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Stress-free Christmas Hosting

Christmas, in reality, is never picture-perfect and unflustered as it appears in films; it requires stamina, sweat and immense timing. Be kind to yourself this year and keep things simple, whether you’re getting the family together or organising your festive work dinner. Sit down, wipe the flour from your chin and have a nice cup of tea. Here’s your Clos19 guide to stress-free Christmas hosting.

The main event: food and drinks

Ah, Christmas. That wonderful time of year where we look forward to spending time with the family and opening those special bottles (not necessarily in that order). Our not-so-secret tip to fighting the fluster is to keep the food choices traditional and the drinks, spectacular. Here are some of our favourite, wow-wines and spirits:

Family time

Spending Christmas with the family is your excuse to pull out the big drinks guns. Hosting starts early and continues all day encompassing an intimate, main meal and usually a lighter meal of leftovers served later that you’ll inexplicably find room for. Kick off your festivities with a champagne toast (what else?) - something special to mark the occasion and show your loved ones you really care. A prestige cuvée, such as the rich, brioche notes of Krug or the understated elegance of Dom Pérignon 2009 is infinitely spoiling and won’t go unnoticed (unlike the extra glass you’ll pour yourself in the kitchen while checking the oven). With the main course, picking one good red and white will cover all bases and see you through to the cheese, if you’re serving it. With the turkey, goose or pork, gravy, roasted vegetables and all the nutty stuffing and pigs-in-blankets trimmings, a full-bodied, flavoursome white will stand up to all these flavours. Try the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay or the Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay. For those who prefer a red, feel the greatness and try serving an earthy, yet elegant blend of cabernet franc and merlot such as the iconic Château Cheval Blanc. Well, when better time to taste it? Just make sure you save us a glass, please.

For Christmas pudding -or instead of it-, there’s no better time to uncork the honeyed glory that is Château d’Yquem for your sweet white wine choice. And if you’re looking for an elegant digestif to sip by the fire as you to kiss goodbye to another Christmas, go for a fine, Hennessy XO cognac.

Tip #1 for making Christmas food: Advance Preparation

Make like a brownie guide and always ‘be prepared’. Sort your menu a month in advance. Peel those potatoes the night before and keep them somewhere cool. Any dishes that can be pre-made and frozen (or pre-bought. We won’t tell.) should go straight into the freezer. You get the idea. Anything that doesn't have to be done on the day, should be done way in advance. You’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your loved ones. Win-win.

Tip #2 for Christmas drinks

Now is a great time to invest in a gorgeous, large ice bucket. You can call it ‘decoration’ and insist that everyone helps themselves. Keep the corkscrew and glasses nearby, of course.

Tip #3 for delicious décor

Once you’ve sorted the ice bowl, there are super simple touches you can give your dining table that will have everyone cooing with delight. Small, spice-scented candles and sprigs of greenery (not stolen from the neighbour’s garden, honest!) lend an instant Christmassy flair. If you can face it, a tiny gift, wrapped up and sitting on the placemat for your guests is both simple and thoughtful. A small pot of chutney or jam will work nicely here.

Friends and colleagues at Christmas

Hosting friends and colleagues at Christmas is slightly different to family: chances are, it’ll be less formal, with more of a party atmosphere and more people. If keeping the prestige champagne flowing consistently is therefore not quite within budget, you need some delicious alternatives that still say ‘special’. For the toast and a palate cleanser should the party continue after food, we love crowd-pleasers in magnum such as Moët & Chandon Imperial or Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label as great champagnes that are imminently drinkable, yet classy and affordable in appropriately Christmassy packaging. You could add a touch of cassis to turn this into a Kir Royale.

For the traditional Christmas meal, again a duo of one rich white wine and a medium-bodied red will cover all your bases. For the red, we love the chocolatey, crowd-pleasing softness of the Terrazas de los Andes Malbec and the dark, plummy fruitiness of the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir. Balance it up with the zesty, tropical Terrazas de los Andes chardonnay or the limey, waxiness of the Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon. And for the finish? If Christmas is simply not Christmas without champagne, we find that ending the meal on a high by serving a single glass of demi-sec champagne with dessert, will leave just the right taste of celebration and make your guests feels spoiled. Veuve Clicquot Rich or Rich Rosé will do precisely that. Merry Christmas to you! Can we come?