There’s an ocean of advice from chefs and experts on what to cook for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch.
While the meals are a vital part of the celebrations, so are the drinks which accompany them.
Often, ignorance reigns supreme: let’s admit it, we all have fun playing the role of sommelier, but most of us know very little about God’s nectar.
That’s why we’ve decided to turn to an expert - Australian and New Zealand Institute of Sommeliers (ANZIS) President Marco Senia.
Directly affiliated with the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), ANZIS offers courses, professional qualifications and certifications as well as circulating specialised publications.
Hailing from Veneto, the traditional capital of viticulture, Marco explains that he was naturally drawn to the world of wine.
After completing a course at AIS, specialising as a wine connoisseur, and collaborating with sommeliers in the province of Vicenza, he opened his own enoteca in Fontaniva, not far from Bassano del Grappa, in the Veneto region.
He was inspired by what one of his former teachers said to him and his fellow students who were about to graduate: “Now that you are sommeliers, know that you have barely opened the door to knowledge.”
Marco claims that his work is one in which you never stop learning.
“The more you work, the more you learn,” he says.
Having arrived in Australia in 2010, Marco once again moved into the world of wine, working as a sommelier for restaurants in Geelong and Melbourne, then for an import company, where he selected, purchased and sold Italian wine.
Marco explains that a bottle of bubbly marries well with the festive season, especially in Australia where Christmas falls in summer.
But a distinction must be made, because when we talk about “bubbly”, there are two types: those produced using the Champagne or Classic method, involving fermentation in the bottle, and those made using the Charmat or Italian method (as for Prosecco), in which the wine is fermented in large tanks.
The former production method is applied to neutral grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and/or Pinot Meunier and Pinot Bianco, while the latter is applied to aromatic grape varieties including Malvasia, Moscato and Prosecco.
Both types take the same amount of time to become sparkling - 30 to 45 days - but the neutral grape varieties require a longer ageing process, that is, until the bouquet develops greater complexity, while wines produced with the Charmat method can already be consumed within two to six months from their production date.
To those fortunate enough to have a bottle of vintage Champagne (made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest), or a top-end Prosecco, Marco suggests you continue with sparkling because it is a universal wine that can be enjoyed with any meal, and has a moderate alcohol content (around 13 per cent for Champagne, 11 per cent for Prosecco and five per cent for Moscato), which makes it easy to drink on hot days.
“In the case of Champagne and Prosecco, we are gauging the persistence of two wines and comparing two diverse methodologies - each equally good," he says.
"Having both the right balance and acidity, they are ideal as an aperitif or to accompany the entrée, given that they marry well with salami, mozzarella, and seafood dishes, so long as they are very dry.
"It’s also possible to vary the theme: all good-quality Champagne, Prosecco, Italian spumante or Australian sparkling wine has a Rosé version, generally obtained by leaving the Pinot Nero skins in longer.
"In the case of Prosecco, it is achieved by using Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, whereas Blanc de Blanc style of Champagne only uses Chardonnay grapes.”
Those who prefer French Champagne, Franciacorta and Italian Prosecco aren’t short of choice, while Marco advises that those who wish to support local products be aware of the areas of origin.
He recommends wines produced with the Classic method in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, or those from Tasmania.
Another thing to consider is which wine to pair with Christmas sweets: pandoro and panettone go well with Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti.
Enjoy panforte and Ricciarelli biscuits with Tuscan Vin Santo.
The flavours of the south can be washed down with Sicilian Marsala, Sardinian Vernaccia, Moscato di Pantelleria or Malvasia from the Aeolian Islands. Staying local, fortified wines from Rutherglen, in Victoria, are unbeatable.