Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Poinsettias and Château Puyanché

Poinsettias have become traditional Christmas plants in the UK and their red bracts (leaves) have become associated with Father Christmas's coat and robins' breasts. They actually come from Mexico and the Christmas connection to poinsettias comes from a Mexican legend. The symbol of Christmas in Mexico is the Nativity – the reproduction of the stable and manger where Christ was born. This beautiful custom is said to have been originated, using real people and animals, by Saint Francis of Assisi on Christmas Eve in AD 1224. The legend says that once upon a time a child grieved because she had no flowers to take to the manger of the Nativity. As she cried, an angel appeared and said: "Lovely child, weep no more. Go pluck a weed from the roadside, bring it to the altar, and wait." The little girl arose, did as the angel had commanded, and when she had placed her weed before the altar it was transformed into a tall beautiful plant bearing a whorl of brilliant scarlet flowers at the top. They gave the flower the name of Flores de Noche Buena which means "Flower of the Holy Night". That is why the poinsettia is prized above all Mexican flowers at Christmas.

The Poinsettia was brought to the USA by amateur botanist and first Ambassador to Mexico, Dr Joel Poinsett, in 1825 – who gave his name to the plant. They were used by the Aztecs for medicinal purposes and for making dye. Poinsettias are 'short day plants', meaning they flower when there are less than 12 hours' daylight, to ensure the minimum of competitors of pollinating insects.

If you are thinking of giving a gift at Christmas why not give a bottle of Château Puyanché with your poinsettia? It's a lovely claret - dark garnet in colour with the aromas of blackberry and plum compotés, leather and spices. Château Puyanché is a supple and complex wine, well balanced and silky. As an aromatic wine it will go well with many Christmas dishes including your turkey!

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