winter vineyard 2009
We have just returned from a mad pre-Christmas Wine trip by car to the UK to visit the necessary “rellys” and friends, exchange pressies and deliver festive bottles of Vilmart champagne to all our
nearest and dearest. I suppose one of the teensy downsides of becoming the sole representative of a chic, exclusive artisan and award winning grower Champagne house, is that everyone expects to be given a bottle of the magic fizz at Christmas time! Not that we are complaining – we know how much pleasure a sip of sensational Coeur de Cuvée can bring!

Also, the exercise ensures sufficient allocation of boot space for the slightly bonkers return journey, which requires us to load up with a wild and whacky range of non – French wines bought in the UK to bring back down to the Riviera to use on our WSET® courses. We have quite a run of courses planned for the first quarter of 2010 and naturally, as per the WSET® syllabus requirements, need to have particular wines from all around the world for the practical (and very pleasant) side of our courses. You try sourcing a Hunter Valley Semillon, and Austrian Grüner Veltliner or a Dry Oloroso Sherry here in b****y France.!! Love ‘em to bits, of course, but it is a tad frustrating that an entire wine producing nation has no interest (or belief that anyone else could have an interest) in tasting anything other than French wine. We have yet to suffer a routine Customs search at Calais by perplexed Douane officials if they open our boot and find 100+ bottles of eclectic “foreign” wines stashed – one day, it’s bound to happen.
The snow chased us down from North Yorkshire to Dover: we crossed the channel OK, only to meet the blizzards head on in Northern France, which slowed down our homeward journey and meant an extra unscheduled stopover en-route. As the snow and ice got heavier and road conditions worsened, we hoped that Day 2 of our journey might see us as far as a Northern Rhône overnighter – stupidly started fantasising about a white St Joseph followed by a hearty Crozes Hermitage to accompany dinner that
night. But, the Great Snow God was in charge and forced us off the road and to head for shelter in Maçon by mid-afternoon. So Supper was a more Burgundian affair with a simple Maçon Blanc Chardonnay to accompany the snails (curious how when in Burgundy, one cannot avoid the lure of these funny little molluscs with garlicky butter…), then a more robust Beaujolais, a Morgon, with our Côte de Boeuf. All extremely pleasant and a testimony to the old Food & Wine Matching adage that you won’t go far wrong if you stick to the traditional fare of the region with the local wines.
So here we are, counting down the hours to the BIG DAY! I would imagine most of you have already decided on what you are going to drink to celebrate Christmas 2009. Funnily enough, having ranted
earlier at how frustrating it is to be limited to just French wines when living in France and envying the UK for their hugely diverse and exciting global wine availability, when it comes to Christmas, you just can’t beat the classics! Champagne is a must – I know, I’m trumpeting the “V” word again (Vilmart), but myself and my marvellous husband will be indulging in a glass (or 3) of the classic vintage Grand Cellier d’Or 2003 as we open pressies. Lunch (for the first time in I think, 25 years….) is being cooked by SOMEONE ELSE!!!. All we have to do is show up at 1.30pm brandishing a couple of pre-chilled Vilmart Grand Cellier NV and we will be admitted and fed and entertained royally! The Turkey feast
itself will, I gather, from one of my ex WSET® pupils who has kindly invited us, is to be accompanied by a trip round France encompassing the Loire, Burgundy and Bordeaux – can’t wait.
Never one to leave the apron hung on its peg for long, and not having had the task of preparing the
festive bird itself, we are having a very English Boxing Day Buffet for friends and with a Glazed Ham, a Home-made Raised Pork Pie with Piccalilli & Winter Coleslaw followed by Raspberry & White Chocolate Trifle & Mince-Pies, we are sticking local, however, for the wine. Chateau de Chaberts in the Var with their cut above Provence wines will provide the quaffers for our Boxing Day gathering.
The trick is to spend “just the right amount” on your Party Wines: go too cheap and you’ll find your indoor house plants suffering from a surfeit of poured away plonk and all your guests will remember is
the hangover. Don’t raid the cellar for the good stuff, either – nobody will notice or be nearly reverential enough if the atmosphere is convivial. Take the time to select a pair of good “all rounders” to see you through and to please everyone. As we seem to be sticking to France, may I suggest you turn your thoughts to the Southern Rhône for the Red and to the lesser known villages (avoid the mad prices demanded by Châteauneuf du Pape, for example) – go for a Visan, a Séguret or a Vacqueyras. For a
White, the fashionable variety at the moment is Sauvignon Blanc – no need to go over the top with a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé – try a straight varietal from a good producer of one of the above – my mind has wandered to the Sancerre producer La Porte, whose simple Vin de Pays Sauvignon Blanc (from the same vineyard area – durrr!) but at half the price,is a no brainer!

That’s it folks! Fine Wine Works is signing off for 2009 – your last chance to share any quality time with us is at our New Year’s Eve event in Cannes on 31st December (check out our Forthcoming Events page for details).

Bon Fete!

Helen Brotherton