Jancis Robinson at the best time to drink expensive wine

We always drink good wine around Christmas, but the only time we opened a bottle of really, really good (read: expensive) was last year, when social gatherings were limited to one household. family and the first time it was just the two of us.

In 1993, a fine wine dealer tracked down a 12-bottle case of Ch Lafleur 1982 in our cellar. He had a client who would pay a lot for it and he convinced me to trade that delicious box of bordeaux red for wine then worth a total of £1,415: six bottles of less rare bordeaux red. rather, Ch Latour 1970 (unfortunately long drunk), a box of 1983 Ch de Fargues (a particularly good Sauternes – one bottle still exists) and a box of 12 burgundy, vintage 1989 bottles of Domaine Armand Rousseau’s famous Chambertin, then sold for £540, the equivalent of £45 a bottle.

Today’s burgundy lovers will be in awe at this price. It’s a geographical measure increase interest in burgundy, made in much less quantity than bordeaux. A rare wine like Chambertin from one of Burgundy’s most admired producers sells for thousands of pounds a bottle today. And the 1989 one, a good vintage, really can’t be bought (but now even more expensive than the 1982 Ch Lafleur).

Over the years, I have given away a few bottles from my 1989 Chambertin container, including one to my brother-in-law, who insisted on keeping it in the wine rack in his overheated kitchen. But last year a bottle was still in our cellar (temperature controlled to 13C), so when Christmas socialization was effectively canceled in the UK, I decided this was the bottle to go to. compensate for the absent children, grandchildren, siblings and strays. Besides that, I’ve always thought that richer burgundy cakes, or Pinot Noir grown elsewhere, go especially well with turkey and the sweet side dishes often referred to as “garnishes.” “.

In 2020, our Christmas turkey was, amazingly, cut in half, the other half eaten by our son and his family who live 20 minutes away. the set. We needed the distraction and got it in an assortment of sweet delicacies that only a really good burgundy can provide, with notes of mushrooms and violets that build up over time. These notes are even stronger in the inch or two that we keep turkeys cold on Gift Day.

Usually, we’ll be around 20 people around the Christmas dinner table. When the grandchildren arrived, my husband’s tendency to invite anyone who might like a seat had to be restrained. Over the years, perhaps the least appreciated guest has been the Russian girlfriend of someone we only knew vaguely, who spent most of Christmas Day perusing Hello! magazine. Many lone neighbors seem to have preferred our hospitality.

While the kids were growing up, we had a bunch of families from far and wide at the table, especially from New York, Singapore, Auckland and Adelaide. Australians love to celebrate Christmas in the cold and are very welcoming, especially because they bring along Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most celebrated wine.

But in the pre-Uber era, getting them back to the hotel was the devil’s own duty. It’s Nick’s job, actually, after he, as usual, cooks and does most of the cleaning after Christmas dinner. (As for my contribution, pulling the cork was tough, I can assure you, and I graciously made the brandy buttercream.)

For at least two Christmases, we’ve entertained the excellent Robert Thomson, also Australian, then editor of Life & Arts (this was the Pre-FT Weekend Magazine) and now director of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He has arrived with his elegant wife, Ping. They got married while he was working in Asia, and Christmas Day was their wedding anniversary.

Over the years, another family has joined us for Christmas dinner with their mother, celebrated Hanukkah with her family, offering a range of thin smoked salmon on rye bread. before the main meal while we indulged in champagne. After the couple separated, the task of smoked salmon fell into the hands of our eldest daughter. When I asked about her memories of our family Christmases, they included “Chip Kettle before they became famous” and “you always have a pen and paper to jot down letters with.” thank you that we need to write”.

She also reminded me that on Christmas Eve we would put my dad’s stuffed photo socks in front of the fireplace, each with a child’s name on it, then lock the door to that room and hide the key. On Christmas morning, she claimed that we tortured them by saying things like “We’ll just make a cup of tea” or “Let me put the oven on” before finding the keys (not at the right time). are given) and put them in a fragrant room. with the fragrance of the Christmas tree, mixed with the scum of madeira that was left for Father’s Christmas.

The three of them must have been impatient to open their presents. Once, our son got so out of control that we had to put the tree and the presents inside a playpen.

The first time the girls took on the Christmas table decorations – my mother-in-law’s floral embroidered tablecloths and silver with lots of candles – seemed like a big deal. It also gives me more time to indulge in booze. White is for those who love red and lush red (usually not bordeaux, too dry) is for the rest.

Towards the end of the meal, I put a range of sweet wines on the table, almost always including a pitcher of port (great for Stichelton), before we all head back to the fire to sleep or Trivial Pursuit or , for each child, a final gift that I have carefully set aside. Quite unnecessary, of course. But fortunately, Christmas for most of us, is not a necessity.

Follow Jancis on Twitter @JancisRobinson

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