What the Decanter team are eating and drinking this Christmas

Ever wondered how members of the Decanter team spend their Christmas - and most importantly, what bottles they open?

Tina Gellie, Regional editor and content manager

I recently sorted through my wine collection and – in the dark depths of the back of my wine fridge – unearthed a few gems I’d long forgotten about.

A few of them have probably passed their best, but thankfully many more should now hitting their sweet spot, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with my in-laws in Lincolnshire over Christmas.

For the whites, I have several 2008 Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachets that might be nice to broach, but I’ve been eyeing up a bottle of Mt Pleasant’s Lovedale Semillon 2011 from Australia’s Hunter Valley – or perhaps a fresh Alheit, Cartology 2018? So many delicious options…

For the big Cabs to go with the roast, one of my forgotten discoveries was a Château Langoa-Barton 2005 to vie with Corison’s Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – though having recently tasted Te Mata’s Coleraine 2015 from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, I’m tempted to buy a bottle of that too.

Then it will be the usual assortment of Sherry and Port for the enormous variety of cheeses and sweet treats that will appear, but I might also bring out Lakeview Cellars’ Vidal Icewine 2017 from Canada’ Niagara Peninsula. It’s just a half bottle, but a little of this luscious liquid goes a long way.

Harry Fawkes, Digital publisher

On a normal Christmas day, I’d be telling you that the theme is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – either in a bottle of Champagne or in a Burgundian style as a perfect match with turkey. But this year, we’re travelling to Somerset – and the hosts are lucky enough to also own a house near Cahors, the home of Malbec, in central France.

Malbec is known for being dark, tannic and high in alcohol – everything you should avoid with Christmas dinner! Yet after a trip to Château de Haute-Serre for lunch over the summer, which I’d recommend to anyone visiting that part of France, I rediscovered Cahors with bottle age. The tannins had softened and integrated, the alcohol was much less noticeable, the powerful fruit had made way for velvety, subtle, secondary characters – all of which accompanied our food stupendously.

The deal was done; won over we brought back a magnum of the Château de Haute-Serre 2000 for Christmas and a few bottles of Le Cèdre, Cahors 2005. Perhaps we were easily won over by a spectacular summer lunch in beautiful surroundings. But if we can recreate or get close to that at Christmas; I will be extremely happy, and a little merry. And in case you’re wondering, I’ll still be waking up to Champagne…

James Button, Regional editor

I’m skiing in Austria over Christmas week with my wife’s family and our six-month-old daughter, so I will be eyeing up the wine lists for some delicious Austrian Rieslings and indigenous red blends while the in-laws try their hands with some babysitting.

As we are away on the 25th, we are having a pre-Christmas celebration with my family in Hampshire and so I have pulled out three delicious wines to take. I love Vilmart’s Grand Cellier NV Champagne for its bright, saline, lemony character, and it gains elegant weight with age. This NV is three years old now, so should be spot on. Incidentally, I’d also strongly recommend Agrapart’s Terroirs Blanc de Blancs NV – something for next year perhaps?

Mac Forbes’ RS19 Riesling 2017 was a success with my family last year and so another bottle will be coming with us in 2019. Named after the 19g/l of residual sugar, this Aussie Riesling is so fresh and well balanced it’s barely noticeable. It’s a completely different style to the Austrian examples too, so there’s no chance of Riesling fatigue this Christmas.

I couldn’t resist buying some of Gaja’s 2016 Barbaresco recently, a wine from a leading Piedmont producer in what is looking like a very impressive vintage. I thought it would be apt to taste a bottle from a decade earlier this Christmas, so the estate’s 2006 Barbaresco will grace the table for the main course – in a decanter, of course!

Julie Sheppard, Regional editor

Christmas in our house is a coming together of two family traditions, which involves double roasts to keep everyone happy: turkey AND beef. Thankfully that’s an excuse to open several different bottles in search of perfect pairings…

But first, festivities always kick off with a glass of fizz and this year I’ll be serving the gorgeous House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008, an elegant Tasmanian sparkler that I fell in love with on my last trip to Australia.

The turkey fans in the household can choose from white Burgundy or a fresh and fruity New World Pinot Noir – this year it’s The First Paddock Pinot Noir 2016 from Gibbston in New Zealand, produced by Two Paddocks Winery, which is owned by actor Sam Neill.

The beef-lovers will be enjoying a Spanish duo: a biodynamic Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and a gloriously old school Rioja. Dominio de Atauta 2016 is made from 60- to 120-year-old vines, grown at high altitude, giving a ripe and brambly red with a real sense of place. Meanwhile R Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja 1995 is a simply stunning wine, made by one of my all-time favourite Rioja producers.

As a finishing touch I’ll be serving Les Vignerons de Maury Solera 1928 Cask No.849, which I discovered at the Berry Bros & Rudd Autumn/Winter Tasting. This fortified Grenache is made using a solera system started way back in 1928 and has a luscious figgy palate with complex dried fruit and nut notes, but also incredible freshness. Like a fine old Maderia – and I think it’s tremendous value for money. Bring on the Christmas pudding and the cheese board!

Amy Wislocki, Regional editor and print publisher

Last Christmas the bombshell was that we were having beef instead of turkey, immediately rendering the delicious magnum of white Vacqueyras that I’d lined up redundant – well until Boxing Day, in any case. This year, I have been appraised of another, different disruption to the usual routine: the whole family will be decamping for Christmas lunch to a hotel, nearby in north Devon.

I think as fellow wine lovers you will appreciate how alarming this is. One of the highlights of Christmas is planning which treasured bottles to open with lunch, a procession of special-occasion wines to match each course. Now I’m sure the food will be delicious at the hotel, but what about the wine? I have been tasked with the wine selection, naturally, and suddenly, instead of a top red Burgundy lovingly put aside with Christmas Day in mind, I’m looking at the Nuits-St-Georges on their wine list: £79, with no mention of producer or vintage. And one bottle won’t go far in my family.

I’m consoling myself with the thought of the magnum of Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vines Xinomavro that I’ll open on Boxing Day. I love this wine: fresh, crunchy red fruit, unoaked, perfect served very lightly chilled with the traditional gammon.

Now, I wonder if the hotel would consider corkage…

Ellie Douglas, Digital editor

This year my parents are hosting Christmas, so I’ll be making sure we’re getting everything chilled at the right time; important to think about when space is limited in the fridge! Once siblings, nephews and in laws have arrived on the day, we’ll have nibbles and open some fizz. I’ve got a bottle of the Nyetimber, 1086 Rosé 2010, which is waiting for a special occasion, and Christmas may just be it – but I’m sure some Champagne will be in the mix too.

For lunch, we keep things traditional with turkey and all the trimmings – apart from one vegan, who may want some inspiration from our nut roast and wine pairing guide. It could be Chardonnay for the white wine, although I’ve also got a bottle of McGuigan, The Shortlist, Hunter Valley Semillion 2007 that could be one to open. For red, we’ve been drinking Bordeaux for the past few years – and Christmas is a time for tradition, after all – so this year it will be a magnum of Château Labegorce Zede, Margaux 2002. Pudding-wise, I think I’ll provide both a Sauternes and a Canadian ice wine for people to try, and there are a few whisky lovers in my family who I’m sure will take the opportunity to sample some.

After opening presents and a walk, soon enough it’ll be time for eating some leftovers. My parents have stocked up on plenty of Crémant de Loire when they were last in France, which I think could mean whipping up some Kir Royales…

Alex Layton, Head of Marketing

Christmas this year will be spent at home in east London for the first time, but there will be plenty of opportunities to open a few special bottles.

First up must be fizz – and it’ll be between two glorious but very different bottles. Wiston Estate’s superb Blanc de Blancs Brut 2011 scooped a Best in Show in this year’s DWWA, so will certainly be making an aperitif appearance on Christmas Eve. This will be followed by a bottle of Bollinger La Grande Année Brut 2002 that I have patiently cellared for the best part of a decade now – definitely one for the smoked salmon brunch on Christmas Day morning.

We’re breaking from tradition this year and heading to a neighbourhood pub for lunch – who have kindly allowed me to bring a special bottle or two with me. So it’s back to the cellar to pluck out two 2009s – Château Léoville-Barton, St-Julien and Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès. 2009 was renowned for being a ripe and somewhat flamboyant year, but I have faith both will be in a good drinking place right now.

Finally, it isn’t Christmas without a fine Cognac. This year I was lucky enough to try some of the truly sensational offerings from Hermitage– so I couldn’t think of anything better to finish the day than with one of their special, old single vintage Grand Champagne bottlings.

Natalie Earl, Awards Competition Manager

Let’s be honest, the main worries at Christmas centre around wine: which bottles are going to be opened, which course will they be drunk with and do we have enough (never a problem in my house I might add). This is coupled with the pressure of finding wines that please everyone but that also offer something exciting, special and – for me – off the beaten track. It seems that this year we have gone for Old World, but in a new sense.

We will be eating our breakfast panettone with a 1988 Riesling Sekt from Peter Lauer in the Mosel. Disgorged in 2016, so with 28 years sur latte, the thought of the toasty nuttiness and racy acidity this is bound to provide is already making my mouth water.

Keeping with the bubbles as the morning progresses, we’ll move (much too) swiftly onto a bottle I received as a birthday present this year, “Sextant Pet Nat Foufounette 2018”: a sparkling Aligoté from Burgundy, made in the pétillant naturel method, macerated with apricot pits! A bit of fun, which is very much needed on Christmas day.

The main event divides the party into two opposing teams: the veggies and the carnivores. But we will all be drinking the same wines with lunch since they should pair so well with both turkey and vegetarian wellington: a Sextant Bourgogne Blanc, a Bourgogne Rouge from J.J Morel, a Sylvaner from Domaine Roland Schmitt in Alsace, and the Cybille Kuntz Riesling Spatlese 2014.

No heavy reds on the table you will notice, mainly because they don’t prove too popular with my crowd, but we will see how the day progresses because I might be tempted to open some rich and opulent Napa Cabernet Sauvignon later in the afternoon.

Ines Salpico, Digital wine editor

Christmas is usually spent with family in Portugal and therefore drinking is all about a nice (and uninterrupted) line-up of Portuguese wines.

Festivities kick-off on the afternoon of the 24th with some Port & Tonic, while the cod sizzles in the oven. Once it’s ready, everyone gathers around the table with different bottles open. Opinions on what to pair with salted cod are strong and divisive: some will want a structured white wine (Filipa Pato & William Wouter’s ‘Nossa Calcário’ and Vale da Capucha ‘Arinto’ are always favourites); others will jump straight into reds (maybe some Tiago Teles ‘Gilda’, Paulo Laureano ‘Premium Tinto’ or Casa de Mouraz ‘Private Selection’).

The evening wraps up with Vintage Port (Niepoort or Dona Antonia), aged Aguardente (Brandy) and/or homemade Licor de Poejo (Pennyroyal Liqueur) along with the spread of festive desserts and the unwrapping of presents at midnight.

Christmas day ‘tis the time for a big, endless lunch. Seafood starters are paired with a couple of bottles of fizz – Luis Pato Brut NV. Then it’s on to the meat with a selection of Alentejo reds. Ideal to keep family tensions at bay…

By the time all bottles are empty it’s December 26th already!

Sylvia Wu, Decanter China and regional editor

My parents are joining me for the holiday season this year, and we plan to celebrate it China-style – by having a Christmas hot pot.

A Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Chardonnay should give them a nice taste of English wines without scaring them off with too much acidity. We will pair the hot pot with a fruity New Zealand Pinot Noir – the plum juice-like sweet fruits will be much appreciated as we throw lots of vegetable, mushrooms and thin lamb and beef slices into the rich-flavoured savoury soup.

For dessert I kept a half-bottle Château Suduiraut from a house warming party with my Decanter colleagues. Sweet wines are always appreciated on our dinner table, though my parents are not entirely convinced by the crisp acidity in the off-dry German Riesling, and are getting slightly bored of the luscious Icewines, which they bought too many of during their visit to Canada. I think Sauternes will be a nice exploration for them this year for more complexity and sugar-acidity balance


What will you be drinking on Christmas day? Tag @decanter in your photos and share with #myChristmaswine