Your go-to guide from the experts on what to be drinking this festive season.
Wine recommendations from Robin Price, restaurant manager at artisan at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle; Daniel Jonberger, head sommelier at Rockliffe Hall in Darlington, and Lewis Allport, sommelier at Middleton Lodge in North Yorkshire.
The best wine for getting into the festive spirit on Christmas Eve
Robin: If you are anything like me, then Christmas Eve is usually a stressful end to a busy few weeks. With that in mind I can’t think of anything better than a bottle of Champagne in the bath. One of my current personal favourites is Delamotte Brut. This is from one of the oldest Champagne houses and the wines are hand crafted to an exceptional standard. The high proportion of Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes gives an incredible balance of fresh, rich fruits and floral notes. I recommend enjoying this until the bath turns cold or the Champagne becomes warm.
The best wine to be sipping on Christmas Day morning
Lewis: Christmas Day morning wouldn’t be right without that chilled glass of champagne, always before 9am, however this year I’m going to be opening a bottle of English sparkling wine. The quality of English grape has really stepped up over the past few years. Created using the same traditional method as champagne, yet the taste of the grape is really unique, thanks to where the vines are in the English countryside. My favourite has to be The Bolney Estate’s Classic Cuvée, which combines toasty notes of brioche with honeysuckle and delicate fruity notes, a perfect pairing for your Christmas morning smoked salmon.
The best aperitif before Christmas Lunch
Daniel: I will show my Swedish roots here and go for Glögg. The Nordic version of Gluhwein. I have a recipe that’s been in the family for generations, many families have. Mine includes all the ordinary spices, orange and orange peel. Then to finish off, a generous amount of Cognac. There is nothing better than arriving at someone’s house in the winter and being greeted by the alluring aroma of Glögg, and feeling it warm up your body while lunch is getting ready. Try the Saturnus 1893 Mulled Wine Glogg. Available to buy from ocado.com.
The best wine to drink with Christmas Day lunch
Robin: Once you’ve enjoyed your selfish alone time, you are now tasked with pleasing all palates around the table and this can sometimes be a little tricky. For the past few years my family has been quite traditional with turkey, so with that in mind, the following wines should work well with such a low fat and non-powerful meat. A robust Australian Pinot Noir will complement the meat and fair well against the vegetables and side dishes, while a good full-bodied white such as a white Bourgogne will also stand up to the task. This Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir is full of cherry fruit and fragrant savoury notes, and at a very reasonable price too. £18.13 from bcfw.co.uk.
The best wine for a lazy Boxing Day with leftovers
Lewis: I love a leisurely Boxing Day, spent by the fireside with a delicious bottle of Rhone Valley Syrah. This grape is so rich and full of flavour it’s brimming with winter fruits and spicy, peppery notes. Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph are two great examples that can provide good value for money. A few glasses of one of these, alongside some warming Boxing Day leftovers is definitely how I’ll spending my December 26. The Vignerons De Caractere Terrasses Du Soleil Crozes-Hermitage is a great introduction to the Syrah wines of the northern Rhone, with lovely notes of spice and violets. Buy it from bcfw.co.uk
The best non-alcoholic wine
Daniel: To be honest I rarely indulge in non-alcoholic wines, but Somme Riesling from Germany is a good bet. Semi dry and elegant, a surprisingly strong and full flavour for a nonalcoholic wine. Or why not try to simmer a large bottle of Ginger Ale, add a sliced red apple, and put in, a cinnamon stick and just a touch of vanilla. Simmer on low heat for an hour, add another apple if you want at the end. Wonderful either warm or cold.
The best bubbly for New Year’s Eve
Daniel: For the normal celebrations I would recommend Champagne Thienot. A small boutique house that produces some fantastic Champagnes. Their Brut is made of mainly Chardonnay and has a fresh finesse about it. Light fruit and spring notes lead to a lingering finish. But if you are celebrating in style, in my opinion there is only one should indulge in – Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blanc, 2002. A true masterpiece of a Champagne! Green in colour with intense aromas of honeydew melon, nectarine and toasted brioche on this wonderful palate.
The best wine for January, when you’re sick of drinking!
Lewis: After an indulgent Christmas season full of mulled wine and one too many glasses of Port, I would recommend a crisp, off dry Reisling. Keep it fresh, with plenty of fruity notes to cleanse the palette. Try to keep it as light as possible, a general rule of thumb which is always good to remember is a wine made in the sweeter style is often fermented to a much lower percentage, therefore are a lot more easy going to taste and a lot more ‘quaffable’, especially after such a rich season of hearty food and drink. Dr-Loosen is great example that is readily available from independent wine merchants and supermarkets alike.
The best wine for a festive toast
Robin: I don’t think you can go wrong with a home-made mulled wine for a festive toast later in the day. Our Head Chef at Artisan, Andrew Wilkinson, has been making batches for me and the team for years now, so here it is.
1 bottle of red wine (the better the
wine the better the final product)
250ml fresh orange juice
5g star anise
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod
1 gram juniper berries
1 sprig of fresh lemon thyme
3 clementines, peeled and segmented
On a very low heat put the cloves, star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom pod, lemon, thyme and juniper berries into a large sauce pan. Allow the spices to just warm through and gently crush with a muddler or rolling pin. Once crushed, remove from the heat and place all ingredients into a muslin cloth and tie leaving a bit of room similar to a tea bag.
Pour the red wine, orange juice and clementine segments into the pan and return to a low/ medium heat. Place the tied muslin cloth containing your spices into the wine and orange mixture and gently heat allowing the spices to infuse the wine and juice.
The clementine segments will soak up that lovely flavour, so serve a few in your cups and, of course, serve warm.
Beer recommendations from Carl Kennedy, owner and brewer at Northern Alchemy; Stuart Rodgers, sales representative at Anarchy Brew Co., and Mark McGarry, owner and brewer at Almasty Brewery.
Carl Kennedy, Owner/Brewer Northern Alchemy
For Christmas Day:
Dark Chocolate & Mint Milk Stout, 5.1%. What could be better for Christmas day that an After Eight mint in a glass? Back for its third year in a row, this stout is a malt base of pale, crystal, chocolate, roasted barley and a handful of oats. Gently hopped on bramling cross and pacific jade. Lactose and 90 per cent cocoa dark chocolate are added to the late boil. This Milk Stout is then conditioned on a whole load of torn mint leaves and a tiny amount of peppermint essence for the aroma.
For Boxing Day:
4C’s Table Beer, ABV 2.6%. After all the gluttony of Christmas Day here’s a nice light refreshing beer that’s perfect for Boxing Day. This light and hoppy table beer uses four of the “C’s” hops (chinook, cascade, citra and centennial). These headline hops are used late in the boil, in a hop sand. It’s got a fresh hop hit despite the all-day-abv.
For New Year’s Eve:
U.S. Session, 4.1%. This Session strength is for those who want to drink all night. A beer for all, this session pale is made entirely with US hops. It has a combination of chinook, cascade and citra, added in increasing amounts towards the end of the boil, and then dry hopped with citra. A malt bill made primarily with pale malt and a touch of wheat.
Stuart Rodgers, Sales Representative, Anarchy Brew Co.
For Christmas Day:
Sublime Chaos Breakfast Stout, ABV 7%. This rich dark coffee, chocolatey, creamy stout is going to be lovely alongside your Christmas pudding. Basically, it’s like a pudding in a glass and has a great body and great mouthfeel. It was also the winner of ‘Best Stout in Europe’ at the World Beer Awards 2015. Sublime Chaos breakfast stout is infused with Ethiopian Guji natural coffee beans from Stafford-based coffee roaster Hasbean. Velvety and viscous, it is balanced delicately with New Zealand hops, naturally dried coffee, munich and black malt.
For Boxing Day:
Blonde Star, ABV 4.1%. Blonde Star is a nice easy drink with light notes that are going to go great with your turkey sandwiches. Crisp and fresh, it is light in body but certainly not in flavour and is full of lemon, grapefruit, and passion fruit. It’s refreshing and satisfying with a bright finish. This was our first beer and it’s still one of our most loved and best selling. Hops include willamette, citra, magnum and an English ale yeast.
For New Year’s Eve:
Citra star Session IPA, ABV 4.1%. Citra Star is loaded with grapefruit, lemon and lime – and is light bodied enough to keep you coming back for more. Massively hopped with citra, it is part of our series of beers based on the Blonde Star recipe. It is very similar but is dry hopped with citra at the end.
Mark McGarry, Owner/Brewer, Almasty Brewery
For Christmas Day:
Imperial Stout, ABV 11.1%. Aged for a year in a whisky and a bourbon barrel before being blended and bottled, our imperial stout is perfect for that time relaxing after Christmas dinner. It’s smokey and dark with all the flavours of Christmas and at over 11per cent, it’s definitely one to sip and share.
For Boxing Day:
Passion Fruit Sour, ABV 5%. This is a kettle sour which means it has been soured and fermented out like a normal beer, then conditioned and fermented on a passion fruit purée. It’s a palate cleanser, refreshing with a nice aroma and gently soured with plenty acidity without being too sharp. Ideal when you’ve overdone it on the chocolates.
For New Year’s Eve:
Almasty IPA, ABV 6%. A big, strong hoppy IPA just to get you in the party mood. US hopped with centenial, amarillo, citra and mosaic. Almasty IPA has tropical fruit aromas with a nice bit of bitterness. Smooth and drinkable even though it’s 6%.
Brewer images taken by Michael Baister.