Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy a well-earned rest, accompanied by delicious food and drink. It’s also a time for festive parties and friends popping round at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to have a well-stocked drinks cabinet. But don’t panic – we’ve picked five essential bottles that are all crowd-pleasers, and will ensure your guests go home happy.
Well, you wouldn’t expect us to start with anything else, would you? If you’re after a versatile dram, you can’t go wrong with Benriach 12 Year Old Sherry Wood. To me, this is what a Christmas whisky is all about. It’s loaded with aromatic festive spices – think cinnamon, nutmeg, clove – and while it’s rich, it’s well balanced and not over the top. Give this to anyone who says they don’t like whisky – you could convert them for life!
A cliché, perhaps, but there’s a reason why port has such strong ties with Christmas. It’s a rich, warming drink, perfect to enjoy by the fireside, and the ideal partner for a cheeseboard – an ever-present in our household over the Christmas period. I’ve gone for a tawny from Fonseca, which is nuttier than most port styles, and a 20 Year Old, which for me is the ideal balance between the fruit and the spiciness that comes with long ageing.
No Champagne at Christmas would be a sorry state of affairs. There’s no best time for Champagne; whenever you decide to open it, it just works – an aperitif, with food, for a celebration, it’s all good. This Blanc de Blancs from Veuve Fourny is made with 100% Chardonnay, and is light, fruity and elegant. If would make an ideal match with oysters or other seafood dishes – delicious!
Vermouth has long been known as the secret weapon of a good bartender. It peps up boring drinks and just a splash can revive a disappointing G&T or glass of wine, it’s so versatile. I’ve gone for Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, our 2015 Spirit of the Year – it has that classic bittersweet note of orange peel, cherries and herbs, and works neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails such as the Negroni or Martinez. A festive essential.
For the non-whisky drinkers out there who want something complex and sophisticated, an XO Cognac is just the ticket, and this 12 year old from Chateau de Beaulon is ideal. Rich, nutty and spicy, this would be perfect with Christmas pudding, or just sipped slowly after dinner. A classy festive Cognac.
These five bottles should ensure you’re well prepared this Christmas. Take a look at our festive guide. We have comprehensive food-matching advice, a gift finder, and you can even put your Christmas questions to our 3 Wise Men. Happy shopping!