Inspiration / Lifestyle & Opinion

Christmas Crackers from Matthew and Marjorie

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Inspiration Inspiration

Picking the perfect bottles to help tide you through the festive season is what we love to do here. So we asked former sommelier Marjorie Cropp-Legendre from our Cellar Showroom to choose some of her favourite festive fine wines and Matthew Horsley from our Buying team to recommend some sure-fire winners that belie their humble price tags

Marjorie Cropp-Legendre spent 14 years as a sommelier (wine waiter), including a stint as Head Sommelier at Harvey Nichols before joining us in Stevenage. She can often be heard giving food and wine-matching advice to members in our Showroom so we thought we should ask her to share some of her expertise here too. Marjorie says that her colleagues often tease her for her traditional (French!) wine choices, but as it's Christmas we've allowed her a little indulgence.

Marjorie's Fine Wine Trio

Marjorie Cropp-Legendre
Champagne

Gosset Grand Réserve Brut NV – Champagne just as Champagne should be and the ideal bubbly to start off Christmas Day or a fancy drinks party with all manner of canapés. Gosset have been making fizz in Aÿ since 1584, so needless to say, they know what they are doing! Bright and golden in colour, it has an elegant toasty nose with hints of candied lemon peel. A precise, rich, beautifully ripe citrus-fruit flavour and soft, delicate bubbles mean this perfectly crafted, sophisticated Champagne will delight your senses and make you very happy.

White

Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2016 – a prime example of what modern California chardonnay can be… and should always be, in my opinion. Yes, it's rich and yes, it's oaked; but it also has bright acidity, fresh apple, citrus and pear flavours and a touch of spice. It'll work wonders with a simple cream of pumpkin soup with sage and brioche croutons, or a fancier dish of pan-seared scallops with curried parsnip purée and parsnip crisps. Definitely one to think about for the big day too, and would smarten up curried leftovers a treat!

Red

Madame de Château de Pitray, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2009 – from vineyards a stone's throw from its more illustrious neighbour Saint-Emilion and in a similar style but minus the price tag! Rich and seductive with ripe berry fruits, spice, velvety tannins and great length, this is a strong contender to match the main event, especially if you go for goose this year. Duck served with celeriac purée, fondant potato and Madeira jus will also take on another dimension. Oh, and I am from Bordeaux, so have to declare some bias!

Roast Duck

Matthew Horsley was in our Tastings & Events team for three years and in Member Services before that. He moved to Buying last year as a trainee, putting his tasting and organisational skills to work co-ordinating in-house tastings for our buyers and wine selections for our Wine Without Fuss programme as well as helping out our merchandisers and with quality control checks. There's not much that gets opened in our tasting room that he hasn't had the chance to try. This makes him perfectly placed to pick up some current crowd pleasers.

Matthew's pick of crowd (and pocket) pleasers

Matthew Horsley
Sparkling

The Society's Celebration Crémant de Loire 2015 – we would always advocate buying a decent sparkling wine over a cheap Champagne and this long-standing member favourite is our go-to recommendation for bubbly on a budget. It is made in the same way as Champagne and by the same people who are behind The Society's Champagne, and from the same grapes (chardonnay and pinot noir) mixed with Loire natives chenin blanc and cabernet franc. Decadent bubbles combine with appley freshness and a decent amount of bottle age for a fizz that's properly pukka.

White

Navajas Blanco Crianza, Rioja 2015 – this is going down extremely well with lots of you at the moment, whether you're white Rioja fans or not! White Burgundy is often cited as the classic white for the Christmas table but this oak-aged, creamy, nutty wine would make an excellent alternative. Broad enough in flavour and with enough complexity to handle all those culinary adornments to the main meal that we can't resist adding, after all, they're what it's all about aren't they?!

Festive Cheese Board Red

Brazin Lodi Old-Vine Zinfandel 2015 – and for the ultimate turkey red it has to be this. The ripe tannins sing with lean meat and the fruity flavours are like a dollop of cranberry sauce on the side. With sweet black cherry and mocha flavours and smooth vanilla silkiness, it will be fearless in the face of even the meanest of greens at the festive feast. Great with the cheese course too (in the unlikely event that you have some left over!)