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Winter Wines and December Drinks

Christmas is coming and most of us will spend more on drinks in those few days than at any other time of the year. It is the season for big, warming, hearty drinks to share by the fireside and to warm you up after those wet and windy winter walks. And then, there’s the biggest choice of all, those special wines for Christmas Dinner. Here are some suggestions. December is the time of year when a lot of Devon and Cornwall’s brewers offer special Christmas brews. These tend to be darker, deeper and inevitably a little stronger. For example Eve Valley Brewery will be offering their dark and lovely Winter Glow at 6%. Or, if you get the chance to be in Helston over the festive season, the infamous Christmas Special at the Blue Anchor is well worth a visit. Rich and spicy it almost needs a knife and fork, though at around 7.6% it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It may be an old fashioned drink but I think there is no better winter warmer than a Whisky Mac. Equal parts whisky and ginger wine - the warmth of the whisky works perfectly with the spiciness of the ginger. Of the better known varieties I’d go for Crabbies every time; but if you can find it, Lyme Bay Winery near Seaton make a lovely local version that would work perfectly. Just don’t use your best single malt to go with it. Christmas Day is a day for splashing out on your wine, so I think it needs the classics. Reds from Bordeaux, Tuscany or Rioja, big barrel fermented chardonnays and, of course, classic sweet wines like Sauternes, Tokaji or Vin Santo. If you can afford it spend a little more, £10 to £20 a bottle will get you something really good, especially from your local wine shop. You probably want something sparkling too and here I would urge caution. You will, no doubt, see mountains of “half price” Champagne in your local supermarket. But cheap Champagne often tastes just that, cheap. It can be all acid, with little flavour and little pleasure to be had. Personally I’d go for one of the local options. Camel Valley from Cornwall of course, the Brut is excellent but the Pink Pinot Noir is better. Also in Cornwall look out for Knightor, or in the far West, Polgoon. From Devon; Pebblebed, Sharpham, Eastcott and Yearlstone all make great local fizz. This is, of course, also the perfect time of year for port. And what a minefield of different styles you will find; white, crusted, ruby, vintage, tawny, etc. Of these I would pick out two. Either a Reserve Ruby or a Late Bottled Vintage. Ruby is a simple young style but a Reserve is better quality. Vintage is the best possible quality of port but will be at least £30 a bottle. Late Bottled Vintage is a step towards this style for a lot less money. You can find either for somewhere around £18 - £24. One last point – when you open the bottle treat it like wine, it will last a few days not half a year. A final piece of advice; forget the mulled wine. After all who actually likes it after the first few sips? As far as I can see it only exists to use up that bottle of something nasty left behind after a party. And that can’t be a good enough reason to drink it. Can it? Merry Christmas and enjoy your wine!

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