Spirits and liqueurs are at their cheapest in the supermarkets at this time of year – selected brands of vodka, gin and whiskey going for £15 per litre. The Christmas grocery list is often inundated with bottles of alcohol in a get-it-while-the-getting’s-good attitude (it is in my household, at any rate!) A couple of items that are often seen as the after-Christmas-dinner digestif are Port and Sherry (see pictured). And while our traditional Christmas way of life is still virtually unchanged from its Victorian origins, with the tree and the turkey and the Christmas Pudding, our preference for fortified wines like Port and Sherry goes much further back.
From 1793, England was at war with France, and being more patriotic in those days than we might be now, we eschewed the French Clarets in favour of beverages from our allies, namely Port from Portugal, and Sherry from Spain. The aristocrats didn’t just have them for special occasions though – pretty much for dinner and supper on any typical day.
Weirdly, however, one of the few who should have been patriotic and was not was our very own Prince Regent, who went on to become King George IV (see pictured), who, according to the Duke of Wellington, was partial to a very boozy breakfast (the man was huge after all, later earning the nickname The Prince of Whales (see cartoon pictured)). Such a breakfast would not only include Port, but the frowned-upon French frivolities like Champagne and Claret. All of this, alongside a huge pigeon pie. All I can say is, any wonder he was laid up with gout and such gluttony would ultimately claim his life? See it as a lesson in healthy drinking.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
My sincerest apologies for Expensive Tastes’ absence over the last month – I have been dealing with a severe bout of illness and have therefore not been able to write as often as I would like. You can be assured of a good programme of content for the upcoming Christmas season.