Ok, so Christians make up 33% (give or take) of the world's population and 70% - 75% in countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, where most of you are located. That means that on December 24th and 25th most of you are going to be doing stuff like hanging stockings, waiting for Santa (maybe this year you could give him a nice Bordeaux instead of milk? It pairs well with chocolate chip cookies, FYI), cooking a Christmas goose, and opening tons of presents while admiring your illuminated, beautiful tree. Who could ask for more?
No one...except maybe those of you who are dreading dinner with the in-laws, lame conversation with distant family members, and the fake face you have to make when you open the box with the hideous shirt that you have to pretend to like ("I thought since it was from Banana Republic you would like it, right?" You better hope there's a gift receipt...).
So instead of doing what most other bloggers are doing -- giving you pairings for Christmas dinner -- I'm going to give you the skinny on how much of the other 25-30% lives on Christmas, while you're kicking it with the fam.
Ever wonder what your [fill in the blank -- Jewish, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist] friends DO on these holiest of days? As a Jew, I feel I can speak with some authority, and give you the real deal. If you're not headed to a Christian friend's house, you've got a busy day in front of you...and one that, if planned right, is full of drinking lots of wine.
The trick is excellent advanced planning. While most of you are out picking up last minute stocking stuffers and food and wine to go with your lasagna or goose or turkey, non-Christians are hitting the wine store in anticipation of several different wine consuming occasions over the next evening and day.
Perhaps now you're curious. If so, keep reading -- no secrets here.
Let's take this chronologically:
This is the night where you catch up on all Netflix and DVR recordings. If you're lucky, a pizzeria around you may deliver. If not, cereal or pasta may be on the menu, followed by a marathon of Gossip Girl, The Sopranos, Fringe, or the Twilight Saga movies. The marathon must be accompanied by a rich hearty red, to keep you warm as you cuddle up on the couch with a fleece blanket (wine suggestions at the bottom of this post).
AM. Since there's no anticipation of what Santa may have left, non-Christians can either safely sleep until noon or just wake up and treat this day like any other. Going off the "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" rule, a 10:00 AM mimosa may be on the menu. (The secret to a perfect mimosa: Make sure you pick up the cheapest bottle of sparkling wine possible for the mix -- they tend to be sweet and have huge bubbles, which complement the orange juice perfectly). Continuing the theme from the previous evening, the Netflix marathon commences during your down time in the day. We often also take a nice walk (No one is out. No one. It's amazing).
Anti-lunch. On this day, lunch is either brunch or it's a throwaway meal. No wine required. It's bagels or leftovers, but nothing major.
Early Bird Dinner. And around 4:30, the main eating event begins. I used to live with my sister in Boston and we always meticulously planned dinner -- it was either Chinese (where every single Jew in Boston would be, so there'd be a wait) or Indian (less crowded but less festive as well). Why not Thai or Korean? Theses were usually closed! So we would alternate between the two each year. To these restaurants, we bring our own wine.
Here's the beauty in that -- regardless of the eastern cuisine chosen, our BYO wine choices (the corkage or BYO fee was always like $5 or $10 so it was worth it!) are pretty much the same. The same wines that complement the warm spice in Indian, can also go with the hot spice and saltiness of the Chinese -- it's a perfect pairing storm. So if we decide on something low key or something more "scene-y" (yes, if you enter a Chinese food restaurant on Christmas, there will be lots of people there, all presenting themselves in fascinating ways), it makes no difference. The stuff from our wine shop was going to work. How often do we get a pairingpalooza like that? That is our Christmas wish fulfilled for sure.
Mandatory Movie. Following our gawking session of/or participation in being the loudest, most unruly, and obnoxious people around at Chinese or just good food and a non-event at Indian, non-Christians hit the 6:00 pm movie. There is a two-fold reason for the mandatory movie. First, you can usually get to see what you want without the lines. Second, because you will be starving about 25 minutes after you leave the Chinese restaurant, you're going to need popcorn and Junior Mints as a refill.
There is a slight issue with the movie, which may take it off the docket in future years: Somehow this ritual has moved from a non-Christian underground day, to being a mainstream evening to hit the theaters. Whereas years ago this was always on the sched, in recent times it's less appealing than going home for one last glass of hearty red before turning in.
And there you have it. While you are unwrapping presents, eating Christmas goose or ham or whatever, and hanging out with family... about a quarter of the population is eating Chinese, obsessively viewing media, and drinking a ton of wine to stay warm!
Whatever you do this Christmas, be safe, enjoy, and drink great wine! __________________________________________________________
The Wine Shopping List
Christmas Eve Yummies...
- Australian Shiraz (d'Arenberg's "The Footbolt" is great for less than $20)
- Argentinean Malbec (Kaiken is a great choice for around $12)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (McManis for $15 is awesome)
- Spanish Monastrell (Hecula for under $15 kicks ass)
- Chateauneuf-du-Pape (if you want to spring, Beaucastel or Vieux Telegraphe)
- Bordeaux blend (Go big and get a classified growth from the right bank, you can find a great one for $50)
- Napa or Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (I love Darioush or Michel-Schlumberger)
- Gran Reserva Rioja (Muga, Marques de Riscal are solid choices)
- German Riesling: Dry or a little sweet (Kabinett, Spatlese, or Auslese is what it will say on the bottle). The peachiness is delicious and soothes the spicy, hot bite, and goes well with the salt and sourness of a lot of the dishes. Try Schloss Reinhartshausen or Schloss Saarstein if you can get them.
- Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France: With its exotic spice aromatics and lower acid, this is an ideal complement for Indian but works great for sweet-'n-sour Chinese dishes too. Try Trimbach -- easy to find and delicious.
- Vouvray (Loire Valley, France). Vouvray is an area in the Loire Valley that makes whites from the Chenin Blanc grape. They run the gamut from dry to sweet, but an off-dry version is floral, rich in apple and peachy notes, and works for the same reasons Riesling -- this grape has got some acid to it. Lots of choices. If you want a cheapy, but a good-y, try the Le Chateau from Trader Joe's (it's like $7!)
- Sauvignon Blanc: One from France (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume) is a good bet. These have very straightforward flavors -- grapefruit, minerals, tart citrus -- and good acid to balance the saltiness of the dishes. These are probably better with Chinese, but with Indian Saag Paneer, you can't go wrong with a Sauv Blanc either. Lucien is a reliable and pretty well distributed Sancerre. For Pouilly-Fume, there are a ton of choices in the affordable section, but if you want the good stuff try something from Didier Dagueneau.