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  • Writer's pictureClaire @ fromthegrapevine

Surviving Christmas - one glass at a time


Christmas drinks, champagne flutes

Christmas is a special time as it's perfectly acceptable to crack open the bubbles at breakfast and keep drinking all day, in the name of being 'festive'.

Christmas Eve Gluhwein

In my household, we'd be slacking if it didn't start earlier than Christmas Day itself, and on those chilly Christmas Eve nights, there's nothing better to get the festivities underway with some warming Gluhwein. The simplest way is to buy a ready made Gluhwein from Aldi or Lidl (Around £5 for a litre) - the warming spices are already pre-mixed and it just needs gently heating in a saucepan.

Alternatively you can make it yourself with your favourite bottles of red, and a slow cooker. This is a great recipe, thanks to BBC Good Food magazine. Using the 'low' setting on the slow cooker, add two bottles of red wine, 100ml cointreau, zest and juice of two oranges, pared zest of a lemon, 120g golden caster sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 star anise and 4 cloves. it will warm through and stay at a constant temperature all evening. To serve, ladle into heatproof glasses. You can add slices of orange to the glass if you wish. This serves 2 people.... only joking, it'll go around quiet a crowd, so unless you want thick heads on Christmas morning, you may want to cut the quantities.

Breakfast Buck's Fizz

Hopefully you'll go steady with the mulled wine, and wake with a clear head for Christmas Day. That means you'll be ready for Buck's Fizz with breakfast. Traditionally, Buck's Fizz consists of champagne and orange juice, but you can use any quality fizz - prosecco and cava will be good substitutes and means you'll get more fizz for your buck, so to speak. The orange juice can also be freshly squeezed or from a bottle or carton. There are just a few golden rules:

1) chill the ingredients,

2) use one part orange to two parts fizz, and

3) NO ice cubes as these will melt and dilute the drink (if it lasts that long).

Mid morning wobbly coffee

So, you've eaten breakfast, grazed through chocolates, and opened presents. By late morning, it must be time to sample the posh biscuits (yes, the ones with the chocolate topping, or the shortbread in a tin). If you like a nice coffee to go with it, why not make it a "wobbly coffee"? You can add Tia Maria, Cointreau, Whisky, brandy... and you don't have to do the whole thing with the cream swirling off the back of the spoon. Just serve your coffee black and splash in the wobbly of your choice.

Christmas dinner wines

You know you're at a proper Christmas dinner if there is different wine paired with each course, but the average household will just serve one wine for the whole feast. It's tricky to get a wine that will please everyone from gran to your wine buff uncle, so you could hedge your bets with one red and one white. You'll need versatile wines that can bring out the best in your roast, so for the red, steer towards something with high acidity, low tannin, light bodied and smooth. Pinot noir wines can be a good bet; a particular favourite of mine is Mud House Pinot Noir from New Zealand (Majestic, from £9.99). You can read about a recent Pinot Noir tasting for inspiration.

For a white wine, persuading your Mum away from Liebfraumilch may be tricky (not that there's anything wrong with Liebfraumilch if it makes her happy. It's cheap, fruity and popular with certain generations). But if you're having a poultry based main course, the meat is medium weight and without strong flavour, so needs a full bodied white to accompany it. Chardonnay is the best bet - As there are so many Chardonnays, it can be confusing to choose, so hunt down the full bodied type (look for oaked varieties). We like Chateau Souverain Chardonnay from Sainsburys as a good example. Best keep a bottle of Liebfraumilch on the side just incase your Mum can't be converted.

Cheeseboard delight

Got room for more food? Getting the evening nibbles? Out with the cheeseboard! Strong, mature fatty cheese pairs brilliantly with full bodied smooth red wines and port. For the best red cheese matches, head to the France section of the supermarket aisle and either the Bordeaux regions (which not only includes Bordeaux itself, but surrounding areas such as St Emilion, Medoc, Pomerol, Margaux) or the fruitier Rhone reds.

If you want to go richer, then a port is, of course, a classic. Again, there are many to choose from. Sainsbury's Special Reserve Port, Taste the Difference (£10) is smooth and well rounded without blowing the budget. If budget is an issue, then there is a Greek sweet red wine called "Mavrodaphne of Patras" - available in most supermarkets around the £5 mark, and this can pass as a gluggable port substitute.

Nightcap whisky

As night falls, you're stuffed with food, feeling woozy and tired, now is the time to round off the day with a little night cap. Time to bring out the whisky. Everyone has their own favourite (maybe Santa has brought you bottle?) but if you've yet to discover which whisky tickles your palate, take a look at the Independent's list of the 10 best Whiskies in the world.

Merry Christmas!

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