Vintner’s Christmas How To
So it’s your first time taking care of Christmas, and you’re wondering what the most uncomplicated way is to get some of the more tricky traditions just right. Well, not only do we have the best tips for a top-notch festive period, but we do it all with a little wine. If you’re thinking “but shouldn’t it all be done with wine anyway?” then you’re in the right place, and cheers! Now let’s talk turkey, and wrapping, drinks and cheese…
The Perfect Christmas Turkey
What would Christmas be without the centrepiece of the dinner. Making the perfect turkey can be a little intimidating, but remember, the charcoaling you see in the movies only happens if you leave it in until boxing day, and that just isn’t you. So take it easy and enjoy a simple (yet perfect) turkey.
1. Obtain a turkey. This is easier said than done in 2020, but we trust you.
2. To prepare the bird, open one bottle of James Bryant Pinot Noir, and pour yourself a glass. Toast the turkey, for they may appreciate this in turkey heaven and shine down their approval upon you.
3. Take any accompanying gizzards out of the turkey. If you forget this, hopefully you’ll notice at step 6, after which, you’re on your own.
4. Mix butter, crushed garlic and a little lemon juice. Cut a hole in the skin on the breast and push the mixture in using your finger. Massage the butter into the meat.
5. Wash your hands and take the opportunity for a top up.
6. Half one onion and one lemon, and place the four halves into the turkey.
7. Place the turkey in a deep walled baking tray, and pour on a half pint of water and a half pint of white wine (the ‘Slow’ Chenin Blanc from False Bay is perfect!).
8. Turn on the oven, and realise you need the cooking instructions from the packaging, because turkey cooking is all about weight.
9. Retrieve wrapper from the bin. Wash hands. Sing Happy Birthday.
10. Cook your turkey for the suggested time, basting the juices back on every half an hour.
11. When everything looks just about done, skewer the biggest part of the turkey, and check the juices are running clear. If they are, you win, if not, back in.
12. At the moment of triumph, take the turkey out of the tray, remove the lemon and onion, and place on a serving tray.
13. Use the juices to make gravy. Research this on Google, we cant do everything for you.
14. Open two more bottles of James Bryant and allow to breathe before sitting down to dinner.
Wrapping Like an Elf
So you want your gift to look on point and you’re worried. We’ve all been there. Have you tried to wrap a ball before? But it doesn’t have to have you tearing yourself out of a paper and Sellotape nightmare on Christmas eve. This is all you need to know…
1. Gather the present, wrapping paper, scissors and tape. I recommend that tape you can put on your wrist. Sure you’ll look a little odd, but you wont be the one wrapping like a Frank Gehry painting.
2. Open wine and pour a glass large enough to fit around the entire gift. We recommend the Alvarinho Vinho Verde. It’s delicious, and it really helps when you spill it and it doesn’t stain.
3. Unroll the paper enough to lay the present facedown
4. Unroll more paper, until you have enough to wrap around the present and overlap about 3cm.
5. Cut the paper from the roll.
6. Take a hydration break.
7. Bring the paper over so the edges meet, and use your handy tape (see, now doesn’t that make sense) to firmly tape the wrapping.
8. For the openings, it’s all about the 45 degree angle. Fold the sides of the paper in at a 45 degree angle, and then bring the top flap down, folding it along the box so it’s neat and tidy.
9. Realise you aren’t wrapping something in a box, and that maybe this was a mistake. Start again, this time in a box. If it doesn’t come in a box, put it into one, or use a bag. Begin again at step 1.
10. Bring the bottom flap up so that it covers the top flap, and tape down
11. Repeat on the other side and you’re all wrapped up, now for ribbon.
13. Cut a piece of ribbon 5 times longer than the box, and lay the box in the centre of it
14. Pull the ribbon over the box, and cross it so that the ribbon forms a cross shape, then flip the box over.
15. Thread the ribbon ends under the strip on the top of the box, and then tie in a double knot over the top of it.
16. Feel accomplished and celebrate with a drink.
17. Repeat until you run out of presents, or patience.
Cheese-us Christ is born
The humble cheese board is the grand finale to the Christmas feast, the closing act, it is the final act of a feaster who admitted defeat and is now roused by a Roquefort. So, the pressure is on to get it just right and here’s what we think makes for the perfect cheese board:
1. The melty oozy number: no respectable cheese board would be complete without at least one cheese melting off the board itself, we’re talking the likes of brie and camembert.
2. A proper stinker: some say the smellier the cheese the better, and we’re inclined to agree! Get your hands on something you can smell from at least 10 metres away, cheeses like Stinking Bishop (clues in the name) are a good starting point.
3. A blue wonder: blue cheese might divide opinion, but it adds some colour to the board if nothing else, and for salt lovers it’s a must. We recommend keeping it classic with a Stilton.
4. A sturdy cheddar (or similar): no cheese board would be complete without a good hard cheese, whether you prefer it creamy and well rounded, or mature and pongy, it’s got to make an appearance.
Now we’ve got the cheese covered, but that’s only the half of it! Accompaniments are KEY, crackers, quince paste, pickle, grapes…. the list is endless! That’s before we even get onto drinks and drinks, we can certainly lend a hand with. Cheese and wine pairing are actually much more complicated than first thought, but we aren’t about complicated at Vintner, and so we recommend keeping it simple, with a Port, the LBV Quinta do Portal (this will go better with your stronger cheeses) or a sweet wine, the Great Bear (this will go better with your creamier cheeses). You’ll be at the board until the next board, of the games variety, makes it’s appearance.
Delectable Christmas Drinks
Okay. Let’s be real. By the time you’ve reached this part of the article there’s surely one thing left on your mind. “What am I going to drink and when can I start?” I hear you. Trust me. I hear you. As a slight twist, I’m going to recommend that you think about your pre-wine drink game. And to that, I happily introduce a Dirty Vodka Martini. Moreish, salty and dangerously lubricating, this classic libation is not for the faint of heart. You’ll only need one – but think of all the extra room you’ll have for wines, turkey and pudding.
1. Freeze your martini glass. You’ll thank me later.
2. Pour150ml of Vodka, 25ml of dry Vermouth (I’m using the Blanco Vermouth by Lustau) and 25ml of olive brine into your shaker with ice.
3. Shake it like a polaroid picture (and then some). No seriously, you should shake it for a long while to get the liquid freezing cold.
4. Take your glass out of the freezer and pour in your martini.
5. Top with another little splash of brine for good measure
6. Add 2-3 green olives on a toothpick and you’re ready to go
7. After you’ve finished and are feeling all warm and snuggly inside, don’t forget to eat the olives, because vodka-soaked olives are practically an appetiser and Christmas is the time to indulge.
8. Open the wine.
9. Open the other wine.
Now you're Christmas ready, you best get started!