'Tis the season to be Jolly

We are real foodies in the Sleeps12 office and the conversation often turns to what we are making or bringing into the office for lunch. A variety of soups are tried and tested throughout the winter season but this week our attention has turned to the Christmas menu. So we thought that we would share a few of our top choices for the festive period and have asked local Wine Merchant The Jolly Vintner for their wine suggestions.

We are real foodies in the Sleeps12 office and the conversation often turns to what we are making or bringing into the office for lunch. A variety of soups are tried and tested throughout the winter season but this week our attention has turned to the Christmas menu. So we thought that we would share a few of our top choices for the festive period and have asked local Wine Merchant The Jolly Vintner for their wine suggestions.

Our top 5 festive table treats

Baked Ham with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze

The perfect Boxing Day treat this classic lasts brilliantly and just cries out to be sliced every time you open the fridge.

Keeping it basic with the brown sugar and mustard glaze you can be sure that any guests will happy and asking for seconds.

Our quick tips:
• Go to a butcher and ask for their help to choose the right sized ham and they will always give their advice on the length of time to cook.
• Always cover with foil to start with so that it doesn’t dry out!
• Remember to cut the traditional diamond shapes into a small layer of fat
• Be generous with the sugar and mustard!

An aromatic French white may not be the obvious choice to accompany ham, but without making reference to any particular high-end supermarket, “this isn’t ordinary ham, this is brown sugar and mustard glazed ham”! The accompaniments and dressings to our meats often have a larger impact on our tastebuds than the meat itself, and in this case, the sweet caramelised sugar and spicy mustard glaze needs a wine that compliments, rather than overpowers. So our pick is a Gewürztraminer from Alsace, northern France. Not dissimilar to Riesling, this white wine can be made in dry OR sweet styles, and is aromatic, floral and rich. A fantastic balance of purity and minerality with honey and spice.
Cave de Turckheim Gewurztraminer 2012, 375ml, £4.99 OR
Cave de Turckheim Gewurztraminer 2013, 750ml, £10.99

Chestnut, Bacon and Cranberry Stuffing

No turkey meal is complete without a decent stuffing. Forgo the packet variety and make your own we think it is just as easy. 

If you have a large turkey you may want to avoid stuffing the turkey cavity, as it will take longer to cook. Alternatively, why not bone the turkey and you’ll be able to place the stuffing inside and roll it up. This takes a bit of practice and a few glasses of wine so you may want to ask the butcher if they would consider doing it for you. 

Our quick tips:
• Soak the cranberries in port before you start. 
• Try to use fresh thyme and parsley to flavour it and don’t be scared to add plenty of seasoning
• Make too much as it’s great to add to bubble and squeak or a toasted sandwich!

An easy rule of thumb with meat is to match the colour of wine to the colour of the meat – but on Christmas Day you also want to keep the peace with your family and friends and not force white wine drinkers to drink red and vice versa! So to make everyone’s lives easier we’ve picked two wines to accompany the main event, one white and one red!
Domaine des Perserons Saint-Véran 2014, 750ml, £12.00
A French classic, Saint-Véran is a village in the Maconnais sub-region of Burgundy. White Burgundy is always made from Chardonnay and includes some familiar names like Chablis and Pouilly-Fuissé. We’ve chosen Saint-Véran above these in terms of the value and quality of the vintage, and this is an award-winning example that tastes ‘like Burgundy should’ and matches beautifully with poultry.

Château de Belleverne ‘La Basse-Cour’ Beaujolais Villages 2014, 750ml, £7.99
Remaining in Burgundy for our red, Beaujolais is light in colour and body which means it won’t overpower white meats like many other, bolder reds would. Made from the Gamay grape which has a thinner, lighter skin, it produces a fresh, juicy wine with forest fruit flavours and earthy undertones – complimenting the cranberry and herbs in the stuffing.

Italian Panforte

Forget mince pies and try this traditional Italian dessert that contains fruit and nuts. A speciality of Siena, Tuscany there are several variations. Serve it thinly sliced on pretty plates and you’ll have everyone wondering at your style and sophistication! Emily leaves Panforte out for Father Christmas and he is always very thankful for the change of delicacy.

Our quick tips:

• Not feeling that adventurous in the kitchen then you can find Panforte in a lot of supermarkets or pop into a farm shop and you might just find one in there. 
• Slice thinly – it is very rich. You can always come back for more!
• Buy two…..

A fantastic Tuscan treat deserves to be paired with an equally fantastic dessert wine! Vin Santo is the traditional sweet tipple from the Chianti region of Tuscany, usually made from the indigenous grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia which are dried for 6 months to concentrate sugar and sweetness before fermentation. The result is a sublime, densely rich golden wine with apricot and almond flavours mirroring those of the Panforte. The Italians know what they’re doing when it comes to food and wine!
Badia di Morrona Vin Santo del Chianti 2009, 50cl, £13.50

Smoked Salmon Canapés

Nothing new here but they are a winner every time. No matter the time of day a good Smoked Salmon Canapé is a perfect little nibble. Remember to stock up on a good smoked salmon, you can freeze it so if you see it on offer before Christmas week pick some up because no one likes that mad dash around the shops at the last minute.

Our quick tips:

• Keep it traditional and have smoked salmon on brown bread with just a squeeze of lemon
• Create a quick smoked salmon mousse with plenty of dill and serve with crunchy crostini
• Okay so it’s not a canapé but smoked salmon and scrambled eggs is a perfect Boxing Day breakfast!

Smoked Salmon calls for Champagne, and it is Christmas after all! Our current favourite is the rather special Pinot Noir dominant fizz from a small family-owned Champagne house in Äy. It is a blend of their top vintages, with the base wine of 2012 hinted at in the name. Bright and lively, with fresh green fruit backed up by the traditional bread and caramel flavours associated with top Champagnes, this is a treat either on its own or with delicious smoked salmon canapés.
Champagne Lallier R.012 Brut NV, 750ml, £30.00

Beef Wellington

For those that don’t like traditional turkey Beef Wellington makes a luxurious alternative. Don’t scrimp on the beef though and go for succulent fillet of beef. Sear the beef in advance and pop into the fridge to go cold so you don’t get soggy pastry.

Our quick tips:

• It may offend some people but buy pre-rolled pastry just in case you get too busy to make your own. We promise no one will know the difference!
• Season the beef well
• Practice the duxelles a few times!
• If you have guests who don’t like mushrooms swap the duxelles for a pâté. Strangely this works well and keeps everything moist and delicious.

An easy mistake to make with beef dishes is to assume that a big heavy red (i.e. Côtes du Rhône, Claret) is an automatic match. Those high tannin wines work well with steak or rare roast beef as the chewy texture of the meat makes the tannins more supple. In this case however, we need something a little softer and smoother to work with the pastry and paté/mushrooms. As many of these recommendations have been quite France-centric, for the final dish let’s pop over to the New World and Argentina. Bonarda is the country’s second most planted red grape, but is relatively unknown and undervalued compared to the much more mainstream and popular Malbec. This is a fantastic example of a rich, soothing crowd-pleaser of a red – crack this open at the dinner table and your guests won’t be disappointed! Why not give the old favourites a miss and try something new this Christmas?
Los Haroldos Bonarda Roble 2012, 750ml, £10.99

Well that sums up what will be on our tables this Christmas. What about you? Do let us know what your plans are and remember to have a lovely time.

Contact details for The Jolly Vintner, 23 West Exe North, Tiverton EX16 5LX Tel: 01884 255644
Follow on Twitter and Instagram: @jollyvintner
Please do check them out and what they have to offer – they really are fantastic!