- 0 Comment(s)
As I keep mentioning, the festive season is rapidly falling upon us. And, as we all know, Christmas and everything that comes with it usually means enjoying your fair share of alcohol.
While it’s best to take a sensible approach, nobody wants a trip to A and E after all; there’s no harm in investigating two of my favourite festive beverages: mulled wine and champagne. While mulled wine usually evokes images of strolling around a Christmas market as your breath turns to steam in the air, champagne is ideal for when you’re clinking classes over a table with your friends.
Whether you’re into mulled wine, champagne, or something else, I want you to get more from your festive alcohol indulgences. So, here’s my guide to mulled wine, bubbles, and a few little beverages and accessories in between.
What is mulled wine and why is it so popular?
Did you know that mulled wine first made an appearance in the second century? Apparently, the Romans needed a way to warm themselves against the cold European shores they were invading. It makes absolute sense that they immediately thought of heating wine, because hey, who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Through the ages, various European nations have stolen the idea and built on it. As the wine evolved, they began adding spices and herbs, turning it into the mulled wine we know and love today.
Eventually, all the mulled wine hype started to die out. Us Brits began exploring other alternatives, such as beer and gin. Then, towards the end of the nineteenth century, it launched its journey towards becoming a festive treat.
How to make the most of the mulled wine this festive season
Mulled wine is everywhere. Walk into any supermarket, and you’ll find some. The trick is to make sure you warm it for about half-an-hour before drinking it. Take the warming process slowly, because if you move too quickly, you’ll burn away most of the alcohol.
Or, do what I do and make your own. Buy a bottle of red (cheap wine is fine) and pour it into a pan on a low heat. Add some spice such as cinnamon sticks, cardamom and star anise along with slices of orange studded with cloves. And then, call me a heathen, but I have found adding a slosh of real orange juice makes for a nice touch!
To enjoy it, even more, try pairing it with classic Christmas treats. From mince pies through to Stollen, there’s no end to the festive delicacies you can drink with mulled wine. What you can’t do with it, though, is pair it with many dishes at the dinner table. That’s why I’m going to dive into other wines at the end of this post.
If you somehow find yourself struggling to finish a bottle, why not try one of our personalised silver wine stoppers? Not only can you embellish it with a message of your own, so everybody knows whom the wine belongs to, but you'll also prevent oxygen from ruining the wine. That way, you can dive back into the wine the next day.
How can you find the best bubbles for your festive parties?
Oh, how the range of bubbles available to us mere mortals had expanded since the days when they were available only to the elite. At the moment, Prosecco is quite literally on the tip of everyone’s lips. And although it’s fallen out of favour a little, Cava isn’t always the worst choice when you buy one that’s decent.
Of course, the creme de la creme is Champagne. Available in a multitude of ridiculously expensive forms, its price usually drops around Christmas time, especially as many of us are now turning to other bubbly treats.
Again, it was the Romans who kick-started the whole planting grapes they’d later turn into bubbles, in the northern regions of France. Don’t we have a lot to thank those guys for? Eventually, France’s monarchs caught onto the idea. Marie Antoinette probably enjoyed her fair share of glasses before her head hit the guillotine.
Making sure your bubbles don’t lose their sparkle
If you don’t work your way through a bottle of bubbles quickly enough, their sparkle fades, leaving you with a substance that’s flat and bitter. There are a few ways you can prevent this from happening:
- Find the right wine glass. Believe it or not, experts in this area debate fiercely over whether a flute or a simple white wine glass is best. Why not try experimenting with both?
- Try using a Champagne stopper. Like wine stoppers, they prevent oxygen from entering the bottle and ruining the wine. In this case, the aim is more to stop the bubbles from escaping so your bubbly beverage of choice doesn’t fall flat.
- If you can’t locate your stopper, drop a spoon into the bottle handle down. Again, this is an area of debate amongst those who love to argue over such matters. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try.
A little note on wine and food pairing for the big day
When the big day comes, and you want to impress your guests, you’ll need a bit more than personalised wine stoppers. Knowing a little about which wines will leave everyone feeling astounded, especially if your food is excellent.
The wines you choose to serve at Christmas will depend on the dishes themselves. But, before I start throwing my recommendations at you, I want you to consider adding English sparkling wine to your arsenal. It’s a little pricey at the moment, but it’s growing in terms of both popularity and flavour, making it an incredible niche addition to any Christmas dinner table.
Wine pairing at Christmas
If you’re serving appetizers, the wines you choose can have a HUGE impact:
- Salmon works well with champagne
- Serving cheese that’s blue and stinky? It’s time to break out the port
- Pigs in blankets work, particularly well with rose champagne, giving you an opportunity to be incredibly British and fancy at the same time
Now, for those mains:
Few people serve goose at Christmas these days. But, if you fancy a change, it’s worth knowing which wines will bring out its flavour. If you’re a red wine drinker, try a good Burgundy to complement its fatty nature. As for white wine, you’re going to have to reach for the Riesling.
Turkey is undoubtedly the most popular option for Brits who love a drink with their Christmas dinner. When it comes to white, Sauvignon Blanc is your winner. As for red, try a decent South African Syrah.
If your family prefers red meat over white, you might have to accept that no white wine works well with beef. But if you're insistent over the matter, try Albarino. As for red, look towards the intense flavours of Rioja.
No matter what you serve, I’m sure your Christmas meal will go down as a hit. But, always remember to add a stopper to that bottle when you know nobody’s going to finish it. That way, you can let the party carry on throughout Boxing Day.