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Happy Christmas

I was halfway through watching my youngest daughter's Nativity performance when a microphone malfunction resulted in a noise which can only be described as flatulent echoing throughout the school hall. The angels were shocked, most of the sheep collapsed in hysterical laughter and the innkeeper was reduced to tears. As teachers set about repairing the chaos and the Head Mistress glared accusingly at those she suspected of not setting their phones to aeroplane mode, my mind turned to wine. 


There are certain scenarios, often predictable, that arise at this time of year. A chaotic nativity performance, a Christmas Day kitchen disaster, or having a stuffed stocking shoved in your face at four o'clock in the morning, swearing, telling the offending stocking wielder to sod off back to bed and cursing the fact that you will not be able to use the threat of Father Christmas for about another ten months. Good or bad, these constants are part of what makes this time of year so charming. 


That first pop of a cork and the fizz of the bubbles as they tumble into your glass is one of my favourites. Try one of the recent offerings from Bluebell Vineyards in East Sussex. Their Hindleap Classic Cuvee seems to get better with nearly every vintage. The 2014 is a belter. Elderflower, spring blossom, pear and green apple. Gently leasy, soft and focused. A fabulous way to kick start your celebrations.


Later in the day there is that beautiful moment when everyone finally sits down to eat. A brief calm descends before the cacophony of crackers being pulled, cutlery clashing upon porcelain and conversation all grow in a gradual crescendo. During the lull I take the opportunity to pour out some red wine. I prefer to reach for something without too much oak or power but something honest and pure. The Cal Grau La Petite Agnus 2015 from Priorat, in Spain displays such characteristics. A lovely earthy dusky aroma, like your Grandfather's top desk drawer. Some kirsch, liquorice and touches of violet sweets. Very relaxed and cool for its 14.5% abv. If you wish for something with less alcohol perhaps look to Burgundy or Cru Beaujoulais from a top producer.


Then as the day saunters onwards and the sunlight fades away I find myself either picking at leftovers or perhaps whipping up a few smoked salmon sandwiches and this cannot possibly be done without the presence of a nice bottle of Chardonnay, preferably white Burgundy. The Domaine de la Denante Macon-Davaye 2016 is a a refreshing, crisp and bright Chardonnay that has enough texture and depth of fruit to give it some real charm and substance.


Being the creature that I am, I have been planning and securing what is going to be drunk over Christmas and New Year since about mid-August. Consequently, this weekend I found myself doing some far less interesting Christmas shopping with my eldest daughter as company. In one particular shop, she was picking up and begging to purchase everything in sight, only to be met with continuous rebuff. Eventually, the shop owner came over with a beautiful wreath which she gave to her for nothing. Inspired by this generosity we made sure we put a generous donation into the charity box by the till.


Wine is undeniably special stuff and for me very much a part of a fine Christmas meal, but the spirit of the season can be intoxicating too. The beaming smile on a child's face as it soaks up the audience's applause, the kind gesture of a total stranger, the slipping of some money into a charity box. Not even a glass of the finest wine can beat that. Happy Christmas.

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