Ever wondered what members of the Decanter team drink at Christmas? Take a look at their festive choices as well as their travels, traditions and more...
John Stimpfig, Content director
Christmas day chez Stimpfig is obviously a big deal on the wine front. It’s one of the great set-piece events of the year and so does require a bit of careful planning.
My approach is that you need lots of wines for all eventualities, including surprise guests and corked bottles. So I get in lots of fizz, white Burgundy (my wife’s perennial favourite), Riesling, claret and a few red Burgundies. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of Sherry and tawny Port as well.
My only problem though is that I have very few people to share much of the wine with on December 25th. Since the birth of our third child in 2006, my wife has resolutely refused to touch red wine and only drinks white. My eldest two children still both prefer beer to wine, and my father is pretty much teetotal.
So the Coravin will certainly come into its own this Christmas – especially for some carefully earmarked red Bordeaux. Pride of place will go to my 2000 Léoville Poyferré and 2005 Grand Puy Lacoste. I’ve also got a bottle of 2004 San Leonardo which will certainly see the light of day. I reckon a glass of each should go down quite nicely with the main course.
However, we will all share some smart Champagne (Krug or Cristal) and some 2014 Bourgogne Blanc from Jean-Marc Roulot with the smoked salmon. Pudding wines of course, will come out in the form of a 2011 Suduiraut and/or some Royal Tokaji.
Bring it on….
Amy Wislocki, Managing editor
I had it all worked out. I’d come across the perfect white wine for turkey and all the trimmings at The Wine Society press tasting – a white Vacqueyras (Clos des Cazaux, Vieilles Vignes 2016). A delicious blend of old-vine Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, it was expressive and structured at the same time. And sold by the magnum, for extra Christmas Day ‘wow’ factor. I duly ordered it in good time (£43 for the magnum). Tick, sorted.
Until the bombshell revelation that we would be having beef this year, for a change. My protestations were in vain. Having the perfect wine match cuts no mustard with my dear mother and sisters – who are usually still drinking their starter wine with the turkey anyway, despite my efforts to move the adults in the family on to the next carefully chosen gem…
I enjoy a good fillet of beef with horseradish and roasties as much as the next carnivore, and I’m assured that this is not just any fillet of beef – but has been specially ordered from a local farm in North Devon where we all spend Christmas. But it’s a spanner in the works. Plus it means no parsnips, bread sauce or homemade sausagemeat-and-onion stuffing. So it’s back to the drawing board.
Sulkily I’ll pull an Aussie Shiraz or Napa Cab from the wine racks for my father and brother-in-law, who like their red wines big and bold.
For me and the others, a good northern Rhône Syrah – and, what’s this? I’ve just spotted a bottle of Pichon Baron 1999. Maybe things are looking up after all…
Tina Gellie, Associate editor
I will be spending Christmas (and New Year) Down Under with my sister, brother in-law, their two kids and what is likely to be 10 to 15 of my brother-in-law’s extended family.
Despite festivities taking place in the tranquil 30°C beachside setting of North Stradbroke Island, just off the Queensland capital of Brisbane, the sheer number of people is likely to see me opening the Esky for top ups of wine at regular intervals.
I have no idea of the menu, so can’t predict what wines I’ll need to seek out, but I imagine it will involve more than a few bottles of the best Tasmanian sparkling – ideally from House of Arras – and moving on to some textural but crisp whites, such as Tahbilk’s Museum Release Marsanne, as well as classy Mornington Pensinsula or Margaret River Chardonnay, Clare Valley Riesling and Hunter Valley Semillon.
It’s too hot for big reds at Christmas, but chilled sparkling Shiraz is always a treat with turkey, especially if it is from Ashton Hills in the Adelaide Hills or Rockford in the Barossa – and maybe a savoury Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley too. Finally, to complete the Aussie drinks list, it will probably be a choice of either De Bortoli’s The Noble One, or one of the many Rutherglen Muscats that are like the essence of Christmas pudding.
Harry Fawkes, Digital publisher
This year, we’re at uncle Richard’s; who’s a big Pol Roger fan. If my uncle was a restaurant, it would be his pouring Champagne. His love of Pol, combined with more than 20 of us descending on his home in a small village outside Winchester, calls for a magnum of the NV brut, which has been sitting happily on its side for several months waiting for Christmas.
Pinot with Turkey is a great match and I’m tempted to take along a bottle of Domaine de la Côte, Blooms Field Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara, but is that too funky for a family of traditional wine lovers? Perhaps a safe bet is aged Bordeaux, like Château Potensac 2009, a year which is coming round earlier than first thought and is starting to drink well now.
Viognier is another lovely accompaniment to Christmas lunch and without going to the heights of Condrieu, the Rhône appellation which you might say is the grape’s homeland, there’s an IGP Viognier from Domaine de la Janasse, a producer best known for their unbelievable Châteauneuf-du-Papes. After the main event, it’s then on to fortified – as if the family wasn’t fortified enough at this stage. With uncles and aunts who love the theatre of decanting a bottle of vintage port, I’ve gone for a young bottle of 1994 Fonseca, using Richard Mason’s revisit of the vintage as a guide.
Ellie Douglas, Digital content manager
I’ll be spending Christmas at my sister-in-law’s parents in Sussex this year. There’ll be ten of us in total, including my six- and seven-year-old nephews.
We’re driving down in the morning, and am sure will be greeted with a chilled glass of something – likely to be a few bottles of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV.
We keep things traditional for Christmas dinner (apart from one vegan) and alongside our turkey and trimmings, for the white wine we’ll be having a Sancerre – the high acidity will help cut through the turkey, gravy, pigs in blankets, bread sauce, stuffing and more…
For the red, it’s aged Bordeaux, and as we’ve got a crowd – and, it’s Christmas – it’ll be from magnum.
In the evening, when everyone fancies an aperitif, there are some whisky fans in my family who won’t be disappointed. Meanwhile, I’ll make up some white Port and tonics with plenty of orange peel and mint, for a lighter, festive take on a G&T.
James Button, Digital wine sub-editor
It’s my first Christmas in the UK for a few years, and so I’m looking forward to enjoying some wines with my family that I’ve been sat on for a while. We’ll start the day with my last bottle of Pol Roger 1998, a lovely Champagne which combines richness and freshness – a delicious match with smoked salmon for breakfast.
I have a Mac Forbes RS19 Riesling 2017 to open with the starters – a pure, fresh style from one of my favourite Aussie producers. It needs all that residual sugar to temper the acidity but should prove itself with seared scallops. There’s also a 2008 Puligny-Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive and a 2015 from Jacques Carillon for when we’ve finished off the RS19, which shouldn’t take long as it’s very moreish! Puligny is a great match for white meats, and this one is more than capable of lifting itself above all the trimmings.
I’ve picked out some super-meaty reds too. The first is Dal Forno’s Valpolicella Superiore 2011, youthful but so textured and ripe. It’s better than pretty much every Amarone I’ve ever tasted, except for Dal Forno’s own. The second red is a bottle of JL Chave’s 2007 Hermitage. I have high hopes.
We don’t usually bother with sweet wine, so I’ll probably open a bottle of Cavallotto’s Bricco Boschis Barolo 2006 to enjoy the evening with.
I like to serve fizz and whites as cold as possible, as they’ll only warm up in the glass. The reds will need decanting to get the most out of them, and I think it adds an extra touch of occasion and drama to a special day.
Simon Wright, Wine logistics manager
I’ll be in Arizona over the holidays, spending time with my wife’s family. It will be my first Christmas in the desert and am hoping to enjoy the sunshine with one or two Mezcal Margaritas.
The local wines also continue to impress, so I’ll make sure we have some with lunch – Mediterranean and Southern Rhône varieties seem to perform the best, so they’ll be on my shopping list once I touch down in America.
I’m also bringing a bottle of Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve that’s been in the bottle for a year or so.
I always enjoy Champagne with a touch of bottle age so it will be interesting to see if the same rule applies to English sparkling, also it will be fun to show off the delights of home-grown fizz to a new audience!
Vahan Agulian, Tastings executive
There’s so much uncertainty on the horizon, Brexit looms (or does it?) and exchange rates are crashing into oblivion – so this year I’ll be having a wine that has all the glamour, style and verve of a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé, but with a price tag that allows me to forget and have fun.
Château K Rouge 2015 from this 6ha organic estate in the Bergerac appellation will be our wine of choice to go with turkey and all the trimmings. The Rouge is at least 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Concentrated, juicy, with a hint of pepper on its long sophisticated finish.
After the Christmas meal we’ll probably go for a long walk, ensuring we’re cold enough to treat ourselves to some Angostura Caribbean rum when we get back. I’ll just close my eyes and imagine the waves crashing…
Natalie Earl, Awards tasting executive
The aperitif is a crucial part of Christmas day in our house, it really kicks the day off with festive cheer, so I try to experiment each year with a different addition to the aperitif menu.
Having visited the Douro Valley at the beginning of December, I’ve got Port on the brain, and I have a bottle of Kopke 30 Year Old White Port lurking around that will work nicely as an aperitif served chilled on its own, or even in a refreshing white port and tonic.
This year I am also setting myself a goal to find the best wine pairing for a vegetarian Christmas dinner. I’ve got 3 bottles set aside contending for the top spot.
First up is a 2007 McGuigan Hunter Valley Bin 9000 Semillon, which should be showing some age and therefore a nice honeyed complexity. Then I’m looking forward to trying the Georgian Maranuli Kisi Qvevri 2017. With a delightful orange-amber hue, it has been fermented and aged on its skins for 10 months in terracotta amphora. Finally, I’m expecting the Fritz Waßmer Spätburgunder XXL 2015 to pair well with all the earthy root vegetables, savoury umami mushroom flavours, and assortment of nuts in our nutty Christmas pithivier.