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SPECIAL: What to Drink at an Australian Christmas?


Christmas is a time that many families get together to eat, drink and exchange presents.

I’ll leave the presents to Santa and his elves or Grandfather Frost and his Snow Maiden, if you live in Russia. Typical Australian Christmas fare is fusion food – oysters and prawns in keeping with our warmer climes and ham, turkey and Christmas pudding in a more European tradition. But what to drink?


I find the Christmas Day winelist tricky. I know what I want – the very best.  But what about the hordes of relatives who don’t really care what they’re drinking as long as it’s wet, cold and alcoholic.


It takes some planning. Christmas Day is the one day of the year when pre-lunch consumption is condoned – a glass while the children open the presents, another for the cook and let’s not forget the carver. Champagne pleases everyone but with a large group it can become costly. I love Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($100+) – its clean, precise and deeply flavoured, its clear bell-shaped bottle attracts attention from even the most unsophisticated cousin. If money is no object, seek out the House icon – 2002 Dom Ruinart ($300+). It’s the best Blancs de Blancs I’ve tasted this year. For an Australian Blanc de Blancs try Ed Carr’s fabulous 2001 House of Arras ($70+).


Something more affordable for the masses? Prosecco is a crowd pleaser – either solo or with white nectarine nectar. However, my secret weapon to please the aged aunts or young nieces is moscato – with its flavours of freshly squeezed grapes and clean zest acidity. And at a mere 5% alcohol it helps to avoid any ugly meltdowns too early in the day.  Jumping sideways, I’ve always enjoyed fortified aperitifs such as Noilly Prat (the Dry naturally). Lillet Blanc is another excellent French vermouth; I prefer it over ice with a slice of lemon.


Now to the first round of food – oysters, hopefully Sydney Rocks from Port Stephens. Riesling is my choice. All the Clare Valley 2012’s are wonderful –Pike’s, Grosset, Jim Barry or, my current favourite, Kerri Thompson’s 2012 KT Peglidis Vineyard Watervale Riesling ($33) – purity personified.


Time for the prawns and I’m a bit retro, so a classic prawn cocktail is my choice. I’ve fallen in love with the blended whites from northern Italy and would partner well. At the top is the Franz Haas Manna from the Alto Adige – a complex blend of riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and gewürztraminer but at $70 is a bit pricey for the extended family. A good-value alternative the 2011 Clic – a similar energetic blend of chardonnay, friulano and riesling from young Friulian winemaker Enrico Coser, at a more affordable $24. For a local hero, try the 2011 Montevecchio Bianco ($22) from the innovative Chalmers family. I reviewed it in the December 2012 Qantas Magazine.

My notes: This seriously slurpable white was inspired by the blended wines of north eastern Italy and crafted using Mediterranean varieties vermentino and fiano with a splash of moscato giallo adding aromatic interest. The result – a crisp fresh, texturally pleasing, lemon pith flavoured dry white.


I like colour co-ordination – so its pink prawns with Marie Rose dressing and a decent rosé. The Arrivo 2010 Rosato di Nebbiolo ($25) is a serious wine with deep perfumes, good structure and a bone dry finish. A more flippant alternative is the Windy Peak Dry Rosé is a snip at $14 or less.


Out comes the ham and turkey – and so it’s time for the reds but I like light reds and they suit the often blazing hot day. The 2011 Eldridge Estate Gamay ($35) is top of my list – slightly chilled. Its sumptuous red fruit flavours and nice acid/tannin interplay would work with both the ham and Turkey with its cranberry sauce. I’ve discovered a ridiculously cheap gamay at Dan Murphy’s – 2011 Pierre Naigeon Beaujolais at just $8.99 – less in a 6-pack mix. Yes, it’s simple but delightfully fresh and fruity – under screwcap too. Take a step up to a quality pinot noir – they don’t come cheap but the 2010 Hurley Vineyard Pinot Noir is a cracker at just $45. It’s a blend from the three plots on the estate – and $20 less that its single site brethren. Another Mornington star is the 2010 Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate, a more delicate pinot than the Hurley and at a similar price – but again $30 less that the single site Pinots. Save them for a more intimate occasion. No Christmas lunch is complete without a sparkling red. My pick the Primo Estate JOSEPH – not cheap at $70 but it’s a fabulous drink and the packaging is sexy too.


Finally, the Christmas pudding – the last dish before that mandatory nap. Lots of alternatives here but please not a dessert wine – the density of the pudding knocks them for a six. A classic Rutherglen muscat and tokay would work well but I prefer a rich sherry. Lustau East India ($50)is a favourite – rich caramel, dried fruit and earthy rancio or a lighter version from Seppeltsfield, their Solero DP38 Rich Rare Venerable (500ml $35) – rich golden syrup, sultanas and dried walnuts.


No coffee, thanks – I’m off for that nap


See you in 2013


Peter Bourne

Posted by Peter Bourne

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Peter Bourne – aka “The Wine Man” – is synonymous with an enthusiasm and a passion for all things vinous. He's a wine educator and wine judge, and he also writes for the (sydney) magazine, Gourmet Traveller WINE and the QANTAS magazine.
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