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Does Christmas and moderation mix?

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The big man will be stumbling from house to house as he consumes endless beers left outside Australian houses on Christmas night. There is not much call for milk and cookies anymore.

It used to be simple – a XXXX, a Tooheys or a Carlton Draught would do it.

Now there is a plethora of hipster micro-brewed beers to choose from for Santa’s repast. Perhaps a cool, aromatic, Belgian hopped mid-strength beer served in a broad-based balloon glass with a slice of lime. And, of course, with a macrobiotic quinoa juju berry cookie?

I love variety and the fact the range of choices has evolved.

But sometimes you just zip in for a can of Bundy and coke and end up spending 10 minutes passing your eyes over the mid-strength, zero sugar, O.P. or lime-infused options.

I must fully applaud the lower alcohol versions that now share shelf space with their heavier cousins.

Lower alcohol wines can be produced a number of ways – purposely picked early so there is less sugar to ferment, which means less alcohol. Another method is to stop the fermentation process by chilling the wine down, deactivating the yeast. Alcohol can be also reduced through reverse osmosis. Brewed beverages reduce alcohol by using less sugar in fermentation.

My substance abuse colleagues often wonder whether I should book in for a rehab spell, as I tell them I only drink wine for the taste.

Being inebriated is a real pain at Christmas. Putting the kids’ swing set together with 10 screws left over, you end with something resembling a work of Gaudi architecture. Always let the cousins go first.

Then there’s the slicing of the ham. Don’t let on there is a bit of fingertip somewhere in the mix.

Xmas used to be predictable for me. Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with Veuve Cliquot Rose for breakfast. A bone dry aromatic Clare Riesling with oysters. A sparkling Red, usually Seppelts Show Reserve, with the ham and assorted meats. Maybe some Bass Phillip Pinot Noir with duck. A few German beers and a lie down.

Now we are more aware of our promoting responsible drinking, I am enthusiastically flying the flag for the low alcohol options.

Recently, I convinced the wife to do a mock Christmas lunch run, all in the name of research.

The oysters were paired with the 2014 Matua Lighter 9 per cent alcohol Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Very light color, with classic, yet subdued, gooseberry and lychee notes. The flavor is crisp with some diminished fruit and mouth feel.

Next we had an old fashioned prawn cocktail with the Lindeman’s early picked 8.5 per cent alcohol Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. Some attractive citrus grassy notes and white peach aromas were apparent. The nature of the wine is a rounded, medium fruit-driven wine with a crisp finish. Overall, it did its job.

The next challenge was roast duck with a mandarin and star anise-infused glaze. The Lindeman’s early picked Shiraz 8.5 per cent alcohol, with its reserved style, complemented it well. Restrained red currant aromas with mild vanillin oak influences were noticeable. Served slightly chilled, it had enough flavor to pair the meal.

Whilst not a classic plum pudding, my wife conjured up some form of sticky date pudding with brandy custard. Out of left field, I grabbed a Matso’s 3.5 per cent alcohol ginger beer from Broome.  Spicy ginger notes and a nice balance of sweetness and herbal notes really matched well.

Using the practice Breathalyzer, I found I was under 0.05 and the other guests didn’t have to put up with suggestions that we turn on the Karaoke machine. Also, I could have easily erected the kids’ cubby house without it looking like the Ettamogah Pub.

Low alcohol beverages can run the risk of appearing to lack flavor – alcohol adds sweetness as well as providing a more complete tasting experience.

But overall, our low-alcohol mock Christmas lunch was a success.

Now to bring on the real thing!