FAST forward 18 days and the presents will be wrapped, the turkey defrosting (gentle reminder) and the kids in bed. Christmas Eve. The lull before the storm.
You want to have a light evening meal before the gluttony begins, and also leave a glass of sherry for Santa.
Ring the changes this year and pour Santa (aka yourself) a glass of Tio Pepe Palamino Fino (on offer in Majestic at £9.99). Gather a few tapas nibbles around you such as Iberian ham, chorizo, olives, oil-drizzled artichoke hearts and garlic prawns, quickly zizzed in a pan, and you have a relaxing, Christmas Eve feel-special supper. Tio Pepe has apple and a clean sea breeze on the nose – to taste, lemon. Serve chilled and it will keep in the fridge for a few weeks; if you resist.
If you’ve been out in the cold and need a huddle-warmth red, Asda’s Corbière from its Wine Selection range is a snip at £3.98 with its smooth, herby, moreish plumminess and is a bargain wine-rack standby for unexpected guests.
When the day begins. Pop the champers.
International Wine Challenge (IWC) gold medallist, Laithwaite Brut Premier Cru NV (£23.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) is a blend of premier cru and grand cru grapes that is a sensory treat of dried apples and brioche – and the bubbles of choice on the Orient Express. Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial (RRP £31.99. from Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s) is as popular as ever with apple and white flowers on the nose and brioche and a creamy nuttiness to taste.
The classiest champers act of the year has to be the Co-op’s Les Pionniers 2004 Champagne which scooped gold at both the IWC and the Decanter World Wine Awards. It is toasty, biscuity, citrussy, nutty and with bubbles that say ‘adore me’ – and is reduced by £3 to £22.99 until January 1.
Or indulge in the luxurious Taittinger Brut Prestige Rose NV (£47, Waitrose, Majestic). It speaks of class but with subtle charms. A clear light pink, it is constantly effervescent and is light and refreshing in the mouth with a delicate raspberry fruitiness and just a hint of cream.
Now, starters. Prawn cocktail is a tradition but how about prawns and scallops flecked with a Thai dressing; or maybe smoked salmon and crème fraiche, infused with horseradish cream? If you’d serve a lemon with your starter, think of unoaked zingy whites.
Von Kesselstatt Dry Riesling (£8.95, www.thewinesociety.com) is zesty and bone dry with a hint of peach and stone fruit.
It would be perfect as a match to a delicate spicy dressing.
Rod Easthope Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2012 (www.nakedwines.com, £11.99, or £8.49 as an investing Angel) has a green fruit nose akin to a sauvignon blanc, and a citrus, cheek-pinching brightness in the mouth which pleasantly surprises for this grape.
If it’s a strong flavoured wine you are after to complement your smoked salmon then Sancerre Les Ruettes 2010 could be top of your Christmas list.
Sancerre is 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the limestone and clay hills of the Loire, and a chilled glass of this golden liquid from Marks & Spencer makes for a tangy, citrus-flavoured sensation with some depth. It has a strong taste that lingers and is a refreshing, and perfect, way to start your Christmas dinner. It’s on offer at £9.99 from £12.99 – or buy three and save 5% until January 1.
Next week, more ideas for your starters and wines for the main event – your Christmas turkey.