The Christmas Narrative: Part 1 - The Seventies

The Christmas Narrative: Part 1 - The Seventies

Published by Francis Elms on 14th Nov 2022

Much has been written about Christmas over the years. These days, in the UK in 2022, it's very commercialised and TV adverts are eagerly awaited, becoming news items in their own right. Social media is awash with Christmas themes, memes, images and who's doing what in the "jungle". If the bush tucker trial was a mince pie and a glass of sweet sherry, I'd be there!

Sweet cinnamon and nutmeg spices, citrus zest, nuts and brandy soaked raisins. Go for homemade. Bring out your inner chef and make some yourself. The sherry, of course, we recommend getting from Frazier's.

Home alone carrots, cute little teddy bears, dodgy ducks and fairies, oversized elves, medieval puddings, farmers and the "Christmas Party" have all been created for the festive season's crazy spending spree. Everyone's got the biggest, brightest and best in the business with alcohol contributing to the mix of enticing you into the store, or ordering online.

Back in the seventies, long before the days of the internet and the mobile phone most advertising was done in newspapers and magazines with specialist leaflets being delivered in the post covering your every Christmas need. Socks for your uncle? Perfume for your aunt? Countless boxes of chocolates and record gift tokens (remember those?). Even the humble postal order has been replaced by online vouchers!

As a kid, I never had a newspaper round, but I did hand deliver many hundreds of Christmas flyers on behalf of the local wine merchant. Many miles walked in the dark after school, sore feet and numb fingers were all part of the commercial experience of the time. The reward? Hot mince pies, of course.

If you want to download a copy of our 2022 festive brochure, click here. Saves on printing and shoe leather.

Sherry, port, madeira and vermouth were massive back then and, if you didn't have the best prices on Bristol Cream, Croft Original and Cockburns Ruby you might as well not bother trying to sell anything else. Wines were very traditional, very French and consumed mostly by crusty, old Colonels who got their butler to open and serve the claret, or burgundy on Christmas Day. Sauternes was compulsory with the Christmas pudding and vintage port with the Stilton. A haze of alcohol fumes mixed with cigar smoke was considered normal in many homes. Where's the 'elf & safety department when you needed them?

For the average shopper, Liebfraumilch, Nierstein and Piesporter were the most favoured options for Christmas party wines with Babycham being the bubbly of choice. If you wanted a party red, a nice Chianti "Fiasco" bottle, or a carefully stored Beaujolais Nouveau would bring much applause and cheers from your guests. The prices may have changed considerably over the following decades, but some of these "classics" have stood the test of time. Just don't open a genuine 70s vintage bottle of any of these if you find one hidden in a dark corner under the stairs! The exception? Try some 1977 vintage port from Dow's, Graham's, Taylor's or Warres. Delicate fruit and silky texture, after such a long development in the bottle, will guarantee a fabulous finale to your Christmas lunch. If the "Great Escape" is on the TV, we give you permission to leave the table and open your presents.

Some of the more "eagle-eyed" amongst you might have noticed the deliberate inclusion of a 1994 port with the Stilton in the above photo? Of course you did. As much as I wish everyone to have a '77 for Christmas, the Churchill's shown (made by Johnny Graham) is a third of the price, so there's no excuse to not have a spare bottle for Boxing Day.

The Christmas Day roast was always a winner for me. It was so time consuming to prepare and cook that the whole family seemed to be involved in some way in the preparation. My favourite is still a huge turkey with perfectly fluffy roast potatoes, pork chipolata sausages and assorted vegetables. Probably the only day of the year to eat such a bird, there were rarely any leftovers. Top-ups, seconds and thirds, until everything ran out, was expected, but it did always delay the excitement of the flamed Christmas pudding with brandy butter and/or fruit trifle with clotted cream.

Carving the turkey was a work of art and, accompanied by a glass or two of vino, executed with aplomb!

For those who appreciated it and, at great expense, chilled Chablis or even a Montrachet would be served in tiny, "pub" sized wine glasses. Do you remember expecting to get at least 8 servings from a bottle? Nowadays, it's more likely to be half a bottle in each glass!

Chardonnay, a virtually unknown name in the seventies (as it was never shown on wine labels), is ideal with roasted poultry and an oaked, white burgundy is still many a drinker's Christmas #1.

Of course, for the traditionalists who like their wine a much darker shade, it's got to be claret for Christmas. Generic Bordeaux, Medoc or St Emilion would be commonplace, but a chateau-bottled wine would show you knew your stuff. Impressive!

Chateau Cissac 2018

Blending mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a touch of Petit Verdot and Malbec, Cissac is succulent, opulent and full of black plum fruit. Mouthwatering, but don't spill any on the crisp, fresh white tablecloth. There's always someone who knocks over a glass of red wine. Maybe they've already had a few!

Speaking of a Christmas #1 you can't top Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody" from 1973. Turn up the volume on the record player, or watch it on Top of the Pops.

Now that's a classic, Noddy!

Glass of Champagne, anyone? Or would you prefer Babycham?

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