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What the Decanter team is drinking this Christmas

Christmas 2020 may not be quite as planned, but it's still an occasion to open a good bottle. Find out which wines Decanter team members are planning to drink on 25 December…

Tina Gellie, Content Manager & Regional Editor

As for so many, Covid-19 has derailed any plans I’d made for 2020, including Christmas and New Year. I should be in Australia with my Dad, sister and her family, soaking up the sun and surf of North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane in Queensland.

Instead, I’m joining my support bubble in Stourport – so what Christmas wines to haul up with me? Surely at least one bottle of bubbly! House of Arras, EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004 from Tasmania was the top fizz in our Wines of the Year tasting, but I’m not sure my finances can stump to that, so I might have to consider some other New World sparklings or non-vintage Champagnes from our recent tastings.

I’m not sure what’s on the menu, so will bring white and red all-rounders that are delicious with everything. For the whites I have some amazing Australian Chardonnays to choose from, and some sublime South African whites from David & Nadia, Mullineux & Leeu and The Sadie Family. It will have to be a coin toss.

When it comes to reds, there’s a Bordeaux blend from Clos du Soleil in Canada’s Similkameen Valley that I’ve been keeping for a special occasion, as well as New Zealand Syrahs from Elephant Hill and Craggy Range that are now hitting their stride.

Over the festive period in general, I might scour the recommendations for Oregon Pinot Noir or from our recent panel tasting on 2016 California Cabernet.

Coming soon: Look out for new tastings on Oregon Pinot Noir and Affordable Californian reds.

Amy Wislocki, Magazine Editor & Regional Editor

What a year! I think everyone needs some form of Christmas break more than ever this year, even if the usual arrangements have had to change. I picked up a few bottles in the Waitrose 10 at £10 promotion to take down with me – the Chablis Premier Cru, the Pouilly-Fumé and the tawny Port – so that’s a good start.

Christmas morning is all about fizz, of course – one of my festive highlights is sipping a good Champagne while prepping the lunch, carols playing in the background.

I’ve chosen the delicious multi-vintage Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée, which I discovered for the first time earlier this year. It’s a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Meunier, and includes a blend of reserve wines back to 1985, aged in a solera-like system.

I always like to get hold of a magnum for the Christmas hols, and this year have two contrasting wines lined up.

The first is Tascante, a Nerello Mascalese from the incredible, volcanic, high-altitude vineyards on the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna – I think that could work a treat with the turkey.

The other, which I’ll save for a rib of beef later in the holiday, is a magnum of Margaux’s Château Angludet 2012, bought from The Wine Society for a very reasonable £55. It stood out in their autumn press tasting and I made a mental note back then to buy one for Christmas drinking.

James Button, Regional Editor, Italy

Rather than skiing as we normally do as a family, this year will be spent at home with a new addition to the family in the form of our second daughter.

That means fewer Austrian blends and more Italian wines in my Christmas schedule, and I’m looking forward to sharing some bubbles with my wife – who can now drink again!

Ferrari Trentodoc and Berlucchi Franciacorta should fit the bill. Abruzzo Pecorino is something that deserves a place on the Christmas table, as the seam of acidity cuts through rich food perfectly. I just need to decide which is my favourite.

In terms of reds, it’s a toss up between Tenuta Luce 2017 and Tenuta di Trinoro 1998. Perhaps opening both is the best option…

Natalie Earl, Awards Competition Manager

Whilst we are busy rummaging around in the cellar for some special bottles for Christmas day, it is important to acknowledge in some way the troublesome year that the entire world has experienced. 

In our small household of three, we will be starting the day by raising a glass to a beloved grandmother, and to all of those who lost loved ones this year.

As an ode to the sparkle they imparted on our lives, the bubbles will firstly take the form of Wiston Estate Cuvée Brut 2013 from the UK, swiftly followed by Michel Gonet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne 2011 to whet our appetite for some oozy brie and cranberry canapés.

I have also earmarked a bottle of La Guita Manzanilla to consume over the Christmas period. Sherry is one of the most versatile wine styles out there, and for me an aperitif would not be complete without a glass of tangy, yeasty, salty fino or Manzanilla and a handful of smoked almonds.

I have been trying to teach my family to love Sherry over the last few years and it looks like for the first time I might actually be sharing a bottle this year!

A new dish on the menu, alongside our homemade nut roast, will be a vegetarian haggis wellington. I am predicting an umami explosion, and I will have both whites and reds to please everyone.

I have dug out a bottle of 1998 Savennières Roche aux Moines from Domaine aux Moines. It’s 100% Chenin Blanc from a mother-daughter winemaking team and, with its honey, hay and marzipan character, it should pair excellently with the earthy nut roast.

On the red front, a Mac Forbes 2017 Yarra Junction Pinot Noir. From a cool site in the Yarra Valley region of Australia, the wine’s acidity combined with generously bright purity of fruit should work well with the savouriness of the mushrooms and root vegetables.

As a contrast, and for those of us looking for more spice and darker fruit characters, I’ll be opening a 2014 Saumur-Champigny, made from Cabernet Franc – a signature grape variety in the Loire Valley.

The grand finale, and for me the most exciting part of the day, is the cheese course. We have opted for a 2009 Maury, a sweet, fortified Grenache-dominant red from the steep vineyards in the hot and dry Roussillon region of southern France, close to Spain. This style pairs perfectly with cheese and is a great alternative to Port, too.

Alex Layton, Head of Marketing

As a tier four inhabitant, I will be spending Christmas at home in London rather than seeing family in Dorset, but that does mean (very excitingly for me) that I get to cook the roast turkey on our Big Green Egg barbecue, which I haven’t yet been able to do!

Adding a gentle amount of smoke to the roasting process will certainly impact the flavour of the meat, and this will need to be considered when pairing wines – a very serious matter indeed in our household.

The plan is to dig out a bottle of the simply sublime Two Paddocks, The First Paddock, Pinot Noir 2016. The bright Gibbston fruit and acidity underpinning the slightly smoky and earthy notes should make for a heavenly match.

Fizz will certainly be required to kick off proceedings and once again, English wines stole the show at this year’s DWWA.

A glass of the Best in Show-winning Roebuck Estate’s Classic Cuvée Brut 2014 will be the perfect match alongside the customary eggs benedict.

Finally, while settling into some serious festive board games (the game Viticulture will be a must for us this year), we will be enjoying a dram or two of The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 7 – a sensational blend of the distillery’s prize aged stocks and simply Christmas in a glass.

Ellie Douglas, Digital Editor

This year’s Christmas will be a much smaller affair than I’m used to, as it will for many of us. Still, as several of our contributors have mentioned in their articles on top wines of 2020, this year feels like a time to dig out some bottles that you may have been saving.

There will be three of us this year and we plan to start the day with Buck’s fizz, which I’ll make with a Crémant de Loire, alongside a leisurely Christmas breakfast.

For when we start the real toast, probably with some family Zoom calls, I’ve got a bottle of Mandois, Cuvée Victor Vieilles Vignes, Rosé Brut Champagne 2007 to start us off.

The main meal will still be traditional turkey and all the trimmings, so I’ve got a bottle of Frog’s Leap Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2012  and Domaine Adèle Rouzé, Quincy 2019 for the white.

I’m also looking forward to opening a Lustau Añada 1992 Sherry, which I think should see us through mince pies and the cheese.

In the evening, before assembling sandwiches from leftovers – and when people are in need of a pick-me-up – I’m going to try my hand at a brandy-based Espresso Martini. I joined a virtual cocktail masterclass with St-Rémy recently, and the caramel, vanilla and festive spice flavours in the St-Rémy XO worked really well with the coffee.

Looking further ahead, I may need to pick a couple of bottles to drink with my turkey leftovers.

Julie Sheppard, Regional Editor Spain, Portugal and South America

To celebrate Christmas after the year we’ve had, I’ll be opening some special vintage fizz: Champagne Pommery’s Cuvée Louise 2004.

As Regional Editor for Spain, Portugal and South America, I’ve tasted some great wines from those regions this year, a few of which will be on the table for lunch.

First up, a gorgeous gastronomic rosé from Portugal’s Douro Valley: Kopke, Winemaker’s Collection Tinta Cão Rosé, 2019  – versatile enough to pair with turkey or a nut roast.

I love New World Pinot Noir and this year I’m heading to Chile, with Viña Tabalí’s fresh, coastal Pinot from vineyards in Limari Valley: Tabalí, Talinay Pinot Noir, Limarí Valley, Chile, 2015.

For a red with more body, I usually turn to Rioja from a top name such as Marqués de Murieta or López de Heredia.

But this year I’m heading to Penedès with one of my favourite Spanish producers, Torres. The Torres Reserva Real 2016 is a satisfying blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, that was first created in 1995 to celebrate King Juan Carlos I of Spain visiting the Torres winery. It seems fitting to keep a glass in hand for the Queen’s speech, too…

Ines Salpico, Digital wine editor

A very different Christmas indeed in our household this year. For all the obvious reasons and also because it is the first festive season with our little baby girl. I’m still breastfeeding, which means I am only allowed a few clandestine sips.

So instead of the customary – and outrageously long – line-up of Portuguese and German wines (I am Portuguese, my partner is German and both our families have quite exciting cellars), we’re going for just a few standout bottles from our own stash.

Top of the list are Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay and Ascheri’s Sorano Barolo. And one always needs some proper fizz: Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan, made by our dear friend and outstanding winemaker Dermot Sugrue. This Christmas is undoubtedly one to celebrate the talent and companionship of all the friends we cannot meet.

Sylvia Wu, Decanter China and Regional Editor

The pandemic means it is difficult for us to gather with friends and families this year. But staying at home so much has also honed my cooking skills in 2020. This Christmas I will be taking advantage of the last available supermarket delivery slot to source some raw materials for a feast on my own.

With duck breast, plain Tortilla wraps, cucumber and some hoisin sauce, I will be able to replicate the delicious Peking Duck & pancakes (sadly without the crispy skins, however).

To pair with it, I have put aside a bottle of Alsace Pinot Noir – a classic grape variety for duck dishes. I also think this good value Romanian Merlot would be interesting to try with it, too, or this saline, mineral Georgian Saperavi by Papari Valley.

For dessert, I have a lovely bottle of Chinese Icewine by Sanhe Winery. It won a silver medal in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.

However, I also plan to share the indulgence around this Christmas. Over the last nine months I have been doing a form of socially distanced tasting with my neighbours. People get to sample the wine but bottles are left outside doors to maintain social distancing. I shall do the same at Christmas – and the good thing is that I already know which styles they enjoy the most!

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Decanter’s top panel tasting wines of 2020

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