Birds, bubbles and Banyuls


In the past I viewed Christmas with mixed feelings at best. Childhood memories of wonderful excitement are mingled with recollections of tears, tantrums and the most disgraceful cheating to win Animal Post. Fortunately a more stately pace has been assumed in recent years. The “children” are all now in their twenties and thirties and the grandchildren are still young enough to be biddable. For the moment calm reigns and food and drink hold centre stage.

The alcoholic consumption starts just after Midnight Mass. In previous years Father Christmas, ho ho ho, has enjoyed a glass of rather fine single malt with his mince pies. This year he is looking forward to some 1976 Early Landed Hennessy Cognac, before going on his merry way. His progress can be tracked on the Norad Tracks Santa web-site – if you have a child on the verge of NOT believing, this will sort them out until next year.

For the serious action the Wright (senior) cellar has been thoroughly rifled. This is only appropriate as my sister and brother-in-law are putting on a spectacular feast. Tim is a food writer, and his festive efforts can be viewed on the Guardian blog and in between periods as an advertising executive, my sister has trained as a baker, so it is reasonable to assume that we will eat well.

No mere turkey for us, we look forward to a pheasant in a chicken in a duck, reconstructed with a variety of stuffings and great engineering skill. And just to be sure nobody goes hungry there will be smoked salmon to start, some great British cheeses from the wonderful Neal’s Yard Dairy (including the inimitable Stinking Bishop) to follow. To finish we eschew Christmas pudding in favour of sublime mince pies, nuts and a Scottish delicacy known as the cinnamon potato.

A little Laurent Perrier Brut Millesime 1999 to kick off – the only question is will we last until after midday before popping the cork? Michel Colin’s Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru, En Remilly 2004 to follow – the epitome of good white Burgundy. Rich and smooth with a fantastic mineral core – dangerously easy to drink, not necessarily perfect with salmon but too good to argue with.

We are being traditional as we stick with classic Left-Bank Claret for our multi-bird extravaganza. Ch Meyney, Cru Bourgeois St Estephe 1995 got a very respectable 89 points from Big Bad Bob and ticks all the right boxes. Elegant, mature and definitely a match for the meat feast ahead. Heading across to the Veneto for some Amarone della Valpolicella Cantina Negra 2002 with the cheese and then, for those who have not faded, the esoteric Domaine de Mas Blanc Rimage de la Coume Banyuls 1998 to see us through the afternoon.

We rarely finish in time for the Queen’s words of wisdom, but the younger members of the team are bidding to watch Wallace & Gromit a little later in the day – and I can see there may be some competition for places on the sofa to join them.