Christmas means different things to different people but I think we can all agree on one thing – Christmas is a time to celebrate and reflect with friends and family; it is also a time for giving and receiving, be it a hug, gifts or a delicious meal, Christmas is a time for sharing.
In the Northern hemisphere Christmas appears in the depths of winter and is the reason for many of the traditional images of Christmas – snow and Santa wrapped up in a nice warm suit – but we have lots of summer sun at this time of the year so for us it is beaches, sand, barbecues and outdoor parties.
I don’t care how you celebrate Christmas but I would love it if you would spend your hard earned money on some of the outstanding products made in this region, after all buying local is supporting local businesses that employ you, and the products you help grow, process or make are simply world class.
Let’s start with my favourite local product, wine! The Nelson wine region may be one of the smallest in the country but it delivers some of the finest wines made in New Zealand as evidenced by the number of gold medals and trophies awarded to Nelson wines every year.
Summer is the best time to enjoy bright, fresh, fruity wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Albarino as well as lighter style reds like Pinot Noir but Christmas demands a celebration wine and for me a celebration has to include bubbles.
At the recent Air New Zealand Wine Awards Aotea by Seifried Estate was awarded both a gold medal and the trophy for New Zealand’s best sparkling wine; this is a very special wine for the Seifreid family, it was made in the year of the birth of the first grandchildren for Hermann and Agnes Seifried to celebrate the next generation so it is fitting you should choose this to enjoy with your Christmas meal, maybe as a pre-dinner drink before you open a bottle of world-class Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to enjoy with the meal.
If wine isn’t your thing but you love a decent beer then there is no shortage of local options for you to choose from. Nelson is the home of craft brewing in New Zealand, Wellington can legitimately call itself the Craft Beer Capital because it is our capital city but Nelson is the spiritual home of craft brewing in New Zealand, all of New Zealand’s hops are grown in the region and we have something like 12 craft brewers based here.
Check out www.craftbrewingcapital.co.nz to see who makes beer in the region and then choose those when you are filling up your shopping trolley this summer; names like Dales Brewing, Monkey Wizard, Dead Good Beer and Totara Brewing are some of the local brewers you may not be aware are based in this perfect beer region.
Of course, another liquid option is a beautiful crisp apple cider and it is perfect when you pair it with some that classic Kiwi favourite, ham off the bone.
When it comes to food there are dozens of locally made morsels of deliciousness for you to choose from; there are so many producers in this region that I haven’t had a chance to write about yet but you only have to go to the Saturday Market in Montgomery Square to find a huge number of craft food producers who make outstanding products.
Many of these producers don’t have a presence in local supermarkets and food stores so if you go to the market not only will you find beautiful products you won’t find in other places but you will get to talk with the people who make them.
From hand-crafted chocolate to smoked fish, cured meats and sausages, olive oils, locally made cheeses, breads, classic French style pates and terrines, herbal teas and a huge range of fresh fruits, vegetables and jams you will find them all at the Saturday market.
Many local producers do have their fine wares on the shelves in supermarkets and food stores so make a point of looking for them. One of the largest specialty producers for Christmas food has to be Pestell’s Butchery and their Rai Valley Bacon, they prepare hundreds of hams that you will find in the chiller at local supermarkets.
While Pestell’s hams are delicious sliced straight from the bone we bake one each year and use it for a couple of weeks after Christmas, including nice thick slices grilled on the barbecue and served with a corn, tomato and avocado salad, a perfect use for left-over ham.
Proper Crisps are rapidly becoming one of this country’s favourite snack food producers, I love their new crunch corn range that complements their classic potato and vegetable crisps, Proper Crisp treats are perfect snacks to enjoy indoors and outdoors this summer.
If I haven’t mentioned your products please don’t be offended, there are so many wonderful producers in this region I only have space to mention a few.
You get to do one last pre-Christmas shop at the market this Saturday so take the opportunity to buy some wonderful locally hand-crafted foods for your Christmas table this year.
However you are celebrating Christmas this year I would like to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful, restful Christmas and holiday season but one final reminder – while I love wine and beer and write about them regularly please consume alcohol responsibly, never drink and drive and above all be a responsible host, look after your family and friends and be safe this summer.
Thanks for reading my columns during the year and Merry Christmas to you all.