Christmas with Tom Cave



For Tom Cave, our Cellar Plan Manager, the festive holiday brings welcome respite from recent labours – that, and the opportunity to uncork a bottle or two of something truly special

For those in the wine trade, Christmas Day itself is just part of a very welcome few days’ holiday after several exhausting weeks of the busiest trading.  It’s usual for this sudden change in pace to bring on a filthy cold; almost every other trade has a relaxing run in to the holiday but not so for those in wine. Hence there is all the more need to have the right, restorative wines for the holiday.

Provided the temptation to overindulge on Christmas Eve has been avoided then a late morning, post-Matins glass of Pol Roger’s excellent non-vintage (once known and loved as ‘’White Foil”) is called for – ideally from a magnum and stock bought two to three years prior to lend that little extra ‘age’.  I might open a treasured bottle of R&L Legras’s Cuvée Hommage that we released last February (and which I rue that I didn’t buy more of).

Smoked salmon pre-empts lunch (it does have to be lunch, and not dinner, on the day) and here I’ll be looking at Riesling, specifically something rich and enveloping like 2011 Riesling Fronholz, Domaine André Ostertag or perhaps a more austere, Germanic 2012 Schieferterrassen, Heymann-Löwenstein, depending on the mood.

Then it’s on to the dining-room, and to accompany the turkey (any other bird just won’t do) and all the trimmings one needs a red solid enough to cope with sprouts, bread sauce, stuffing and the inevitable party-popper detritus sure to be found floating on top by the close of lunch.  If we’re a large party and all ages, then a sound, solid red like Stéphane Ogier’s superb 2009 L’Âme Soeur Seyssuel from that wonderfully good current drinking vintage will cope with anything thrown at it.  In a similar vein, and this is a new discovery for me, the freshness and sheer delight in Domaines Lupier’s 2010 El Terroir would be a very suitable alternative, a terrific Garnacha blend from the high tops of Navarra.

If we’re fewer, and thus a wine is called for that warrants a little more thought, perhaps I would waver from the usual Rhône-style wine and plump for something utterly traditional and satisfying. A 1996 Ch. Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Médoc will keep even those most ardent traditionalist happy, and avoiding confrontation is, after all, much of what Christmas Day is all about.

There’s really little point in wracking one’s brain for a wine to accompany Christmas Pudding but if one is needed then Lustau’s striking East India Solera sherry will prove popular with all, not least the spinster aunts. In fact, sherry deserves another mention here: a neat, 50cl bottle of any of Lustau’s excellent exemplars secreted away for the occasional furtive nip is an essential part of combating Christmas Day.

Which leads us nicely onto Port and, ideally, a fine vintage from the Douro’s golden years culminating in 1970 – although a well-chosen 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1985 will all appeal and have the necessary maturity to make for an enjoyable experience. Decanted on Christmas morning, any Port not consumed by day’s end will taste even better at the Boxing Day meet.

Cold cuts at supper cry out for a refreshing, invigorating cru Beaujolais; the 2011 Brouilly, Alain Michaud stands out as one of the best I’ve had all year. The day closes with a tot of luscious Armagnac, perhaps, if there’s the appetite, to accompany the first slice of the Christmas cake, and thoughts of how best to consume any leftovers.

Read the other posts in our series exploring the Christmas traditions of Berry Bros. & Rudd staffers, with Katie Cooper, Mark Pardoe MW and Stewart Turner.