Restaurant Wine Trends for Christmas
The festive season is well and truly upon us, with all of the indulgent restaurant meals that entails. And with that comes wine – all of the champagnes, big reds, and after-dinner fortifieds inextricably linked with the season.
‘Christmas is a great time to revive some of the old classics and to indulge in certain categories of wines that during the year are left on the side,’ says Vincenzo Arnese, director of wine, Raffles London at The OWO, who oversees the wine for chef Mauro Colagreco's restaurants at the hotel.
Clara Rubin, Hawksmoor’s group wine manager, is in agreement. ‘Around Christmas we focus on magnums of sparkling wines, parcels of Bordeaux and Bourgogne, and always something sweet or fortified to finish off the meal perfectly,’ she says. ‘What better time of year than Christmas to go the whole hog than at Hawksmoor?’
At wine merchant Jeroboams, wine director Peter Mitchell MW is aware of how festive wine trends change from one year to the next. ‘As we approach the festive season, there's a noticeable shift in wine trends, particularly in restaurants where, as a result of economic factors coupled with changes in customer tastes, a more considered approach is evident compared to previous years,’ he says. ‘This festive period is marked by an evolving and sophisticated approach to wine enjoyment, with restaurants really embracing a more thoughtful and selective curation of their offerings. Demand for premium wine stays strong, especially over the festive period as people trade up in quality over quantity.'
Economic factors are a consideration for Mirian Galafate Santos, restaurant manager at Casa in Bristol. ‘Our guests are adventurous and keen to move out of their comfort zone. We love to reward that kind of wanderlust on the wine list, always showcasing underrepresented, forgotten, or recently revived regions and styles,’ she says. ‘The great thing about trying to focus on this is that it provides our guests with incredible value – everyone in the industry knows that this has been an expensive year for many guests, and we've maintained our quality at accessible prices this way. It means that guests are getting something they can't get at home.’
‘Despite the rising cost of living, people will likely spend more on premium wine by the glass during the festive period,’ adds Fernando Cubas, beverage manager for InterContinental London Park Lane, who notes that Coravin wine by the glass sales have increased.
Garth Hewitt, restaurant manager for Chalk at West Sussex winery Wiston Estate, has also seen this increase in by-the-glass offerings. ‘I think this is a sign of the times, but also allows more options for people only looking to have a glass with one course.’
Tis the season for fortifieds and sparkling wines
If there are two broad categories of wine that really come into their own this time of year – not that they aren’t deserving of appreciation all year round – it’s sparkling wine and champagne. While the latter still has its place, there are those listing interesting sparkling wines from all over the world.
‘We have a new sparkling Rioja which is perfect for the party season – made the traditional method just like the best cavas and champagnes.’ Hannah Duffy Russo, head of drinks, Camino
‘We see an increase in the popularity of port over the festive season, driven by the greater consumption of cheese. We recently served the 20-year-old Ramos Pinto Tawny Port, presented in the unique 9 litres, by the glass – the perfect combination with our selection of cheese.’ Vincenzo Arnese, director of wine, Raffles London at The OWO
‘As we start moving from the crisp Wiston still wines over summer, we start focusing on the more complex and darker wines that we offer – the Blanc de Noirs and Vintage Rosés in particular.’ Garth Hewitt, Chalk at Wiston Estate
‘It's all about sparkling wine, and it no longer needs to be particularly expensive or French! Pet Nat is everywhere, but I'm personally drinking a lot of Lambrusco – a sparkling red from Emilia Romagna. It's my winter sparkling of choice. Storchi makes a rich wine that is excellent with any red wine or tomato-based pasta sauce. Who doesn’t love bubbles?’ Liam Nelson, co-founder, Pastaio London
‘We’ve bought a five-litre Fonseca Port, a 20yo Tawny, which we will be serving around the festive season, poured from the [decanting cradle] VCANTER.’ Giorgio Scavarelli, head sommelier, The Beaumont Hotel's The Colony Grill Room, London
‘I think people are going to start drinking champagne as a wine to go with their entire meals. Champagne has slowly been accepted as a great wine to drink with food, rather than just an aperitif.’ Sandia Chang, sommelier and co-founder, Kitchen Table, London
‘As an Iberian restaurant, we are very lucky to work with a great selection of rich, bold wines, as well as some amazing full-bodied ports, sherries and madeiras, which reach the peak of their seasonality during colder months, and of course, the festive season.’ Alessandro Mannello, bar manager, JOIA, London
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The season’s hottest wine styles and regions
Beyond fizz and fortifieds, there are certain styles of wine particularly associated with the cooler months, big reds in particular. But wine trends are ever-changing, and this year’s no exception.
‘As winter approaches, consumer palates have been pleasingly predictable. Our Personal Sommelier Questionnaire has shown the annual migration towards festive warming reds, hearty whites, a few more sparklers creeping into orders and a surprising number of stickies already on the list. What’s interesting however is that while the stylistic shift is in line with what you’d expect around this time of year, the wines themselves are pretty quirky. Consumers are looking further afield for their festive reds, or at least opting for less traditional options.’ Dan Belmont, founder, Good Wine Good People
‘As the nights are getting colder and darker we are seeing the big bold warming reds becoming more popular.’ Hannah Duffy Russo, Camino
‘We love to follow Iberian traditions. In countryside villages, mainly in the areas with a strong winemaking tradition, the most popular drink in winter is mosto, an unfermented grape juice. It is enjoyed mostly as a non-alcoholic alternative to wine – we’ll have it available throughout the festive season.’ Alessandro Mannello, JOIA
‘In our Italian restaurant, it’s not uncommon to see an increase in red wine consumption during the colder months. Robust and full-bodied red wines are preferred. I am also introducing a Lambrusco series to our main list this month – Emelia-Romagna and Lombardia producers are redefining how the red sparkling wine is perceived in the market.’ Fernando Cubas, InterContinental London Park Lane
Festive food and wine pairing
The festive season is all about hearty, multi-course meals, and the best wines to pair with that. Festive menus are a significant influence on wine lists this time of year, with wine offerings often led by what’s happening in the kitchen.
‘I can’t think of anything better than a Swartland Red to go with our brussel sprouts, bone marrow and sausage, or a glass of Australian Chardonnay with our smoked mackerel salad.’ Clara Rubin, Hawksmoor
‘With the arrival of the festive season, our chefs are shifting to products that are at their best in wintertime. To adapt to this, we have added a few new wines to the list, warmer and more powerful.’ Vincenzo Arnese, Raffles London at The OWO
‘Due to the seasonality of our menu, guests can look forward to some great red wines during the game and truffle season.’ Sandia Chang, Kitchen Table
‘In Arch Bar and Wellington Lounge, we have partnered with Champagne Lanson and Exmoor Caviar to offer a delightful pairing of Lanson ‘Le Black Reserve’ and some of our chef’s creations with Exmoor caviar. In Theo Randall at the InterContinental, we have a monthly regional menu offering wine pairings inspired by the diversity of Italian wine regions, and December won't be an exception.’ Fernando Cubas, InterContinental London Park Lane
‘Throughout the festive season, we will be focusing on offering a great selection of fine wines to enhance and complement the flavours and spices of Vivek Singh’s Indian dishes at The Cinnamon Club. The red wines will need to have a fair balance of fruit with soft, delicate tannins, and we look for fresh, crisp aromatic white wines.’ Laurent Chaniac, wine expert, The Cinnamon Collection
Celebratory wine-based cocktails
This is the time of year when warming cocktail ingredients and hot serves come into their own, and wine is often part of the mix.
‘At Casa we have created a cocktail we have named Dipingilo di Rosso - 'Paint it Red', with a wine, Alabets from Domaine Plaisance-Penaveyre in Fronton, southern France, made from the Négrette grape – it has an intense, rustic charm and loads of texture to make an exciting winter warmer. We combine it with tequila and intense citrus flavours. Over in Paco, we're serving a cocktail that combines the autumnal flavours of a butter-washed calvados with Envínate's Albahra, a crunchy red from Alicante with blood orange notes.’ Mirian Galafate Santos, Casa
‘We’re bringing back our mulled wine slushie! When we first put it on our menu a few years ago, I thought it may not work, but chilling it down makes it an excellent aperitif and something that you could have more than one of, which is often a struggle with the warm original. Our guests love it and keep coming back for it yearly now.’ Liam Nelson, Pastaio
‘We love to adapt our signature cocktails to the festive season. Our Opalas, or Hot Sangria, is the perfect example, mixing Spanish and British traditions to create the perfect hybrid between a Sangria and Mulled Wine. We clarify red wine, add port to elevate the body, and infuse with seasonal fruit, served warm for that extra comfort during a cold winter.’ Alessandro Mannello, JOIA
‘For those who like something refreshing even in the colder months, Prosecco Della Vite has inspired our mixologist with some exciting prosecco-based cocktails.’ Fernando Cubas, InterContinental London Park Lane
‘The bar is always stealing our wines to make vermouths or top cocktails!’ Clara Rubin, Hawksmoor
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