Christmas time, mistletoe and (more importantly) wine

We had our office Christmas party this week and realised that despite our best efforts, we are no wine experts, so decided we ought to do a little swatting up (seeing as the subject is so close to our hearts). Who better to ask to share their words of wisdom than The Daily Drinker, one of our sellers. The Daily Drinker is run by husband-and-wife team Caspar and Victoria Bowes, who offer a range of wines from lesser-known grape varieties and off-the-beaten-track regions. They sell gift sets and specially selected cases of wines but our favourite product is their Wine Club Membership, where a selection of wines are delivered to your home every three months (for a duration of six, nine or 12 months). Each arrives with a passport of information on the variety, region and producer, and even some tasting notes. The result: wine education and enjoyment in a box. Yum.

Caspar sources and selects the wine while Victoria handles the business side of things, and he was recently described by a reputable wine journalist as having ‘one of the finest palates in the UK’. We asked him to recommend his best festive tipples and deliver a few tips on how to judge a good wine. We’ve included some of our favourite gifts for wine lovers, too. Cheers!

With Christmas looming ever larger, one’s thoughts turn increasingly to the wines with which to celebrate those festive few days with our nearest and dearest.

My main recommendation is that you drink the wine you feel like drinking, when you feel like drinking it! Far too much is said and written about seasonal wine pairings and what to drink with which food. Most of it is extraneous nonsense. For example: on Christmas afternoon, when digesting extraordinary quantities of protein and carbohydrate and feeling overwhelmed by lack of exercise and the central heating, forget the port. What better than to gently sip a citrus wine, low-ish in alcohol, that’ll reset the senses and invigorate the mind?

Aperitifs. When deciding what to serve in the run-up to the meal, think about what’s going to make everyone crave the food. Serve something that will still the appetite and whet the palate of one’s guests. Champagne, but of course. Too many guests? Serve Prosecco. It’s delicious and after a glass no one will know the difference anyway. Avoid big, alcoholic reds. If you’re feeling brave, offer a dry Sercial madeira – absolutely perfect with salted nuts.

Santa Hat Christmas Glass Decorations by Ginger Ray

Santa Hat Christmas Glass Decorations by Ginger Ray

When matching food and wine, I repeat: the first consideration is that you drink the wine you would really like to drink. There are some loose ‘rules’ when it comes to food and wine pairing, but should you choose to ignore them your day will not suffer one jot.

Here are some pointers:

Have something light and crisp to hand. It’s useful for filling in gaps in the day and refreshing everyone. Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli in north-east Italy offers more complexity and interest than so many examples of this grape from elsewhere. Or a Jacquère from the Alpine mountain vineyards of the French Savoie: like a blast of glacial air through a summer orchard, it’ll right many a wrong.

For turkey, goose and duck, search out the most red-wine-like whites and the most white-wine-like reds. By that, we mean whites with lots of body that one can serve not too cold and reds that aren’t too heavy or tannic.

Examples of good whites include white burgundy – with Macon to Pouilly-Fuissé the more ‘bargain’ choices, and Meursault, Chassagne and Puligny great for those wanting to shove the boat out into deeper water – or, for a more left-field choice, a Pinot Gris from Slovenia, a Malagousia or Kidonitsa from Greece, a Rossese from Piemonte in northern Italy, or a nice mature Feteasca Regala from Romania.

Red-wise we’re talking Pinot Noir or things of a similar weight. The Austrians are extremely good at making such reds and Saint Laurent is a grape that captures the style very well. Pinot Noir’s home may be Burgundy, but excellent examples come from elsewhere, too. The Daily Drinker currently offers a superb example from vineyards just outside Lisbon in Portugal (yes, we were surprised, too!). And if you have sulphur-sensitive friends to stay, you could always plump for a weird and wonderful wine made from the ancient Loire variety Pineau d’Aunis. Made very much as a ‘natural’ wine, uncorking it is a shock as it is full of gas. But agitate it, decant it, get the gas out and one is left with a delicious, raspberry-flavoured and scented wine that’s very much as nature intended.

Red Wine Letterpress Print by PRINT for LOVE of WOOD

We love this Red Wine Letterpress print, it's our new life motto.

And then there’s the pudding: mince pies and Christmas pudding, both big flavours and the perfect excuse for broaching a sweet madeira. Malmsey would make the perfect accompaniment, but remember that madeira is always better when opened a minimum of 24-hours before consumption so plan ahead if you want to drink the stuff.

And, lastly, the cheese course. Is anyone going to have room left for it?! If they’re determined, try them out on a glass of delicious Muscat from the island of Samos. Medium-sweet, orangey and clean, it’ll spring lightly down the aisle with the stilton: a very happy marriage indeed!

Slate Heart Cheeseboard by Slate Gift Company

We Camembert not to have this Slate Heart Cheeseboard in our lives...

On a personal level, the one wine that is de rigeur for us at this time of year is Champagne. A small glass at breakfast with kedgeree (something of a tradition in our family), a glass or two before lunch with the smoked salmon, and perhaps even one in the evening to refresh. It really never fails to alleviate any yuletide-induced fatigue.

If you are looking for wine-related gifts for your friends and families, we can recommend nothing better than a Daily Drinker Wine Club Membership. Nothing else causes comment, conversation and gratitude throughout the entire year – you buy it once but the lucky recipient receives the wines every three months for the duration of the gift. Alternatively, we offer mixed cases such as the Christmas Supper Party Case or Christmas Dinner Party Case, which take you (or your host) through a meal from start to finish. And if you are looking for something smaller, take a look at our Wine Lover’s Two Bottle Gift Sets – a pair of our wines for the inquisitive palate.

With all our products we get a happy, warm feeling from the thought that we are offering wine education and enjoyment, and opening the eyes and palates of jaded wine lovers everywhere! At least, that’s what we hope…

By the way – if you really do want to know more about wine, don’t start by reading all the books and magazines. The one thing that’ll instruct you more than anything is simply to think about what you’re drinking. When a glass of wine is placed in your hand, one’s first inclination is to get sipping immediately. But fight the urge… Take time, just a moment, to look at the wine in the glass (depth of colour, hue and clarity are all-important and each have something to tell the taster), then sniff thoroughly before taking the first mouthful. The wine will reveal all sorts of things about itself and reward you all the more.”

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