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What the Decanter team is drinking this Christmas

Christmas Day is always the perfect occasion to open a good bottle. Find out which wines the Decanter team is planning to drink on the festive day.

Tina Gellie, Content Manager and Regional Editor (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand & Canada)

It was a big year of Decanter travel for me, heading to Napa and New York in June, South Africa in October and most recently a week each in Margaret River and South Australia. These trips have formed the basis of my festive selections.

Christmas lunch on North Stradbroke Island (reunited with my family after four years, no thanks to Covid) always starts with oysters, followed by a bucket of prawns. Cue elbowing away a dozen others to peel and eat the biggest ones as fast as possible before diving in for more.

Only a fool would pause to take a sip of wine during this melee, but after the shells have been cleared, it’s time to savour a glass or two. I’m thinking of a blanc de blancs sparkling from DAOSA in the Adelaide Hills, a Polish Hill Riesling from Jeffrey Grosset in the Clare Valley or one of the outstanding single-site Chenin Blancs from David & Nadia Sadie or Alheit Vineyards in South Africa’s Swartland.

Classy Chardonnay always works a treat with my sister’s gravadlax. Maybe a Margaret River option like Cullen’s Kevin John or McHenry Hohnen’s Calgardup Brook? Or something from Ataraxia or Creation in Hemel-en-Aarde?

Temperatures are unusually moderate in Queensland this December, so perfect to enjoy a big red with the barbecued joint of meat. Too many choices here. Will it be a Napa Cabernet from Corison, Favia or Gallica? A Barossa Shiraz from Yalumba, Henschke or Rockford, or even Donovan Rall’s super Ava Syrah from Swartland? Then again, who can go past a McLaren Vale Grenache – particularly in tribute to the late D’Arry Osborn of D’Arenberg.

Whatever the eventual bottles, toasts will be made in thanks to so many wonderful producers around the world whose wines have seen us through yet another eventful year. Here’s to 2023!

Amy Wislocki, Magazine Editor

This is the first Christmas since my beloved mother died in February, and so will be a low-key affair for my family. Usually we spend the holiday on the north Devon coast, but we all wanted a change in routine this year so will be staying local. One advantage of that is not having to transport all the wines for the holidays down to Devon – that’s a lot of planning and a lot of wine when it comes to my family.

On Christmas Day this year we’ll be raising a glass in my mother’s memory, with the wines that she loved the most, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Elephant Hill in Hawkes Bay is a favourite) and blanc de blanc Champagne – as it’s Christmas, we might push the boat out with the recently launched Taittinger Comte de Champagne 2012. She loved Champagne so much that she even accompanied me to record a guest slot for BBC Radio 2 – it was me, fellow wine expert Susy Atkins, and my mother, as the interested consumer. Just one of many special memories.

Clive Pursehouse, US Editor

Finally, after two years of difficulty, Christmas and New Year’s seem to be returning to a sense of normalcy. I am flying my mother across the country to see her granddaughter, realising that since she was born, I’ve been a distant second fiddle.

I like to think of this stretch of time visiting with friends and family as a key opportunity to open those wines I’ve been holding onto or new discoveries I really want my wine-curious friends and family members to try.

When it comes to new wine discoveries, I’ve got two Oregon producers in mind that will allow me to show my friends and family new wines and unknown names.

For bubbles, I’ll be popping a cork from a little-known producer of Oregon sparkling wines, Kramer Vineyards. Kim Kramer may just be one of the most underrated winemakers in Oregon and is particularly deft with bubbles. Her Kramer Vineyards 2017 Brut Blanc de Blancs with 47 months of tirage is wildly delicious, both fresh and opulent. Were it from France; it would cost two to three times its price.

A Syrah, typically from Washington State, is a go-to at my household any time we’re preparing a serious meal. This Christmas, though, I’ll be surprising folks with a Syrah from the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, a region that includes sites from both states. The Hundred Suns 2019 Columbia Gorge Syrah was a highlight when I tasted it with Charles Curtis MW at the winery in September. It’s loaded with a savoury and mineral character and tons of fresh fruit, and it will make for a perfect pairing with any heavy holiday cuisine.

The main course this year for Christmas dinner will be a prime rib roast, and I have the proper wine for it, one I’ve been cellaring for a few years. I plan on popping a 2013 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour. An iconic wine from one of America’s wine icons. It’s prime rib; no reason to mess around.

To end the evening, I’m opening a Ramos Pinto Quinta de Bom Retiro 20-Year-Old Tawny Port. Yes, I do, in fact, recognise that it’s not from the United States. I may be the US Editor, but I do love Port. It pairs well with cheese, sweets or even just contemplation of life’s larger questions: What is the meaning of life? How is Santa Claus able to be at all those malls at once, and did I really need a second helping of everything?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

James Button, Regional Editor (Italy)

The centrepiece for the day’s activities this year will focus around a twin South African attack in magnum format: Blank Bottle’s Little William Syrah and David & Nadia’s Chenin Blanc. I’m not too hung up on food and wine matching so the idea is that everybody can dip in and out as they choose.

I have had a case of Vilmart’s Grand Cellier NV Champagne in storage for the last few years, so a bottle this Christmas Day will be a good excuse to enjoy this doughy, lemony treat. Likewise, it’s about time to pull out another bottle of Vega Sicilia’s Valbuena 5 2008; last time I tried it a few years ago it was still tight and unyielding – here’s hoping it has finally begun to relax, just as I intend to do!

My first visit to Piedmont involved a stay at Guido Porro in Serralunga, and drinking a wine from the vineyard our balcony overlooked, in the Lazzarito cru, brings back fond memories, so the estate’s Vigna Santa Caterina 2010 will be a very welcome addition to the table this Christmas. Guido Porro is a winery on the up and I thoroughly recommend its traditionally-styled Nebbiolos. Yum!

Natalie Earl, Regional Editor (France, excluding Bordeaux & Burgundy)

Christmas at the in-laws this year… but thankfully this notion is less terrifying knowing that I’ll have a glass of sweet pink bubbles in my hand on Christmas morning. I tasted Philippe Balivet’s Récolte Cécile Bugey Cerdon 2020 earlier in the year and I knew I’d need to get my hands on a bottle for Christmas aperitifs. Bugey Cerdon is a rosé sparkling wine from France’s eastern border, near Savoie, made from the Gamay and Poulsard varieties in the méthode ancestrale. This results in some residual sweetness and fairly low alcohol, making it the perfect late breakfast tipple: vibrant, grapey and delicious.

I have a 1999 Savennières Roches aux Moines lurking in the cellar that needs drinking now, and to temper the rich characters I’m expecting from that wine I’ll find a fresh South African Chenin to crack open too. On the red front, I’m excited to open the Scar of the Sea Syrah from San Luis Obispo in California, alongside a red Crozes-Hermitage for a compelling comparison. As much as I’d enjoy a liquid lunch, there will of course be the entire works on the food front, with a mix of meat and vegetarian options, and I’m banking on these bottles pairing well enough with most dishes. A recently-gifted bottle of Tokaji, a favourite of the mother-in-law, will almost certainly be polished off with the cheese board, and a snifter of 2004 Michel Huard Calvados paired with mince pies will bring the indulgence to a fine close.

Alex Layton, Head of Marketing

This year will be a mix of the classic and off-the-beaten track, with plenty of inspiration taken from these very pages.

To kickstart proceedings will be the supremely decadent Frerejean Frères, Cuvée des Hussards, Premier Cru, Champagne 2012 – a Platinum medal winner from the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards and a Champagne that has developed further luxurious layers and complexity over the past three years.

The first white of the day will be the sensational Gutter&Stars Bacchus 2021 – skilfully produced by Decanter contributor Chris Wilson in an urban winery located in a Cambridge windmill, no less. This 100% Bacchus has real zing and verve alongside the textured and layered palate. Lip-smackingly delicious and definitely something a bit different alongside smoked salmon or a classic prawn cocktail.

Turkey will be the main centrepiece once again this year, but the vinous partner will be a little different from our usual new world Pinot Noir

In steps the beautifully light, bright and crunchy Riccitelli, Old Vine Bastardo from Patagonia. It has plenty of pure red cherry fruit flavours, a wonderful purity and vibrancy and silky smooth tannins which should match sensationally.

And something a little stronger for the evening rounds of games and quizzes?

I’ve had a real penchant for North American rye whiskey over the past 12 months – and the Whistlepig 15 Year Old is a truly sublime example – showing hallmark peppery notes over hints of honey-roasted nuts and maple. A very special fireside sipper or luxurious base for a Manhattan.

Julie Sheppard, Regional Editor (Spain, Portugal & South America)

I’ll be hosting the family for Christmas this year and to get celebrations started, I’m planning to open a few bottles of English fizz. Hope & Glory The Blend 2017 is a Chardonnay-Pinot Meunier sparkler made by Hattingley Valley with wine writers Susie Barrie MW and Peter Richards MW. I’ve known these two for years and they’re huge fans of English wines. But this bottle does good as well as tasting good, with profits of sales going to the Marine Conservation Society. Bottles are still available to buy if you feel like raising a glass for a charity…

I’ll have a glass of Hope & Glory in hand while I’m in the kitchen… Despite having a small family, everyone has different tastes, so I’ll be cooking nut roast for the vegetarians, roast turkey for the traditionalists and roast beef for my father-in-law. Thankfully everyone agrees that they love roast potatoes…

This means there will be a few different bottles on the table for food pairing. As Regional Editor for Spain, Portugal and South America, I’ve tasted some great wines from all of those regions this year and have chosen a few food-friendly favourites.

First up, a classic choice: Bodegas Pujanza’s Finca Valdepoleo 2018, an elegant single-vineyard Rioja. Alongside Borja Pérez Viticultor Artifice Tinto 2018, a thrilling volcanic wine from Tenerife made from Listán Negro – one of the stars of our Indigenous Spanish Reds Panel Tasting.

After the main event, I’ll be raiding my Port collection for a few special bottles. I’m a particular fan of tawny Ports, as they work well with both cheeses and desserts – they’re great with Christmas pudding and mince pies. A favourite is Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny. Perfect to sip on Christmas evening!

Ines Salpico, Special Projects Editor

Christmas is usually a time of joyous excess, a happy excuse to have a fun battle of wine discovery. I’m lucky enough to live with a fellow wine geek and have been raised by another, so each year we plunge into a few days of vinous exploration, celebrating above all, the opportunity of spending time together on the same side of the channel (I was born and raised in Portugal, where my parents live).

Unfortunately, my father is battling cancer and therefore unable to indulge. So this year will be about mindful choices – that one bottle that can justify the reluctant medical dispensation for one cheeky glass. We will go for something unpretentious and elegant, almost certainly from either Filipa Pato & William Wouters or Luis Seabra. It’s an interesting if cruel exercise: when each sip is borrowed from a diagnosis, how to make each sip count?

Back in London, we will throw caution and woes to the wind and hold a post-Christmas do with some of our friends and neighbours. The wine lineup will include some personal favourites currently in our stash. Pietradolce, Arianna Occhipinti, Paul Weltner, Bründlmayer, Dermot Sugrue, Niepoort, Raúl Pérez, Gramona, Thymiopoulos and Denizot will be some of the top names on the wine list.

Here’s to the end of a surreal and tough year and to a fantastic 2023!

Sylvia Wu, Decanter China and Regional Editor (Asia, Northern & Eastern Europe)

As always, I will be hosting our usual end-of-the-year gathering of friends at home. This year, thanks to lifted travel restrictions, I have had more opportunities to explore the fascinating wine scene of my ‘Rest of the World’ regions of responsibility, so the expectations are high for me to show something they’ve never tried before.

I have put aside an English fizz, the Brut Rosé 2018 from Balfour Winery as the welcome apéritif to go with snacks such as rice crackers and roast sunflower seeds. The relatively lower acidity level from a ripe vintage combined with the vibrant red berry notes should impress even those who are less keen on high-acid fizz.

For the BBQ, a single-vineyard dry Furmint, such as Royal Tokaji’s Nyulászó 2018 should do the trick; the acacia honey on the nose is instantly charming, while the alluring, textured palate of yellow fruits and the mineral acidity would pair nicely with almost everything on the grill – from roasted abalone to ox tongue, beef galbi and the soy sauce-based Asian dressing.

With a savoury nose and a smooth, plummy palate, the Saperavi Qvevri 2019 by Koncho & Co is my top candidate for the finely-cut lamb and beef slices – to be cooked with vegetables and mushrooms in the simmering hot pot broth. Here’s also my opportunity to show off a video of myself trying to punch down the grape must into a qvevri, the traditional oval-shaped amphora buried underground, during my visit to the fascinating Kakheti region of Georgia.

Finally, as the temperature drops and my guests are ready to head home, it’s time for an old-school PX Sherry, or indeed a simple glass of mulled wine – nothing exquisite but just what we need to warm up this winter.

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