We all have our own long-standing Christmas traditions, and here in the UK the festive season seems to be hallmarked by mince pies, smile-inducing woolen Christmas knits and cockle-warming reds enjoyed in front of a crackling fire at the local pub. But how is the season enjoyed by other communities and cultures around the world?
We caught up with some of our producers celebrating in places near such as Portugal and Spain and some more far-flung locations like Australia and Chile, to find out what makes their Christmas season special.
Quinta do Crasto
Our wine pick: Quinta do Crasto Tinta Roriz
Christmas traditions in Portugal and Douro are above all about family!
For most Catholics Advent, the period of preparation for Christmas, begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a family dinner known as the night of the ‘Consoada’ is celebrated. The word Consoada refers to a small meal that is taken at the end of a day’s fasting and derives from the Latin word consolare, meaning “to comfort”. Traditionally, this meal will be of Bacalhau (salted cod), but other regions eat Polvo (octopus).
Following the meal, families attend Missa do Galo (Midnight Mass), and then head back home to exchange gifts. Midnight Mass was first included in Christmas celebrations during the 5th Century. It is celebrated at midnight, which is the time referred to as being “galli cantu” (at cock crow). During the Missa do Galo, people admire the crib, which has been specially prepared for the occasion, and, after communion, everyone moves up to the altar to kiss the Baby Jesus, an act that is sometimes accompanied by songs of worship.
On the 25th, families will gather again for lunch, with turkey typically being served up. Beautiful Douro wines are always on the table, as well as port to toast. Some of the traditional pastries and desserts served at Christmas include Sonhos (Choux Pastry Puffs), Rabanadas (French Toast), Pasteis de Nata (Custard Cups) and Aletria (Sweet Angle Hair Dessert).
Marcos Eguren, Sierra Cantabria
Our wine pick: Sierra Cantabria San Vicente
Since we were children, we have celebrated Christmas in the dining room at the Sierra Cantabria winery where we also have the family house. We decorate the house and the winery with Christmas decorations and we have a big family reunion, with our parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins. We enjoy a delicious homemade meal together with a selection of old vintages of our wines. It’s a truly remarkable experience, and one that we treasure.
Viviana Navarrete, Viña Leyda Winemaker
Our wine pick: Viña Leyda Las Brisas Pinot Noir
Christmas is the most important celebration in the year for winemaker Viviana, where she gathers with her family, looks back to evaluate the year that was, and pray for those who in need. For Viviana, it’s really important to have a modest celebration – without too many gifts – so as to enjoy each other’s company and think about the true meaning of Christmas.
Viviana’s family likes to enjoy a special dinner on Christmas – they love salmon, and Viviana always brings Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Garuma to match.
One of the most memorable Christmas celebrations for Leyda’s winemaker was a few years ago when she travelled with her husband and his family to Matanzas, a small coastal town in Chile. Here she spent a quiet time with them and had the opportunity to chat about their projects and other important things in their lives at that time. Vivianna always remembers this year and the importance of taking a break during Christmas, looking inside yourself and those around you.
Justine Henschke, sixth-generation
Our wine pick: Henschke Rose Grower Nebbiolo
In line with our German heritage, we celebrate Christmas Eve as much as Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is always spent at the Gnadenberg Lutheran Church, which overlooks the Hill of Grace vineyard (Gnadenberg translates to ‘Graceful Hill’). Christmas Day is all about enjoying food and wine with family. In our little corner of the Barossa’s Eden Valley in South Australia, Christmas falls in the midst of summer and our celebrations revolve around shucking Coffin Bay oysters and serving them natural with our Johanne Ida Selma Blanc de Noir MD and Julius Riesling. Crayfish and Moreton Bay Bug Tails follow with our Louis Semillon and Croft Chardonnay and then it’s into the more traditional part of the feas; turkey or duck with a special museum release bottle of Hill of Grace Shiraz and some carefully chosen European counterparts! Christmas pudding and fresh summer berries are always of course served with our botrytis Noble Rot Semillon. The Christmas and New Year period is usually the last chance to spend quality time with family and friends before harvest, so we try to squeeze in as much swimming and sailing as we possibly can.
Julian Chivite, President Chivite Group
Our wine pick: Chivite Family Estates Coleccion 125 Vendimia Tardia
At home, Christmas season is related to family and friends. We look forward to gathering and sharing unforgettable moments together. This time of the year, wine has a very special place. Wine is celebration, emotion, joy, sensations. Moreover, I can’t imagine a celebration without wine as an essential part of it.
When it comes to choosing wines for Christmas season you have to think of the people who will share this very special time with you. If you already know what they like you can always go for the same, or try to amaze them.
Personally, I like to offer at home, not only the greatest of the Chivite wines, but also some others internationally famous. This is something that my father used to share with us and I want to carry on with this family tradition. In fact, I got to know Bordeaux premier grand clu classé wines because my dad used to uncork them every Christmas.
When I was a child, Christmas season was a very happy time of the year. Even though I didn’t like most of the dishes served on Christmas Eve, except the nougat. However, I loved their Christmas Day meal. I still very much enjoy that part of the menu, consisting of migas, cardo, Cantabrian Sea Bream and Chilindron-style lamb. And of course, nougat.
Of course, being a child Christmas means present time. I recall the thrill I felt when I got my first air shotgun, which shot corks and pellets.
Nowadays, I love to celebrate Christmas with my wife and sons. For me, it’s the best of the plans. We really enjoy Christmas together and dinner always starts with a memory to the ones that aren’t with us anymore. And of course, we never forget to toast to health and happiness.
On behalf of my family and all the people at Chivite Group I would like to wish you health and happiness.
Alejandro Pepa, El Esteco Chief Winemaker
Our wine pick: El Esteco Chanar Punco
Christmas is a special occasion regardless of where it finds you. You generally get together with family, but since the town of Cafayate, in the province of Salta, is so far away from everything, every time I spend Christmas here I make sure to meet with my ‘second family’: the friends this beautiful town has given me.
I'm a very traditional person, so I thoroughly enjoy this wonderful day of getting together, wishing everyone well, toasting, sharing a meal with friends and family, exchanging small gifts – I think it's marvelous.
Every year we throw a great party where the entire staff from both wineries, El Esteco and Chañar Punco, are welcome. We merge Christmas and New Year's Eve into a single event: a festive and happy occasion to spend a moment together and wish the best for each other for the upcoming year.
It is truly the perfect moment for a toast and best wishes.
Cheers! Merry Christmas!
Francisco Xavier Tellechea, El Esteco Chief Viticulturist
I celebrated my first Christmas in the town of Cafayate last year. Until then, I had always celebrated it in the city of Salta.
Christmas in Cafayate is regarded as a very meaningful day from a religious perspective. Since the town population is largely Catholic, on 8th December they set up a large Nativity scene in the main square, where cedar trees are decorated with lights and gift-wrapped boxes passing off as presents.
Typically, the locals who live in the hills nearby will travel down town in order to sell their baby goats and pigs – these will then be either roasted or cooked in a mud oven, and will be served on Christmas Eve.
On 24th December people will attend the service at their local church and then gather to enjoy the region’s traditional dishes, paired of course with a good wine from the Calchaquí Valley.
Ever since I was a child (and this is a tradition I've kept with my own children) when the clock strikes midnight everybody will go outside to let off some fireworks, and this will buy you enough time to sneak a few presents under the tree and have children think Santa Claus or Baby Jesus left them there as a reward for their good behaviour throughout the year.
Every year, my family will set up a sweet table display after dinner where you will always find some white-coated Jordan almonds. They are ever present sweets, but so hard that only few will dare to eat them!