Stephen Barrett column

Thank the Victorian's for our modern day Christmas food and drink says @BistroWineMan 

We owe the tradition of Christmas celebrations to the Victorians as the monarch and her consort developed the format with a mixture of German and English traditions all rolled into one.

Prior to that the Medieval and Tudor monarchs certainly celebrated at both Christmas and New Year with gigantic feasts with headpieces such as Goose, Swan and Venison taking pride at their extravagant, bacchanalian tables of excess.

With Queen Victoria keen to be a tad gentler, her family were also keen to add decorations, gifts and good-will to all men!

Christmas cards became fashionable, as did Christmas Carols, celebrations in churches and chapels.

Turkey – Where do we start? I think your local butcher is tops for the bird! They use traditionally-reared (often Free-range) birds that are prepared just at the right time for maximum taste and value. 

Matching Turkey with wine is a matter of simple choice as some of you will prefer White to Rose to Red!  All are ok as they all match the occasion a treat. My white wine choice would be a wine offering fruit, texture and body. Go for a lightly-oaked Chardonnay from Limoux in the Languedoc or a Rioja Blanco from Northern Spain. Both are reasonable – priced and easily available.

My Rose of choice would be either Miraval Rose from Provence (dry, fruity and aromatic) or Sharpham Whole Berry Rose (complex, delicious fruit driven) from Devon. Again find both on-line

My red selection for Turkey has to be on the lighter side of red wines available of the market. Go for a Pinot Noir, many are incredible value at under £10 per bottle from New World, Romania and South American wineries. If you wish more complexity head for France and their fabled Burgundy vineyards. Here the excellent 2018 vintage from Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise 2018 Buxynoise – offering great fruit balance and available from Majestic Wines.

Christmas Pudding gives the opportunity to consider a dessert wine or as the Aussies call it – a ‘Sticky’.  

Lightly fortified desert-styled wines from the Rhone include the excellent Muscat de Beaumes de Venise – Domaine Durban from Yapp Bros or the richer raisanny Campbell’s Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat from The Clifton Cellars Bristol could be your choice.

Fast forward to the 21st Century we still embrace many of these traditions albeit rather confined to near family members celebrating as we know and love. With the extraordinary choice of fare now available at every market imaginable it is still Turkey that features heavily for most families. 

With this in mind I suggest that my menu of Canapés (nibbles), Smoked Salmon, Roast Turkey, Christmas pudding and Cheese will be served at the majority of households just like the Victorians all those years ago.

My wine choices will be aligned to those dishes but I am sure that a touch of variation on the theme will still enhance my seasonal suggestions. 

If you are going to the trouble of creating Canapés then the two most popular drinks will be Champagne or Sparkling wine or delicious chilled Dry Sherry. There are innumerable Champagnes on the Christmas markets some are on offer for the festive period. This is the time to purchase a few bottles as running out is unforgivable! But surely with good vintages behind us it should be time to consider an English or Welsh Sparkling wine? Our Westcountry winemakers from Polgoon in Penzance to Dunleavy Vineyards near Bristol ensure we are truly blessed with choice. Most are available at the wineries or often at Farm Shops or Christmas fares. Time to take the plunge? I think so!

Smoked Salmon used to be the fish of choice for the ‘well-heeled’ but with a plethora of farmed Salmon on the UK market it has become more readily available. However many local fish merchants/specialist will know what’s best and are able to recommend. My choices would be Trediga Smokehouse, Launceston or Chesil Smokery in Bridport for award-winning, hygienically smoked produce. Find on-line.

The traditional way to end a fine Christmas Lunch would be a Blue Cheese. Traditionally Stilton would be de rigueur but with many other fine blue cheeses it, like the wine, should be your choice. My choice for these wine would be a very Christmassy Tawny Port, served chilled in a large glass! Churchills Ten Year Old Tawny (sweet, figgy notes) from Christopher Piper Wines in Ottery St Mary should be your quarry.

I hope my choice of wines for your Christmas fare will hit the vinous spot! Many of your local Wine Merchants also create a Christmas selection that will certainly be worth searching out for. Have a lovely Christmas.         

Stephen Barrett is a Wine, Food and Travel Writer based in Plymouth. Find Stephen on Twitter and Instagram as @bistrowineman or Facebook and LinkedIn as Stephen Barrett  ​