Buying Christmas presents? They’re pretty easy, even if it means a bit of planning because of COVID. Settling on what to cook on the 25th? With so much choice, there might be a bit of indecision, but it doesn’t last long.
When it comes to wine, however, that is a different story. What can we drink that is special enough for the day… and will look impressive on Instagram? While I’ve a collection of lovely wines, I can’t help feeling inadequate when it comes to choosing bottles for special occasions. My wines are not starry enough. Or if they are, they won’t go with the food (should’ve thought about that earlier). Or they need another few years.
While I’ve always liked wine, I didn’t get into it seriously until about 15 years ago. I only started building a collection in 2011 when my kitchen was redone and I had room from an Artevino wine cabinet. Before then, I bought good stuff – but for drinking, not saving. When I did build a collection, I kept buying them in sixes or twelves. Just how many pictures can I post of Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2012 and still get likes?
I like to think I’m above feeling pressure from Instagram. It’s not a contest, I tell myself. It’s all about seeing what friends are up to, and stay connected wherever they are in the world. I love Instagram for the inspiration I get for new restaurants, or introducing me to different producers. But this all changes when it comes to Christmas wines. I see line up after line up of wines I can only dream of tasting. Is my 2005 Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux from a very minor Chateau up to snuff? Will I get accused of infanticide if I crack open a bottle of top notch South African Pinot that everyone knows needs another five years, at least. I could, of course, not post any pictures at all – but then I wouldn’t look like a credible wine professional would I? After all, it is the unwritten law that – if you want to be taken seriously in wine – you must broadcast what unicorn you have just slain to accompany your Christmas feast.
It’s bad enough that I can’t drink nearly as much as I used to. I go days without a glass of wine now, in the hope of better sleep. The Coravin is my best friend. This, in turn, adds additional pressure on what to drink on Christmas Day. It has to be special because I am drinking less, so nothing short of amazing will do.
I do find joy in searching through my wine store/cellar to see if there’s anything I have forgotten about. I don’t bother with any system as generally, I have a pretty good idea of what is in there. Lots of Riesling… why do I have so much Riesling? It’s not even my favourite grape.
This year, I fished out a Marc Tempé ‘Zellenberg’ Pinot Blanc 2013 which I’d overlooked on many other occasions. When I added the bottle to my collection, it was listed by the glass in so many places, including my own wine bar. Lovely wine. But this bottle hadn’t aged well under my watch. The core of the wine had gone completely, leaving just sweetness. So I swung completely the other way and cracked open the remaining half bottle of some previously Coravined Urbina Rioja Reserva Especial 1998. No idea when the needle first went in. Sometime this year, I’m guessing. It still tasted great. Mellow and evolved, but still with a good bit of life – dried plums, tobacco, forest floor. We’d stashed this bottle when what seemed to be an everlasting vintage finally came to an end. And it was just perfect with our very late turkey lunch.
I might not have opened rare bottles of wine or spenny, cult Burgundies. But I did still post the wines on Instagram. What a relief when I saw someone else post an Urbina Reserva Especial from a younger vintage. At least I have some bragging rights left.