Shop around for flavour this Christmas and find some price surprises on the shelves.
First – the fizz. While price is generally an indicator of quality wine making and a consequence of the years of ageing, it may not, it seems, be a definitive indicator of tastiness. So says the Good Housekeeping Institute in its Christmas Food 2015 report. This blind-test exercise by 20 experts covered Christmas food and drink staples including, of interest to us, Champagne and Prosecco.
Based purely on taste remember, the Champagne winner was Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny Brut by Philizot, also revealed as a ‘price surprise’ bargain at £9.97 for a 75cl bottle.
The tasting notes list apple fruity, a slight golden hue, small bubbles and a crisp light flavour. Also in the top echelon were Faubert Brut from Ocado (£19.99) and Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut (£21.99).
The GHI Prosecco winner was San Leo Brut, £10.49 at Waitrose and already tested by my tasting team and declared nicely dry and authentic. Of note, though, in third place was Aldi’s Valdobbiadene Prosecco Spumante (meaning fully sparkling) DOCG (the official Italian wine Prosecco classification) at only £7.49. At this price it can be the mainstay of a sailing club party, as a straight apéritif or mixed for cocktails.
Try it with peach juice for a pretty and docile Bellini cocktail. For a party kick-starter try a Negroni-style cocktail – mix in the glass ice, a single measure of Campari (25 per cent abv) and twice as much Prosecco (11 per cent abv, so a fortifier not a reducer). It has a vibrant red colour and spicy taste and is a bit stronger than the average gin and tonic.
Of course, a different tasting panel of sailors might come up with a different selection, blind or otherwise, but the message from the GHI selection is that setting aside our prejudices and having a good look at what is on offer in the so-called price-led supermarkets can make a significant difference to the seasonal festivities bill.
Red or white with turkey?
Roast turkey has a relatively mild taste with much of the flavour on the plate coming from the accompaniments, which the wine choice should take into account. Chipolata sausages can be spicy while stuffings mix savoury with a range of flavours and cranberry sauce is rich and fruity.
A full-bodied, well-aged red wine is not the best partner for this delicious mélange. Better to choose a young and fruity wine low in tannins. A 2014 Beaujolais Villages (see AAS November 2015) or Pinot Noir – Aldi has a Vignobles Roussellet at just £4.39 for 75cl (12.5 per cent abv).
For a white wine option, several work well depending on your palette, especially chardonnays and sauvignon blancs or, for a special treat, a Viognier. I found a Macon-Villages Chardonnay at Waitrose at £8.99 and a Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc for just £4.99 at Aldi.
Whatever you choose, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
A Christmas carol cocktail – The Mistletoe Martini
2 fl oz Wight Vodka
2 fl oz orange juice
3 fl oz cranberry tea, chilled (or juice)
3/4 fl oz lemon juice
3 tsp sugar
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.
Strain into two chilled cocktail glasses.
Garnish with mint leaves and cherries
Sip and enjoy!