No posts in December (except a brief one to praise Paul Strang's book on South West France which has had the inevitable effect of making me want to return this summer to check out all things I missed last year). Things got hectic - as always - and I thought people would prefer to receive their wines than read my rants.
Most things went OK. There was the odd wrong delivery, of course, and always the ones that are most difficult to put right (a case of Monte Rosola's "Crescendo" delivered to Ireland in place of their "Corpo Notte" was by far the worst example) but I think (hope) everyone had the wines they wanted on their table over the holiday season. We did!
We have been drinking through some of the more mature wines on the list and in our own cellar such as Raymond Usseglio's superb 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This is everything I want a Chateauneuf to be: spicy but smooth, rich and complex but not so heavy I need a knife to slice it with. On NYE, we opened (from the same vintage) a magnum of Pegau and bottles of Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraphe. The Beaucastel showed extremely well (as it has from a relatively young age) although I would like to see what it is going to be like at the next decade's end; the Pegau classic. VT was, as I too often find, a big disappointment with a little too much oxidation (the last bottle of 2003 was so ghastly that I am finding it difficult to open another!). Raymond - or, rather, Stef - Usseglio's wine held up extremely well in this exalted company. I wouldn't particularly rank them as they are quite different; only the VT was below par.
For Christmas Day, with twelve at the table (OK, so four of them were under 12 years old), I decided against the very best (apart from anything else, some of them might not know a decent wine if it bit them) but still had to have something good enough for us to enjoy. The day started early: our oldest woke up at 3.15 although it was three hours later when we said they could all come through to show us what was in their stockings. By 11am, the first family members arrived so we cracked open a Rasteau Rancio from Domaine Bressy-Masson which struck me as a very sophisticated way to get into the day: sweet but with a dryness about it that left you searching for the bowl of nuts that we had overlooked.
A bottle or two from Champagne Michel Rocourt for those who don't like Buck's Fizz (personally I prefer their music, and that's really saying something!) with the traditional brunch then a break before lunch where the wine choice was Pascal Perrier's Domaine de Gachon 1999 St Joseph. This wine has been sitting around for seven years and has finally come together. Almost Burgundian in its finesse but with classic mature Northern Rhone Syrah fruit including a whiff of the bacon fat associated with Cote Rotie. Several bottles later, we completely forgot about pudding wines although this was more than remedied on NYE with a bottle of Domaine Bernardins' Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise "Hommage", a Rancio of sorts which tastes more like Christmas than some of the mince pies pushed my way over the last few weeks. Actually, as someone who usually finds Muscat rather insipid, I have to confess a liking for their regular Muscat. I only hope some of the people who bought this by the case recently will let a few bottles mature (don't let anyone tell you that fortified Muscats don't age; it's a lie to keep you off track and keep all the best wines for the person giving you this misinformation!)
Happy New Year - and I will try to be more observant about posting this year (note, this is not a resolution).