Christmas Day is spent at my sister’s. She’s my best friend, soul mate and fellow cooking obsessive. We LOVE to cook. Our mum’s a chef – it’s been one of the blessings of my life to have been raised on such exceptional home cooked food. My sister’s actually a better, more careful cook than me, (with the exception of Yorkshire puddings at which I AM SUPREME) – but I always bring the wine and get the glory that way.
I always take a Chef’s Perk bottle of nice Champagne – we like Pol Roger at Christmas. It has a sort of hearty glamour to it that is perfect for slow sipping in a busy kitchen. My sister and I get stuck into the cooking and that Pol is OURS. We talk about Christmas past and laugh a lot. We raise a glass to our gran, who died 3 years ago, and who, despite being a devout Methodist, really enjoyed a cheeky glass of Champagne. She was also a brilliant home cook, and we think of her bossing us around the kitchen.
It’s sort of a tradition that I bring Burgundy for Christmas lunch. My first job in the wine trade (20+ years ago!) was with a Burgundy specialist. I used my staff discount to splash out on some really lovely wines from producers whose fame and prices have now rocketed. Anyway, my family (who are not wine geeks) now think that’s what we should be drinking on Christmas day. And they do love it. Last year we had a Vosne Romanée from Meo Camuzet which was HEAVEN with the turkey and also a Barolo from Voerzio ( because we always cook both a turkey AND a rib of beef WITH MY YORKSHIRES – because why not). My niece’s boyfriend is a Michelin-starred chef and it was hilarious to see him being bossed around the kitchen by my sister.
My mum loves delicate whites, and has always loved Soave. So last year, and this, I’ll take some Soave for her, which I think is one of the most perfect, courtly, charming Christmas entertaining whites. She doesn’t cook on Christmas day – it’s her day off and instead she intimidates us while we’re in the kitchen while pretending not to be checking up on us.
We all love sweet wines and last year I took Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2008 from Domaine Weinbach. Hey, Alsace isn’t that far from Burgundy. Such a beautiful wine – a sweet interlude with my nephew’s lemon tart. Oh and I took a brilliantly fun and inexpensive sweet wine from Turkey, called Mahlep. It is made via arrested ferment from the fruity red, Okuzgozu, and is aromatised with extract of Mahlep, the finely powdered stone of the tiny wild cherries that grow in Turkey. It’s all cherry spice and pomegranate fruitiness – brilliant with Xmas pudding. And gold and frankincense were stablemates with a manger, after all.
But don’t ask me what we’re drinking this year. I haven’t even got a tree yet!