Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh FINE WINE THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE Wine & Food Matching

Christmas Wines & FIZZ

Written by Giles MacDonogh

Christmas Wines & FIZZ

Posted: 4th January 2022

I suspect for most people Christmas is a time to bring out their best bottles, but in this house at least, it is also an opportunity to locate things that need drinking up. This occasionally leads to pleasant surprises, and at others to painful disappointments. This year I noted once again that my supplies are running low in many areas. We are lacking good dry whites. We have consumed all our stock of old Chianti and Barolo. My once impressive collection of vintage port has dwindled post-Christmas to just two bottles and there are fewer than a dozen old burgundy wines remaining, which might be a relief after this year’s experience.

On the food side there have been disappointments too. For the first time in years I was unable to locate the livers to make the much-loved terrine we broach at dinner on Christmas Eve. There were some available commercially, but not at a realistic price. When the day arrived there was only a tiny tin left over from some previous year, and a bit of stag pâté sent by the Lafite Rothschilds that was as good as its pedigree. We made up for the loss with some truly succulent Scottish lobsters. Last year economies reduced us to halibut. On the cheese front, the Stilton was oppressively salty, but I had found a vacherin mont d’or, a good camembert au lait cru, and a lovely little St Marcellin. Some of the cheeses were slow to come round in our freezing house but as Christmas warmed up, they came into their own. I have learned to chambrer the vacherin by putting it close to the stove. The meal culminated with a bûche de Noël.

With the tartines we had a bottle of non-vintage Taittinger which I must have had for fifteen years. I love old champagne and this had not suffered in any way – indeed, I have champagnes going back thirty years, and I have never (fingers crossed) found one to be out of condition. I had neglected the 1982 Chapoutier white Hermitage (a present from Michel Chapoutier), which had ullaged to low shoulder. It hadn’t suffered much: it might have been the colour of teak but tasted enchantingly of honey and gingerbread. The 2011 Domaine de Marroniers 1er Cru Montmains was a Chablis of an old-fashioned, austere school that may have been just a mite too austere for its own boots. The 1990 Pomerol from Château Bourgneuf was good (all toast and game) however and proved once again that claret tends to live to a healthier old age than burgundy these days. Maybe it always did.

We finished with a 1997 Sandeman Vau Vintage port. Vau was launched in the late nineties to create an early drinking vintage style, but we were assured that it would still be possible to lay it down. There was certainly nothing wrong with it and it had a pleasant raspberry and blackberry fruitiness about it, even if it was light for a top port. It drank well from a stoppered decanter for three or four days.

We had been too tired to go to Midnight Mass, and went to a much depleted service before opening our presents on the big day. Without the terrine, we needed something to nibble on. I had made two loaves of Venezuelan pan de jamón again as that had been a success a couple of years before. It proved just right, and the second loaf did service on Boxing Day. I leave out the raisins because one of our number dislikes them, but I am not sure they pull an awful lot of weight in the recipe, then again, I don’t like ‘sweet and sour’ much. We had a scrumptious dry-aged Simon Heffer forerib for our Christmas dinner with the usual red cabbage; then the cheeses reappeared followed by a magisterial Sussex pond pudding.

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Giles MacDonogh

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