Usually face-down in a vat of Baileys? You can do better than that! Nail your Christmas drink choices like a pro. Bottoms up!
There is a lot to do in the run-up to Christmas but one task that’s far more a pleasure than a chore is stocking up on festive drinkies. Come to mama, lovely booze! But this year I’m determined to be a bit more imaginative, rather than reaching on autopilot for my usual failsafe red or supermarket fizz. So I’ve picked the brains of wine expert Polly Ward of Grape Smith – a brilliant wine and spirits merchant (you can buy at their Hungerford store or order online – to create your failsafe festive tipple cheat-sheet.
The party starter
Put down the Prosecco, we’re keeping it local… very local! You wouldn’t normally consider getting sparkling wine from West Berkshire but this Winding Wood English sparkling wine,£29.50, is delicious and perfect for a party. The classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (useful for a pub quiz) are grown in the ‘hood, then sent over to the infamous Emma Rice and Jacob Leadley at Hattingley Valley in Hampshire who wave the winemaking wand to create a first class fizz.
Not convinced by the homegrown? How about Cava. It’s got a bad rep over the years for being a bit low rent, but we’re bringing it back and showing it some love. I’d suggest you take a look at Rigol, a bargainous £11.20 – with 100 years of Cava-making under their belt, I think they know what they’re doing. It’s dry, full-bodied and very very drinkable.
The snuggling in front of the fire tipple
It has to be port and typically from Portugal. Historically the Portuguese would ship red wine to England and during the long journey it’d get spoiled. So they started adding brandy to fortify it and preserve it, and that’s how the drink was created. Taylor’s Tawny Reserve is the daddy of ports. The brand dates back to 1642 and this limited edition 1 litre bladder-shaped bottle, £40, contains a carefully-selected blend of Taylor’s tawny stocks – some are 30 years old. It’s a lovely warming drop for cold days. Or change it up, and serve chilled as an aperitif.
The one for showing off to your friends
In need of ginspiration? Lind & Lime Gin, £36, made in Edinburgh, comes in a sassy bottle and the gin has a hint of lime and pink peppercorn. Mix with a Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic, lots of ice and a slice of lime. This mother is happy to be ruined. OK, so the bottle totally sold it for us, but this bad boy has style and substance. For more festive flavour, try new kid on the block Lumber Bartholomew Berkshire Dry, £42 – and it’s made just down the road at The Newbury Pub.
If you’re looking to impress your wino mates, Polly tells me we need to get our mitts on bottles of Chan e lus, £26 – a field blend with a story that will have the biggest wine snobs salivating. Owner Barnaby discovered it while he was on holiday and had to bring back to his shop. Wine makers in the region, took on an unloved, old vineyard that was an absolute mess and each year produce a white and a red from the best grapes they can pick from this wild patch of land. No one year is the same.
The Christmas Day lunch vino
This is a great opportunity to splash a little more cash than you normally would and treat yourself to something special. My red recommendation is Akitu A1 (£38.50) from New Zealand – a sexy wine in a sexy bottle that will be appreciated by everyone. When it comes to white, it’s got to be a stunning Italian wine from the grandaddies of winemakers, the Antinori family. Villa Antinori Bianco, £25, is a full and rich wine similar to a white bordeaux.
For something a little less spenny, but no less special from the Savour selection, Terres Dorees Beaujolais Blanc Classic, £16.40, by the iconic Jean-Paul Brun. If you looking for a red, the Chataeu la Gorce 2012 Medoc, £16.40, is a stonking bordeaux. It’s of those wines that gets better the longer you leave it open – releasing all those earthy blackcurrant, plummy,cedar, leaf and ‘lead pencil’ flavours.
If you’re all about the quaffing, you don’t need to miss out. The Vetiver White Rioja, £9.40, is like a baby burgundy. Medium to full bodied, you get a lot of wine for the money and works very well with food. And finally one of our bestsellers this years is the Crochera Barbera d’Asti Superiore – a fruity wine with hints of cherries, chocolate and spice. At £8 a bottle an absolute bargain.
See in 2019 with a bang
If you’ve made it to New Year’s Eve and you’re not a quivering wreck. Well done. But a night on the Champers can leave your mouth feeling like the Sahara, opt for Taittinger Nocturne, the perfect end of evening bubbles. It’s still a dry Champers but has a little more sugar for smoother taste. Now pop a couple of paracetamol, collapse in a heap and sleep. See you on the 1 February.
Pop in to see owner Barnaby and Polly, they’re open until 4pm on Christmas Eve, they’re very very helpful. You can even give them the amount you want to spend and they’ll great a mixed box for you (plus you get 10% off 12 bottles or more – code CHRISTMAS18). They even offer delivery, if you’re too tipsy to make the drive. Hic!
Grape Smith, Barrs Yard, 1 Bath Road, Hungerford RG17 0HD; 01488 680933. You can also order online at grapesmith.co.uk