A delicious drinks basket for the festive period with some of the best tipples reviewed in All at Sea over the year.
Top of the Pops this year and trending fast is Thomson & Scott’s Skinny Prosecco. It is a quality wine with discernible flavour at 11 per cent abv but crucially only 67 calories per 100ml glass, half the amount of a regular Prosecco. Distribution is expanding and Thomson & Scott now supplies single bottles as well as cases of six on www.thomsonandscott.com. At around £18 a bottle it is not the cheapest but it is the only ‘Skinny’ and likely to be the height of fizzy fashion.
Plymouth Gin Original, established in 1793, is still distilled at the original distillery in Plymouth and qualifies as a ‘craft’ gin from before the term was coined. Expect to pay £25 per 70cl bottle at 41.2 per cent.
In view of the current surging interest in gins, adding a couple of newer craft gins to the Christmas basket could spark a lively debate, especially when they are made with different ingredients and taste different from the many London dry gin types around.
Chilgrove is uniquely distilled from grapes rather than grains. The result is silky smooth. It is available in specialist shops or online from www.masterofmalt.com for £29 for a welcome 44 per cent 70cl bottle.
Likewise, Conker Gin, a recent discovery and favourably reviewed by All At Sea’s publisher Sue Baggaley, is made from wheat instead of barley. Also available from www.masterofmalt.com, it costs £35.95 per 40 per cent 70cl bottle.
The English is a single malt from the English Whisky Company at Roudham, Norfolk. Go to www.englishwhisky.co.uk and choose The English in its bright new get-up at 43 per cent costing £35 for a 70cl bottle. It is good and will add another dimension versus Scottish malts for the holiday tasting debate. There are some nice stocking fillers on the website too.
Offley Rosé Port will be a popular addition to the Christmas drinks basket. Typically port is viewed as an after-dinner treat and rosé for the summer only, but Offley says that its Rosé Port is often drunk by the Portuguese as a year-round elegant apéritif on the rocks or as a cocktail with tonic. Expect to pay £12 for a 75cl bottle at 19.5 per cent.
Ideal with Christmas turkey or pudding, Argentinian Malbec red was the number one choice of a small tasting panel earlier in the year. Originally from France, 70 per cent of today’s production is in Argentina. With fruity plum flavours and a velvety texture, it costs between £8 and £10 a bottle.
Or choose Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhone Villages, 14 per cent and £6.74 at Waitrose. It tastes good and the jolly light blue and red label will look festive on the Christmas dinner table.
If you prefer a white wine, Muscadet sur Lie is making a continued return to popularity. At 12 per cent, look for it in Aldi priced at £4.99.
Many Christmas or Santa ale specials are just Christmas labels for an otherwise regular ale. My basket includes a couple of regular strong dark ales – for sipping rather than quaffing.
Go for Marstons Wychwood Hobgoblin, which is ruby dark and malty at 5.2 per cent. Or the golden dark Shepherd Neame’s Bishops Finger, 5.4 per cent, malty and full bodied, from Britain’s oldest brewery at Faversham, Kent.
Bottle Green elderflower cordial with Fever Tree tonic for a treat is very pleasant and makes it easy for the nominated driver. Expect to pay £2.50 to £3.15 for a 500ml bottle.