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Sweet talk will enhance festive celebrations

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

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Endless shopping, Noddy Holder's continuous warbling and the bitter cold: I can forgive the festive month almost anything as long as I can indulge in my favourite winter wines.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a scrooge – my father is a chef so you can imagine our Christmases: opulent platters of lobsters, gambas, crayfish, snails, terrine, foie gras, fillet of beef and smoked salmon – feasts fit for a king. For us, and I'm sure for many, it's a day of complete and utter indulgence. And that includes the wines.

Every year my favourites have always been the first and the last – the wines in between always seem a bit hazy on Christmas day. At the Loué household, we always start our meal with a nice bottle of dessert wine. Usually, and as the name suggests, these sweet wines are favoured for the dessert course, but I find they complement most canapés and, my favourite, foie gras, very well.

Nowadays you can find lots of different varieties which can be enjoyed with an aperitif or starter. Make sure you choose a dessert wine which has enough acidity to balance the sweet taste.

Now for the wines themselves: if you have a cavalier attitude to spending or a sweet tooth that Willy Wonka would envy, go for an ice wine. Made from grapes which are frozen while still on the vine, ice wine is truly the queen of the dessert wines: an intense sweet flavour with a good balance of acidity and purity.

If you want to keep your wits about you over the dinner table a good alternative is half-fermented wine; it has a lower level of alcohol and a higher level of sweetness. German wines have moved on from their Blue Nun days and you can find exceptional and inexpensive German wines.

After the meal it's time to open up that bottle of port, hidden at the back of a cupboard, waiting for a special occasion. The perfect accompaniment for a cheese course or an evening spent putting the world to rights; port is typically a richer, sweeter and heavier wine. Best enjoyed with friends and family as once opened, port – and vintage ports especially – oxidise quickly and lose their flavour.

If you want a port that will last a little longer, try a tawny port: made from red grapes and aged in wooden barrels, tawny ports are gradually exposed to oxidation. This gives them their gorgeous colour and means they last longer than other ports.

If in doubt speak to a wine merchant for advice: you want to make sure every part of your Christmas day is special – and a few excellent bottles of wine can make the day go a bit smoother. Now with Christmas wine all wrapped up I can only wish you a Joyeux Noël et bonne année!

Yannick Loué is owner of boutique wine lounge Le Vignoble, Royal William Yard, Plymouth.

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