Christmas with Mark Pardoe MW



For Mark Pardoe MW, our illustrious Wine Buying Director, Christmas is business as usual – in as much as he intends to be on hand throughout to provide just the right bottles for all eventualities

Our Christmas tends to be an extended affair. The family’s diaspora means that the holiday often lasts from Christmas Eve until the 28th December, with “home” and “away” fixtures throughout but, as a wine merchant, I will be required to cater for all events.

Christmas Eve is generally quiet, and shared with any longer-distance arrivals. The key here is discretion, neither too much nor too heavy – to keep the powder dry for the morrow. A gentle white and a supple, fruity red will please most palates. This year I’ll take one of our new Sicilian whites, like Marco Sferlazzo’s Catarratto, although I’m still loving Beaujolais’s renaissance, typified by the Geoffroy family’s Côte de Brouilly. Their Cuvée Godefroy in 2011 both satisfies and soothes. And so to bed, to rise on the big day with a clear head.

Christmas morning is Champagne. There is no alternative. The fire is lit, the presents ready to distribute and smoked salmon and brown bread bites, lemon and black pepper are all ready to one side. Whilst I still really appreciate the big names, I am increasingly drawn to our Growers’ Champagnes for something more personal, more connected to the soil and the person who made it. Something like Guy Larmandier’s Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, a discrete yet beautiful expression of Chardonnay from the Grand Cru village of Cramant. For the late lunch, if it has to be turkey (and I sometimes win a roast beef concession) then it’s red Burgundy, whatever the result, and it’s the centrepiece. The preceding white, served with a simple starter, will be vinous rather than aromatic – a Grüner Veltliner, a white Rhône or a Fiano for example. I think this year the latter (Italy again, I know), but I am getting so much pleasure from David Berry Green’s discoveries in his adopted home. Villa Diamante’s Fiano di Avellino Congregazione has the weight and texture of a fine Chardonnay, but is intriguingly seeded with herbal and citrus notes.

For the main event, I will have a look in the racks. I have some 2001 Vosne-Romanée, Malconsorts given to me by Sylvain Cathiard 10 years ago, which should be really hitting its straps now. Decanted, but only just before service, and moderate pourings into large glasses – a wine to grow through the meal, for lingering over and savouring. Should I keep the bottles for another day (as Burgundy of that age is hard to find commercially) I would look at the 2008s, which are just coming into form. Olivier Bernstein’s classy village Gevrey is good value, or I will push the boat out to his Champeaux for a real treat. Thereafter, we graze. Cheeses, lighter and heavier desserts come and go, interwoven among games and chat around the table. If more refreshment is required, the last of the Champagne is welcome, as is a refreshing, late-harvest palate cleanser. Vincent Carême’s Demi-Sec Vouvray from the great Le Clos vineyard will keep us energized.

Once “on tour”, I favour the more esoteric. Last year, for the red, I produced a magnum of Mas Champart’s brilliant Clos de la Simonette, a garrigue-infused, Mourvèdre-based St Chinian. Alas, only bottles remain in stock now. This year, my eye is caught by a Priorat in magnum, the 2006 Clos Monlleó from Sangenís i Vaqué. There’s something alluringly unruly about Priorat. This will keep the relatives either on their toes, or comatose.

And for the in-fills through the season, when just a glass is required or unexpected hospitality offered, I default to the Berry Bros. & Rudd Own Selection. The new Reserve range, with red, white and rosé are admirable, and the characterful Extra Ordinary White from Bordeaux, being both fruity and full-flavoured, and our Argentinian Malbec for the red, with its rich damson fruit, are wines for all eventualities.

When everyone has gone, and the house is back together, there’s time for a shared indulgence. Feet up, something light to nibble and Vernay’s Condrieu, Côteau de Vernon. In silence.

Read about Christmas with our Wine Club Manager, Katie Cooper, and look out for our Head Chef Stewart Turner’s seasonal line-up tomorrow.

Attend an exclusive dinner with Mark Pardoe MW with our new series of events: The Buying Director’s Table.