The festive season is always eagerly awaited at Chateau Crossley, but we don’t over indulge these days…well, not too much. The holiday began yesterday with a trip to the new Sam Wanamaker theatre at London’s Globe to see Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, very probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year, greatly enhanced by the intimate and candle-lit theatre. Not especially enhanced by a Vermentino/Sauvignon blend at lunch and a Nemea afterwards, both inoffensive wines, but the whole day was a wonderful start to what is an extra long holiday this time round.
With a whirl of socialising to be enjoyed, Christmas Day itself will be a quiet affair, so we have a couple of goose legs to roast. The biggest difficulty with goose is what to drink with it? Ask any three wine lovers and you’ll likely get “Burgundy”, a rich German or Syrah/Shiraz (at the very least). We are going a bit left field with Stéphane Tissot’s 2004 En Barberon Pinot Noir, book ended with some Hughes-Beguet Macvin and Equipo-Navazos PX (“Bota NO” 36 from Rey Fernando de Castilla). Boxing day will be cold cuts with my parents, accompanied by some Beaujolais, so nothing that will get lost amid the food. I’m pretty sure some Sipsmith London Dry will be consumed as well, but you need a settler. Champagne’s time will come, have no fear.
It’s a good time to reflect on the wine stuff I have valued this year. Top of the list must come the “Oddities” lunches at the wonderful Rochelle Canteen. These grew out of a desire by a core of Forum users (from Tom Cannavan’s Winepages, the most civilised place to discuss wine on the Web) to drink a broader set of wines with lunch than one often gets at the many “offlines” taking place every month, and perhaps a range of wines a touch less “stellar” as well. We drink the wines (not taste 😉 ) blind, which adds greatly to the fun. You can only dine out for so long on the nailing of that Serbian Pinot, and self-ridicule is a great leveller in a world so potentially pompous as wine tasting. Needless to say, for those who know Rochelle, the food is marvellous, again in a way that contrasts with the fine dining experience so often matched with peerless Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo. Thanks go to Dave Stenton who organises these lunches with me.
Winemakers Club has been one of the great wine shop discoveries of the year. Surely the oddest range of bottles in London, yet always wines of real interest. The other bricks and mortar haven for the wine geek is Theatre of Wine (although I’ve thus far only discovered their Greenwich shop). But I must also mention online merchant Alpine Wines, despite having failed to patronise them as much as I’d have liked this year. Switzerland and Austria with a smattering of other bumpy wine locations not too far away. Swiss wine is far too neglected by we supposedly all knowing Brits, but more Savoie would make them almost perfect (please, Joelle). I have patronised Lymington’s remarkable Solent Cellar, and if I buy far less wine in 2015, I know quite a bit of it will come from here due to their adventurous buying policy and a finger firmly on several wine pulses at once.
As for wine trips, spending time with Raphael Bereche is always warm and illuminating. It helps that this rising star of the Montagne is also such a really nice man (and that he shares a love of Equipo-Navazos, so clearly has taste). He’s making some fantastic wines. Another pleasurable meeting was with Andrew Nielsen in Beaune, and I plan to get much better acquainted with the wines of Le Grappin over 2015 (hopefully starting in January with his London Tasting). I also met Kevin Courtney of Marlborough’s Riverby Estate. Having already discovered the excellent and great value wines he’s producing, it was good to know there’s yet another sympathetic wine guy behind the brand, so to speak.
I can’t leave without mentioning the Arbois trip. I’ve had a long love affair with the town, and the Jura region, since the 1980s, but in recent years our frequent trips have been mere stops en route to Geneva, Aosta and beyond. This time we managed a week to enable us to get acquainted with more new growers and to sample Arbois’ gastronomy once more. I’ve eaten some lovely meals in 2014 but a straight (if totally different) trio of Bistro des Claquets (simple filling grub with natural wines), La Balance (inventive dishes with great wine matches) and Jean-Paul Jeunet (two Michelin stars, old world charm, great value for the standard) made for a perfect visit. The local affineurs and the unbeatable delights of Hirsinger’s tartes and cakes made for more than a few grams added to the girth.
So Happy Christmas (or Happy Holidays) to everyone. Having a bit of a mobility problem this festive season (foot, tendon, ouch!), I can only offer the wise words sung by Merrythought in “The Knight”: “Hey Ho, ’tis nought but mirth, that keeps the body from the earth”. Have fun! And Cheers!