours 

“Not many people know that sparkling wines should be chilled for three to four hours before serving, not just for an arbitrary 20 or 30 minutes,” says Kathryn. “Prosecco is ideally served at 6-8 degrees Celsius, but Champagne can be served at 8-10 degrees, with the slightly warmer temp giving kudos to the toasty, brioche notes we expect from the bottle. Serving at the right temperature will ensure that the drinker gets the very best from the fizz.” 

Pop, don’t bang! 

“When opening a bottle, you don’t need to hear that loud bang. A gentle pop is much better! Hold the bottle in one hand, the cork in the other, keeping the bottle at a 45-degree angle. Gently twist the BOTTLE, not the cork, and ease the cork out of the neck, holding into it at all times.  

“Next up, pouring! You want to do it in two stages to stop it from fizzing over. One simple hack to stop this happening is to pour fizz into a third of each flute, wait for a few seconds until the bubbles have gone down – and then top up.  Cheers!”  

Savvy shopping – Crémant over Champers 

Kathryn’s go-to for Christmas? The Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire Brut NV. “I would choose a fizz for Christmas dinner as it brings the occasion to life. When we look at something like Crémant, it’s made in the same way as Champagne including that all important secondary fermentation in botte, and aging in the cellar. But it’s at a fraction of the price.”  

Combining Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, this lovely example boasts a fresh elegant aroma of citrus and white stone fruit with hints of biscuity notes. 

2. Be the perfect party host

Chilled cans for the win 

Drinks brand expert Jade Fowles, who is likely to be responsible for some of the drinks in your fridge, has a hack to save you time and impress guests.  Jade says: “When you’re hosting at home, it’s important you have time to socialise and not spend all your time pouring drinks. If you have ready mixed, chilled canned cocktails and simple serves, alongside garnishes, ice and glasses, people can help themselves. It’s a real time saver and everyone gets the drink they want.” 

Box clever… 

“For wine lovers, do yourself the ultimate favour and grab bag-in-box products rather than bottles for parties” says Jade. “Don’t be fooled into thinking bag in box wines are lower quality, as the wine inside is the same as a bottle – and someone has worked really hard to make it excellent for you. What’s more, boxed wines are eco-friendly, stay fresh for up to six weeks and stack nicely in the fridge or cupboard. No waste, and often better value too.” 

 3. Match the right wines to your food

Beefy reds with red meat, Chardonnay with chicken and Champers with fish and chips?  Drinking wine is mostly about personal choice and drinking what you love, but as we enjoy food and drink with all of our senses, learning a few simple do’s and don’ts will mean that you always win when hosting.  

Get the look for seafood starters 

Drinks marketeer Emily Ramoutar says to prioritise substance, style and aesthetics. “When these come together, things feel good, taste good and look good, which is the holy grail. A good example of this is The Hidden Sea. The Sauvignon Blanc is really zippy and citrussy and it really cuts through that oil if you’re having fish or seafood as a starter. For every bottle sold, The Hidden Sea removes 10 single use plastic bottles from the ocean. Plus, the bottle is beautiful and designed by celebrated NYC artist, Jon Contino.” 

Top wine buyer Paul Braydon admits that being a child of the 80s makes him a traditionalist when it comes to festive food and drink and urges shoppers to ensure good quality classics aren’t overlooked. “I’d always choose a good Aussie Chardonnay and pair with smoked salmon and Marie Rose sauce. It doesn’t have to be pricy, something like the Andrew Peace Chardonnay is a treat, and comes from an excellent wine maker favoured by high street supermarkets.” 

Turkey & trimmings must-haves 

Down to earth advice is offered by the most esteemed wine expert. David Gill, Master of Wine, says don’t be fooled into thinking that turkey equals white wine. “You must offer a red and a white to ensure everyone is catered for, as ultimately you have to drink what you like. To get reds right, choose a premium wine without the premium price tag. Wines from Baron de Ley, for example, are ‘MUST HAVES’ for Christmas dinner and range from lighter wines to big beefy Rioja Reservas.” 

4. Christmas cocktail know-how

This year, the Negroni takes the spotlight. The Italian aperitivo has reached iconic levels recently as drinkers embrace its simply made yet complex-tasting deliciousness. If you want to create some fabulous festive feelings, you can cosy up for Christmas with two twists on the classic. 

Mulled Negroni  

Drinks development specialist Danielle Vause knows her flavours and can spot an incoming trend a mile away. “This Christmas, I’m backing a mulled negroni as the serve of the season. It’s made in the usual style – gin, vermouth and Campari – and made ‘mulled’ with the addition of falernum, sloe gin and some red wine. But here’s the twist. Swap out the additional ingredients for a splash of mulled wine – it pretty much does the same job. You can even warm it slightly with a cinnamon stick for a really glorious Christmassy treat!” 

Negroni Sbagliato 

“If you’ve been on TikTok in the last year, you’ve definitely heard of the Negroni Sbagliato.  Instead of using gin as the base for a negroni, you use Prosecco. It’s a great alternative if you love the taste of a Negroni but you don’t want the alcohol burn.” 

5. Magnums for instant Christmas kudos

Provence rosé is a real treat, the region has been making exceptional, dry and delicious rosé wines for thousands of years.  With rosé experiencing a renaissance of late, gifting a magnum of Provence wine to a friend of family member, or bringing a bottle for the Christmas table, is bound to impress.  

Jo Taylorson, who has 20+ years of experience in the drinks industry, recommends the Barton and Guestier Tourmaline Rosé magnum, saying: “It’s delicious served chilled and a magnum is perfect for the dinner table, encouraging sharing and in turn discussion. Available in your local Waitrose, it’s from a hugely respected Provence producer and is bone dry with lovely floral, citrus, pear, peach and red berry notes. I dare anyone not to like it.” 

The shopping list: The wines recommended by the experts 

 

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