What the Decanter team is eating and drinking this Christmas
Here is what several of our editorial and tasting team members will be eating and drinking on Christmas Day.
Ellie Douglas, Digital editorial
After opening stockings first thing, we’ll be getting in the car and driving down to my eldest brother’s home in Kent for Christmas – it will be a total of eight adults plus my two nephews, both under seven.
To start the festivities, we’ll be drinking a magnum of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, which my dad was given earlier this year.
Luckily, we thought ahead and already passed the magnum over to them, so it will be perfectly chilled for our arrival – not something to leave as an afterthought at Christmas!
We’ll be enjoying it alongside olives, smoked salmon blinis and other nibbles.
Natalie Earl, Tastings team
This year we will be heading to a log cabin in the heart of a forest for the Christmas period. But don’t worry, we won’t be foraging in the cold for our Christmas dinner; think wood burning stove, jacuzzi under the stars and snowy picture-postcard view.
To whet our appetite, I’ll be opening a bottle of Bodegas Hidalgo la Gitana, Manzanilla En Rama. This dry Sherry is intensely aromatic, with toasty, yeasty, hazelnut flavours and a bracing, tangy salinity that should have us longing for this year’s nut roast and all its trimmings.
But this style of wine should not just be reserved for aperitifs; it is so versatile that I will no doubt be bringing it out again in the evening to enjoy with walnuts and mince pies in front of the roaring log fire.
Amy Wislocki, Editorial
I’m looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home this year, for the first time ever! The atmosphere may be low-key, but certainly not the wines. I’ll be starting the day’s festivities with one of the standout wines from Decanter’s November Fine Wine Encounter in London.
Villa Sandi’s Vigna La Rivetta is one of the finest Proseccos around, and sells at Champagne prices – unsurpising, as it hails from Cartizze, Prosecco’s ‘grand cru’, where vineyard land costs more on average than it does in Champagne. It’s a beautiful wine – bursting with golden apple and pear fruit, white floral scents, and with a hint of fresh leafiness.
It has a lovely linear style, and contains less residual sugar than most Cartizze wines (around 11g), so will perfectly match our Christmas Day breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled egg.
On the menu this year: Villa Sandi, Vigna La Rivetta, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze 2016
Tina Gellie, Editorial
I’m always on the lookout for interesting alternatives for reds to grace the Christmas table for the main event. I’m never particularly bothered about perfect food and wine matching for this meal – whether it is turkey or goose, beef or lamb, all the lovely side dishes like pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, red cabbage, gravy makes that too much of a challenge.
Much better (and far less stressful) to enjoy the food and the wine in their own right. My in-laws love their Rioja, so I imagine there will be at least one bottle of that centre stage, along with a bit of Champagne or white Burgundy from the previous course.
But this year I will be seeking out a bottle of Gattinara. For those not familiar – and you should be – this Piedmont DOCG is a Nebbiolo-based wine (locally called Spanna), whose elegance, structure and longevity rivals Barolo and Barbaresco.
See also: Great value Piedmont Nebbiolo wines – Under £25-a-bottle
A recent bottle I enjoyed was Cantine Nervi’s Vigne Molsino 2011, from a 13ha single vineyard at about 400m. Nervi is the oldest winery in the DOCG, and this is its top wine, made only in the best years. The 2011 (just 10,000 bottles made) is the current vintage, as the wine spends four years in oak, time in concrete tanks and then a year in bottle before release.
It has a gorgeous dusty-textured palate, mouthwatering acidity and lifted aromas and flavours of wild cherry, violets and sweet spices with earthy, savoury notes on the finish.
The 2009 is available in the UK from Christopher Keiler for £46, which might be a nice comparison with the 2011, otherwise there’s the more affordable bottling – a blend of three vineyards; a magnum of the 2008 is £44, or I could splash out on a double magnum for £91.
John Stimpfig, Editorial
This year, I am looking forward to pulling the corks on some of my older and most precious bottles along with some more youthful vintages. In particular, I am definitely planning to drink my remaining bottle of 1989 Sori San Lorenzo. Having enjoyed the ’89 Barolo Sperss earlier this year in Scotland, I have high hopes for the Barbaresco.
Naturally, there will be good Champagne from the likes of Deutz, Taittinger and Charles Heidsieck. Following Olivier Krug’s fabulous Decanter masterclass in November, I’ve earmarked a bottle of 1996 Krug for December 25.
Claret will also feature over the course of the festive season. I’ve still managed to hang onto one or two ’96s and I have plenty of 2000s which are just hitting their stride. So I’ll be raiding the cellar for a few of those.
On the white front, I’ll be drinking lots of lovely Aussie Rieslings (Grosset, Jim Barry and Pewsey Vale), white Burgundy (Roulot and Hubert Lamy) and New World Chardonnays from South Africa, Chile And Australia. I’m sure I’ll also find room for a bit of St-Jospeh and the occasional Pinot Noir.
Stickies and fortifieds will also come into play. On the dry front, I’m looking forward to the Tres Palmas Fino from Gonzalez Byass. For the stickies, I’ve got some Sauternes, Tawny Port and a couple of Kracher TBAs from the mid 90s which will also see the light of day. Bring it on!
Vahan Agulian, Tastings team
For my Christmas dinner, I plan on opening a bottle of Mount Eden Chardonnay. The estate overlooks Silicon Valley in California’s Santa Cruz appellation and was founded in 1945, focusing on small lots of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Led by Jeffrey Patterson, his emphasis is on grape growing rather than winemaking, which is noted in the sheer quality of fruit.
Eight hectares (20 acres) are devoted to the Chardonnay grape.
Between 1,200 and 2,000 cases of this wine are produced of this wine per year, and it’s a beautiful example of a Burgundian style in California.
It can be typical to have something heavier, or even a red wine, but I don’t want to overpower the light white meat, which if cooked perfectly will be juicy and moist. This should be an unmatched combination with the wine’s rich apple, peach and lees notes, finishing with some cleansing acidity.
Chris Mercer, Digital editorial
Much of the Christmas meal is a warm-up for the cheese, in my opinion. This year, I’m going to show a couple of sceptical family members that blue cheese really can be enhanced by some sweet wines. So there will be Sauternes ready to go, plus both Stilton and Roquefort. I also want to get some ‘Cornish Gouda’, if I can find it.
There will also be Christmas pudding, a dish that no one in attendance particularly enjoys but is nevertheless considered central to the festivities. A small glass of Pedro Ximenez Sherry should liven it up.
Does anyone else out there understand the reasoning behind eating Christmas cake and crumbly cow’s milk cheese? At some point later in the day, we will briefly re-enact the Wars of the Roses as debate rages on whether this is a Yorkshire or Lancashire phenomenon in the UK. It’s probably neither, in the end.
However, Aberlour Scotch whisky, with its rich fruit and spice, should be a good bet for the Christmas cake, and for those in need of more fortification by this stage of the day.
Jim Button, Digital editorial & tastings
Dessert on Christmas day for us varies, from the traditional Christmas pud to apple strudel and other concoctions.
By this point we’ve usually had our fill, so choosing something too unctuous like a Sauternes can be dangerous. Our favourite option is often a Port, and this year we will be looking forward to a bottle of Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny.
It has a beautiful concentration of rich, nutty notes with a lift of dried orange peel, cinnamon and caramel, which makes it an incredibly delicious and flexible choice. All of those wonderful festive flavours can be found in this wine – it’s a stonker!
Harry Fawkes, Digital editorial
The aftermath of any Fawkes family Christmas lunch is always a quiz.
Now this seems like a quaint family tradition, but after three hours of canapes and lunch, with accompanying wines, the “quiz” is a high volume, tennis rally of shouting across the lunch table, with 25 players – none of whom have released we’ve used the same questions for the last 15 years.
‘Who is the current UK Prime Minister?’ Tony Blair is not the answer, despite what it says on the card, uncle Richard. So one must fortify oneself for such debates, mainly with a glass of the decanted vintage Port which you’ve been eyeing up throughout lunch. This year, I’m going to try out a bottle of the Taylor’s 2000 – a wonderful year and full of power; yet in my heart I know too young. I just like to taste it on its journey.
If you are not a Port fan, Amontillado Sherry is a great after-lunch sipper that will give you Christmassy flavours throughout. If, by any slim chance, the family has left a bottle of Champagne untouched – a lighter Champagne cocktail is also a great palate cleanser. Last year, a little Briottet Creme de Chataigne and ground chestnuts made a perfect winter twist on Kir Royale.
Simon Wright, Tastings team
This festive season I’ll continue to work my way through a case of 2010 Puligny-Montrachet from Jean-Marc Boillot. I bought it back in 2013 and each subsequent Christmas I’ve opened a bottle to track its evolution (and to enjoy with family of course!).
It has been an annual treat to witness the wine evolve from a tense, mineral-driven youngster to really hitting its stride last year with a delicious honeyed richness starting to appear.
As well as vinous pleasures I’ll also be working on my Dry Martini recipe, trying to find the perfect ratio of Gin to Vermouth.
Sylvia Wu, DecanterChina.com
I’ll be preparing a bottle of London Dry Gin, a variety of tonic waters, plus a bag of mint before our Christmas movie night in the house.
The citrusy, coriander scented cocktail is the most favoured drink among my friends, even for those who don’t usually drink alcohol. The sweetness would match nicely with our spicy hot pot; a classic.
For dessert, if I have any leftover pancakes in my fridge, I’d chop them up in a cup, infuse them with some Jack Daniel’s Bourbon, and top up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If I have any mint left, I’d garnish the dish with it.
The classic sweetcorn, cereal and caramel aromas of the spirit gives a bitter, sophisticated tone to the dessert, and shouldn’t alarm my friends who don’t usually favour spirits.
Compiled by Laura Seal. Edited by Chris Mercer.