Many of us wait for special occasions to break out our special bottles and Christmas is an obvious time to share these. Let’s take a look at the vintages coming into their drinking window for the festivities in 2021 and the sorts of occasions and meals you might want to serve them at to really show them at their best.
Of course, solutions will depend on your company and numbers around the table. For us, a Christmas meal remains traditional turkey plus trimmings, possibly prefaced by smoked salmon. Whatever you choose there are likely to be some big flavours, and maybe spicy ones to match with wine and quite possibly, a crowded table, so it is not a day for anything delicate or subtle, I would suggest.
Alsace gewurztraminers or full-bodied pinot gris are some of the few wines that cope well with smoked fish. Such wines age well so bring out the oldest you have, and if you haven’t had the chance to buy any to lay down, something like Gewurztraminer Kessler, Schlumberger 2016 looks a great buy. A stuffed turkey, or other rich main dish needs full-flavoured southern Rhône or Australian shiraz. My colleague Marcel Orford-Williams tells me that 2011 and 2012 Rhônes are ideal this year, if you have them, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas would be my choice with a good white Rhône with the first course too; though the younger generation will shout me down on the white and ask for fizz. Of younger Rhône vintages, 2018, more readily available and excellent in Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, is the year to go for. From Australia, how about The Society’s Exhibition Shiraz or Tyrrells’ Old Hillside Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018? For large groups magnums add a sense of occasion all ages appreciate.
If you choose claret, you’ll need a wine with youthful vigour, such as Pey La Tour Reserve, but if you were canny enough to buy some, the ripe and wonderful 2009 vintage is coming into its own. High-grade 2005s, 2010s and 2016s certainly need more time, though the 2014 Exhibition Haut-Médoc is looking good now and Château Pierbone, Haut-Médoc 2010, is a snip. Alternatively, go for the fullest South African or California zinfandel you have, or perhaps Lebanon’s Chateau Musar.
My wife adores good red Burgundy but I would save my best bottles for the spring or smaller gatherings when the chatter and food will allow their fine bouquets to shine without competition. 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 red Burgundies should all be ready.
An Italian meal is often composed of many separate dishes, so Italian wines suit the informality of imaginative Boxing Day and post-Christmas meals. 2016 Tuscan wines are coming into their own as are the more forward 2017s but keep 2013 and 2010 longer if you have them.
I love the zippy fruit of good Beaujolais after Christmas and have a soft spot for Morgon Côte du Py, but the world is your oyster and we may equally try the wonderful Thymiopoulos xinomavro wines from Greece because I salted away some bottles of his Earth and Sky and Rapsani.
The family will expect a decanter of Port to be offered at the end of the day, if not at the end of a meal. If you have it, Vintage Port from 2007 and older, 2003, 2000, 1997, 1999 and earlier, back to 1963, will be splendid. If you have none, the lovely Society’s Crusted Port (a Wine Champion in this year’s blind tastings) won’t let you down.
I like to cook with wine (wine at my side, not in the dish!) and hosts may find a quiet moment during preparation when a light but distinguished German riesling, mellowed with age, will hit the spot; and perhaps a warming glass of palo cortado when everyone has left and you can sit down and flop.
Bon appetit & season’s greetings
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