Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Day bevvies

I hope you’ve already done your Christmas food shop by now but if you’re rounding up the last of the essentials, have a quick look at my drinks recommendations below. Have a wonderful Christmas all!

Cranberry sparkler to kick of the celebrations

Now I don’t usually start on the bubbly right away on Christmas Day (I generally still feel a bit tender from Christmas Eve) but this cranberry gin fizz has the perfect balance of crisp and fruity flavours, guaranteed to liven up your palate. Plus you can usually make it using previously acquired Christmas supplies!

Ingredients – makes 6
100ml gin (I use Gordon’s)
Large handful cranberries
300ml cranberry juice
300ml chilled sparkling wine (I use cava)
1 lime

Method
1. In advance, divide the cranberries between 6 champagne flutes, then pour over 15-20ml gin and add a squeeze of lime juice. This can be left to soak until your guests arrive.
2. Add around 50ml cranberry juice to each glass, then top with the sparkling wine. Serve immediately.

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Perfect starter wine

As Christmas Day starters are usually fishy, a light yet fragrant white wine is my preferred match. The Naked Grape Riesling from Germany is fruity with flavours of apple and peach and a hint of residual sugar, making it ideal as an aperitif and intense enough to stand up to a smoked salmon dish. Pick up a bottle from Waitrose for £8.49.

The Naked Grape

For the main event

With such a complex mix of flavours on your dinner plate, you need a wine that doesn’t overwhelm to match with your Christmas turkey. My pick is a red from the Beaujolais region such as Domaine Damien Coquelet Chiroubles 2011, available for £14.04 from The Sampler. With a hint of vanilla spice and ripe cherry flavours, this vibrant wine will be ideal alongside turkey and cranberry sauce.

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Alternatively, if you’re going for goose this year try a white from the Rhône such as Domaine Bernard Gripa Saint-Péray Les Figuiers 2010, available for £19.96 from Vine Trail. Made from a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne grapes, this rich white will round off the intense flavour of the goose perfectly.

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A sweetie for dessert

Alongside the Christmas pud, I’ll be enjoying a glass of Matusalem 30-year old Oloroso, available for £16.99 from Majestic. With enticing flavours of dried figs, raisins, and intense sweet spices, this sherry will also suit a cheeseboard for those less inclined to go down the dessert route.

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After dinner merriment

If you usually partake in a cheeky whisky by the fire – to aid digestion of course – why not try one of the following for a change…

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This rich Caribbean liqueur made from Jamaican rum and coffee will accompany a toasty cup of coffee nicely! Just add a couple of ice cubes to a small tumbler of Tia Maria and you’re set for a night in front of the TV, copy of Radio Times in hand.

If you prefer a drink with a bit more spice, Bacardi OakHeart, made by mellowing the rum in charred American oak barrels, and by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey, is deliciously smooth and warming. Try it on its own or, if you have the energy after a long day of eating and drinking, experiment to make your own cocktails – mulled rum anyone?

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Christmas with Cono Sur

It’s that time of the year again – overindulgence is pretty much a necessity and eating/drinking out becomes a regular occurrence. With that in mind, I was thrilled to attend a dinner at Le Pont de la Tour last night, matching some amazing dishes to Cono Sur’s great selection of wines, explained by the enthusiastic Alvaro Marcos Garcia.

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To begin the evening, we enjoyed a glass of crisp Cono Sur Sparkling Brut alongside some tasty canapés while Head Chef Tom Cook gave us advice on how to get Christmas dinner perfect this year. *Top tip – remove the legs of the turkey and cook them separately from the rest of the bird to keep the breast meat nice and succulent!*

Just before we sat down to dinner, we had a taste of Cono Sur Los Gansos Chardonnay 2012.  This unoaked white is delicate with flavours of ripe peach and tropical fruit – the perfect pre-dinner wine!

Once settled, out came course number one – smoked salmon and trout paupiette, caviar crème fraîche, herb salad and lemon dressing paired with one of my favourite wines – Cono Sur Vision Riesling 2011. The racy lemon citrus and grapefruit flavours in this wine cut through the creaminess of the dish beautifully, and the full-bodied texture of both the wine and the food made this an excellent match!

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The second course consisted of grilled halibut, pommes galette, buttered kale and a red wine jus. I was initially a bit apprehensive about the red wine jus (‘with fish?’ I hear you yell), but it really worked alongside the charred flavours of the meaty halibut, and with Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir 2010 and Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2008 to enjoy it with, we were spoilt for choice.

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The main event of our Christmas dinner was turkey and, clearly taking his own advice, Tom’s didn’t disappoint. The juicy roast turkey was served alongside brussel sprouts, Alsace bacon, and potatoes in duck fat with two different vintages of Cono Sur’s Ocio Pinot Noir – 2008 and 2009. Complex and full of black fruit, with hints of marzipan and sweet spice, the 2008 was intense enough to stand up to the rich flavours of the full turkey dinner.

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The final course was my personal favourite – white chocolate and passion fruit bûche de Noël. Not only was this dish delicious on its own but matched to Cono Sur’s Cosecha Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2011, it was a peaches and cream sensation (and I’m not usually a ‘pudding person’!)

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If you’re in the Shad Thames area, I recommend you pay Le Pont de la Tour a visit – their wine cellar is definitely something to see and the food is outstanding.

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If you’re currently stuck for Christmas drink ideas, Cono Sur wines are widely available in the UK and are incredibly versatile and crowd pleasing. For details on stockists, check out their website (play the Wine Pairs game while you’re there – I’m addicted).

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Christmas sparkles

December is upon us, Cliff Richard is on the radio, we’ve had a festive gingerbread bake-off in the office (see my ‘drinks bucket’ below), and there are just a matter of days before it becomes socially acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast.

drinks bucket

This month also brings with it the dreaded Christmas party (what on earth will I wear?!) and whether you’re hosting family and friends at your house, or taking along a bottle to your mum’s, here are my recommendations for the party season.

A special toast

Champagne can be made from one or a combination of three grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Blanc de Noir, meaning “white from black” is made from one or both of the two black grape varieties while Blanc de Blancs, meaning “white of whites” is made exclusively from Chardonnay, the white grape variety of the three.

There are many different styles of Champagne and your preference may be entirely different from mine, but for a party I favour the fresh and elegant Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV. Treat yourself to a bottle for £45 (down from £50) from Majestic Wine.

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For something a little cheaper than Champagne, try Cloudy Bay Pelorus Brut NV from New Zealand. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using the same traditional method as Champagne, this fruity wine has deliciously creamy bubbles, notes of citrus and crisp green apple, and a rounded, slightly biscuity aftertaste. Available for £19.99 from Waitrose, this sparkler is a treat but it won’t break the bank!

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All night fizz

When your guests plan on settling in for the long haul, you can’t be cracking open bottles of Ruinart every few minutes (well I certainly can’t!) so stock up on Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano DOC, made from the Italian Glera grape. Available in magnum 1.5l bottles for just £14.99 over the Christmas period, this fizz is smooth and crisp with ripe stone fruit flavours. It will certainly go down a treat amongst your guests.

TTD Prosecco

For the sweeter tooth

For something a little different, try filling your flutes with a sparkling red wine from Brown Brothers. Cienna Rosso, made from the red Australian grape variety, Cienna, is bursting with fresh raspberries and strawberries, and has a creamy, juicy flavour on the palate. At only 7.5% alcohol, it will also ensure you keep dancing all night long and may even prevent any embarrassing office party situations (I make no promises!) Pick up a bottle for £9.99 from Ocado.

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Whatever your party tipple this festive season, have a good one and keep an eye out this weekend for my final post before Christmas on what to drink on the big day!

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Winter comfort eating

The last week or so has been manic to say the least! Last weekend, after cooking a three course Christmas dinner for 41 air cadets and staff (I don’t know why I agree to these things), by Sunday afternoon all I wanted to do was chill out with a plate of cheese, a large glass of wine, and the remaining episodes of series one of Homeland (I’m a bit behind).

The wine I picked was Montes Alpha Pinot Noir 2010, an excellent value red from the Leyda Valley in Chile. Packed full of red cherries and strawberries with soft vanilla flavours and a delicate hint of toasty oak, this delicious Pinot Noir is a steal at £11.90, available from Slurp.co.uk.

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