For many people the holiday season is an invitation to indulge. There are friends to see, parties to attend and some will face the marathon of a Christmas lunch. Hard, then, to imagine drinking in moderation. But all is not lost. Slow drinking, like slow cooking, will serve you well, and the secret to drinking slower is to drink better. To sip a wine that captures your attention will give you more pleasure than drinking several glasses of an indifferent wine that has nothing to say.
If you are hosting a party, consider giving your guests something unusual like a Jurançon, or a Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec. Expectations are so low on such occasions that the blend of Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, with its richness and freshness and flavour of unsweet pineapple, will set your grateful guests talking.
Of course the usual offering at festive times is Champagne, and if you are keen to taste the wine beneath the fizz choose a vintage like 2004, which shows depth of character and a rich palate. If it’s mostly the bubbles you are after, why not try a good Prosecco? For an apéritif, it is fast becoming the sparkling wine of choice. The price point is right and so far the quality is good. Will it remain so? As demand has risen authorities in the Veneto approved an expansion of the DOC region where Prosecco may be grown. Perhaps quality will be maintained but for now it is best to stick to wines from the heartland of Conegliano and Valdobbiodene.
To accompany the drinks, serve smoked salmon on rye bread. This works very well with Champagne, as the tart acidity cuts through the fat of the fish—though beware the squeeze of lemon. Alternatively, slivers of parmesan will flatter a lesser Champagne.
The choice of wine becomes more challenging when you are serving it with a meal. There is the need to match flavours of salt and sweet, savoury and sour, and to ensure the wines go well together.
The traditional Christmas fare constrains your options. If you plan to serve a white wine with smoked fish, avoid wines that have seen any oak: from Alsace, Riesling or Pinot Blanc. With a dry meat like turkey, and the bold flavours of cranberry sauce, you need a rich, robust wine, like an Amarone from Valpolicella. Once considered the headiest of wines with 14…