Christmas tunes: some people love them, some people not so much. Personally, if I never hear Mariah Carey’s cash cow again that would be just fine! But I ain’t no humbug; I love a bit of ‘Winter Wonderland’, East 17’s cringy ‘Stay Another Day’ makes me feel bewilderingly nostalgic, and I get misty-eyed at the final verse of ‘Fairytale Of New York’.
I believe that there’s a wine out there for everyone, and I’m going to make the bold statement that this is also true of Christmas music. Somewhere there’s a festive number to warm the heart of even the most hardened humbug!
Another more personal parallel with the world of wine is that although I like the classics, I also like those wines and songs that dare to be different! So here’s my top 3 alternative Christmas tunes with the perfect wine to toast them with. (Spoiler alert, there’s no Bublé!)
1 - The Sonics – Santa Claus
The Sonics’ Gerry Roslie has a Christmas list of “a brand new car, a twangy guitar, a cute little honey and lots of money”, but he’s clearly on the naughty list as Santa wails back that he’s getting “Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing”! This is a raucous, high energy festive favourite for me and my boy Charlie from the kings of 60’s garage rock, and makes me imagine what Christmas would have been like in the Delta fraternity of John Landis’ classic movie ‘Animal House’.
The Sonics heralded from Washington State U.S.A., so it’s only fitting that the wine does too. What’s more, the winemaker Charles Smith used to manage rock bands! Yup it’s got to be the easy going hedonism of The Velvet Devil Merlot. Full of juicy cherries, plums and a hint of chocolate; a few glasses ensure safe passage to a winter wonderland!
2 - James Brown – Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
I don’t know about you but if James Brown had told me to get somewhere, I’d get! In this tune Johnny wants a toy and Mary a doll, so the Godfather of Soul reminds Santa not to forget about America’s inner city kids and lays down an irresistibly tight groove to send him on his way. Recorded in 1968, it was the year that Brown’s lyrics and focus turned to social commentary and the civil rights movement following the assassination of Martin Luther King. His groundbreaking classic ‘Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud’ was recorded that year and also made an appearance on his Christmas album ‘A Soulful Christmas’. He recorded three Christmas albums and they all lend a refreshing dose of funk to festivities that are sometimes painfully white-washed.
We’ve certainly got the groove so what about the grape? It’s got to be the super smooth Cool Coast Pinot Noir from Casa Silva. The grapes are grown in Chile’s Paredones region where the coastal breeze provides that notoriously tricky character Pinot Noir the perfect environment to express itself. Seductive notes of raspberry and cherry with subtle hints of cinnamon and vanilla wash over the palate and obligingly provide the perfect partner for your Christmas turkey!
She & Him – The Christmas Waltz
Christmas classics for hipsters. She & Him are singer songwriter M. Ward and the queen of quirky - actor Zooey Deschanel. Their two Christmas albums are full of simple charms and are definitely adorned with rose tinted Wayfarer specs. I’ve chosen their wistful take on ‘The Christmas Waltz’ but their version of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is a favourite too. Originally written for Frank Sinatra it has an elegant lilt that deserves an elegant wine. Sounds like champagne to me, so let me introduce you to Champagne Charlie.
Champagne Charlie - a man who lives a life of luxury and excess.
Ever wondered where the term originates? Well, Charles Heidsieck was the first merchant to truly realise the potential of the American market. Having established his champagne house in 1851, he charmed American high society throughout the next decade earning himself the nickname ‘Champagne Charlie’. Banquets were held in his honour, newspapers reported his every move, and “Could I have a bottle of Charles, please?” became the favourite request of New York’s elite.
He became even more notorious when in 1862 when, at the height of the American Civil War, he was arrested by the Unionists as a Confederate spy. This caused a diplomatic incident called the Heidsieck incident but it all turned out ok as someone gave him Denver by way of apology. (Seriously , Google it!)
The champagne is still going strong, in fact their winemaking team has won 'Sparkling Winemaker of the Year' at the International Wine Challenge sixteen times in the past thirty years. No other house has won more than twice. Their non-vintage is elegant, dry and smooth with notes of apricot, plum and almond. It would pair perfectly with ‘The Christmas Waltz’ and the company of loved ones.
Hopefully we’ll see you before the 25th when you pop in to acquire your favoured festive tipple and we can wish you a merry Christmas. Until then enjoy the grape and the groove!
Some would argue that ‘Santa Claus’ isn’t even The Sonics’ best Christmas tune as they also did the wild ride that is ‘Don’t Believe In Christmas’. Check it out!
James Brown sadly passed away on Christmas Day 2006.