Grapevine Archive for Christmas

Thu 08 Oct 2015

Of Poetry and Wine

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Last Christmas we asked members to send in their favourite recipes for using up leftovers from festive meals. One member, Anne Stevenson, sent us a poem instead. As today is National Poetry Day, we thought we’d share it …


Life is too short to drink bad poetry or read bad wine.

A Loaf of Bread, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edmund Dulac

A Loaf of Bread, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edmund Dulac

And if by this turnabout of terms you’re puzzled

Please don’t think I’m off my head or sozzled.

Think of the long dependency between

Insatiable poets and the cultured vine –

Of Li Po drowning in the moon’s embrace,

Ecstasy not anguish in his face,

Of psalmist David’s purple stainéd mouth

And Keats’s draught of vintage from the south,

Of Omar’s jug of wine beneath the bough –

Forget the loaf, but hang on to the ‘thou’,

Lord Byron, lifting high his Samian bowl

To women and wine, then paying with his soul.

O poets! Neglect to your cost this golden rule:

Without a wine of the mind most poems are plonk;

Without its poetry, wine just makes you drunk.

Marry the two and merrily go to it,

But don’t go o’er the top and overdo it.

For if you do, and rue it, Christmas Cheer

Could be a memorable Lament by the New Year.


Anne Stevenson, Wine Society member





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Mon 29 Dec 2014

Buyers’ Christmas Wines

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We hope all readers had a delightful Christmas and that those still fortunate enough to be on holidays are still thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The barrage of flavours that comes with the Christmas spread lends itself to so many wines, and we had a great time suggesting bottles to go with members’ festive spreads this year, via this blog and a number of articles and videos elsewhere on The Society’s site. We see no reason not to continue in this vein now that the curtain has come down on The Big Day itself!

Here Society buyers Marcel Orford-Williams and Jo Locke MW’s thoughts on their own Christmas dinner and wine matches:

Marcel Orford-Williams

Marcel Orford-Williams

Marcel Orford-Williams: So Christmas is done for another year and a very good one it was too. I thought I had planned lunch wines well before but in fact changed my mind once, then at least three more times before deciding at the very last minute on a pair of Alsace wines.

No region of France does Christmas like Alsace. It is, according to some, where Christmas trees originated (from the town of Séléstat to be precise). Christmas Eve had been about riesling from the Saar so something else was called for. In any case the richness of all the trimmings with the stuffing I had made using chestnuts and quince called for something quite rich and so my choice fell upon a weighty but dry Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst by Josmeyer from the excellent 2005 vintage (we’re currently selling the 2007). It was just fabulous and matched the food perfectly.

As a contrast I found a pinot noir from the same vintage from Hugel. Both were equally enjoyed and the Hugel was just perfect, still sweet, round, fruity but with enough body match the bird.I shall remember this pairing for next year!

Jo Locke MW

Jo Locke MW

Jo Locke MW: Three bottles stood out over our snow-challenged Christmas in the Alps. Roederer’s Brut Premier was right on form and a perfect treat for three. Catherine Marshall’s 2012 Pinot Noir from South Africa (sadly long since sold out) seemed to have filled out and blossomed into a perfect match for our roast guinea fowl which delivered some gorgeous flavourful juices and meant we did not miss turkey and trimmings at home.

My family’s preference for rare beef meant bavette on Christmas Eve – on the local family butcher’s well-stocked counter a rather unattractive fibrous-looking, if lean, French cut which the dictionary described as ‘undercut of sirloin’. The recommended flash frying to ensure tenderness complemented a delicious bottle of Château Poujeaux 1996, from a Society mixed case of some years ago, which proved that more modest appellations can be a great buy in good vintages. No hurry to drink this one if you have any – indeed, we wished we had a second tucked away!

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Wed 24 Dec 2014

Now That’s What I Call #ChristmasWineSongs 3

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djsantaThis is the third year (click on 2013 & 2012 for previous editions) that we have asked members for wine-based Christmas songs, and yet again you didn’t let us down. After two Christmases of activity, we didn’t think there was much more to give, but how wrong we were. Here are our Top Ten #ChristmasWineSongs of 2014 (with many thanks to @gingerburn, @RiponJo, @frankstero, @jamesbeyer, @Cheoffors, @markchristie, @bjobailey, @rougeabsolut, @withnail69, @ReserveAtBents and everyone else who contributed).

DRC Him Lying On A Bed Of Straw

The Furstentum Noel

In The Deep Mid Palate

All I Want For Christmas Is Cru

Vine, Vine, Emmanuel

Syrah-mid The Winter’s Snow

Oh Carmenère All Ye Faithful

Fairytale Of New Cork

A Spaceman Came Tavel-ing (by Chris de Burgundy)

Little Plonky

You can find a fuller list by searching for #ChristmasWineSongs on Twitter.

“We wish you Maury Christmas, and an Ampuis New Year.”

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

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The deadline for Christmas delivery is now past, but our Cellar Showroom in Stevenage will be open up until Christmas Eve for those nearby or able to make a last-minute trip. We look forward to seeing you. You can view our opening times here.

Recently I recommended a rather higher-alcohol option for members seeking a little Christmas spirit; however, whilst it is certainly the season to be jolly, watching one’s intake of everything indulgent is always something to be aware of. And of course we need not overlook those who have to drive or choose not to drink.

Christmas haloFor those watching their units, or abstaining completely, here are a few options – all of which are currently available from The Showroom.

Non-alcoholic options
For those not drinking alcohol, the James White Suffolk Bramley Apple Juice and Cox Apple Juice (both £2.25 per bottle) are great non-alcoholic drinks and can easily be spiced up with the addition of mulling spices and/or even warmed up a little. The Thorncroft Elderflower Cordial (£2.50 per half) brings a slice of summer and lifts a fruit trifle with its floral notes. An effervescent offering can also be found in Gratien & Meyer Festillant Sparkling Sans Alcool (£4.25 per bottle), a sparkling wine has the alcohol quite literally spun out it by a centrifuge, but still retaining a lovely off-dry quality.

Green Ridge Chardonnay Spring (£2.50 per bottle), a blend of spring water, chardonnay and grape juice, delivers a modest 0.5% with a lovely lemony tinge.

Lower-alcohol options
However, lowering one’s alcohol intake need not involve adding lemonade or soda to our drinks, and there’s an array of bottles that not only provide palate-pleasing moments but also offer an alternative to dilution at this time of year.

Our frothy and off-dry Moscato d’Asti, Elio Perrone 2013 (£7.50) will charm you with its sweet-fruited effervescence, and at a conveniently low 5% ABV.

If seeking out lighter reds, 12%-alcohol options include the easy-drinking Pinot Noir, Vin de France, Jacques Dépagneux 2011 (£5.95) from France’s upper Aude Valley and the ripe Beaujolais-Villages, Château de Lacarelle 2013 (£7.95). These would both make great lunch options in the winter months.

Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett von Kesselstatt 2013 from The Wine Society

I’ve stocked up on the 8%-alcohol Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2013 from von Kesselstatt

For whites, The Society’s Côtes de Gascogne (£6.25) and the aromatic Bruwer’s Dry Mountain Muscat, Robertson 2014 (£5.95) from South Africa both offer lots of pleasure at under 11%. A quartet of dry favourites which weigh in at 11.5% can be found in the form of Piemonte Cortese 2013 (the Gavi grape in a lighter, easy-sipping style; £5.75), Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Bougrier 2013 (a party sauvignon from the Loire; £5.95), The Society’s Vinho Verde (a smoked-fish-friendly delight; £6.25) and the gewurztraminer-esque Hilltop Estates Cserszegi 2013 (£5.95) from Hungary.

Lastly and definitely not least, the lower-alcoholic nature of many German wines is well documented and the delicate flavours make them, for me, perfect aperitif. I recommend The Society’s Saar Riesling (9.5%, £9.50) or Ruppertsberger Hoheburg Riesling Kabinett 2013 (10.5%, £6.95). I have personally stocked up on Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett von Kesselstatt 2013 (8%, £12.95), which I’ll enjoy while peeling my parsnips and blanching my brussels in preparation for the main event!

I hope this demonstrates that lowering alcohol need not mean lowering enjoyment.

Whatever you’re drinking, I hope you have a fun, safe and Merry Christmas.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

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Sat 13 Dec 2014

Staff Picks for Christmas

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You don’t have to love wine to work here, but it helps, and every two weeks members can find a new ‘Staff Choice’ on The Society’s website, detailing something one of our team felt was so good that they wanted to share the experience.

Liz Brown

Alsace fan Liz Brown

At a time when some heads are still being scratched over which wines to enjoy on the big day, and Wednesday night’s order deadline for UK Christmas delivery fast approaching, we’ve asked a number of Society staff about what they themselves will be tucking into. We hope it provides some inspiration.

Liz Brown – Recruitment and Retention Manager
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what brings a smile to my face is a chilled glass of The Society’s Vin d’Alsace (£8.50 per bottle). It’s a versatile, dry, yet full-flavoured white. I enjoy this as an aperitif while cooking, with festive food and when just relaxing watching a Christmas movie with my family.

James Malley – Member Services Adviser
It’s just gone 7pm on Christmas Day, the Christmas presents have been opened, the frantic scramble to find enough batteries in the house to get the kids’ toys working has finished and the older members of the family passed out asleep still with their Christmas hats from the crackers still on their heads.
What better way to settle in for the evening than by opening a half bottle of The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes 2012 (£9.95 per half)? Its lovely full luscious tropical-fruit aroma and its sweet but slightly oak-influenced palate will shine with creamy, salty cheeses or rich pâté from the earlier feast, and if there is anything left from the bottle, it would make a nice little tipple to any family or guests that are round for Boxing Day.

Allan Sharman recommends Martinborough pinot noir.

Allan Sharman recommends a Martinborough pinot noir

Allan Sharman – Member Services Adviser
Pinot noir is a fabulous wine for Christmas, particularly when you find one of the quality of Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 (£13.50 per bottle) but at a very reasonable price.
This makes for a lovely glass of red wine without food, punching well above its weight and – for me – verging on being a fine wine that far outshines many a pricier bottle of red Burgundy.
With food, this Martinborough pinot is a wonderful match for the Christmas dinner – whether it be turkey, duck, lamb, gammon, or even game. It won’t overpower a nut roast for vegetarians either.
Gorgeous red-berry fruit, hints of beetroot, spice and wonderfully balanced acidity. This is sheer elegance and class that will add to our festive cheer.

Conrad Braganza – Cellar Showroom
Size matters for me at this time of year: the generosity a magnum offers reflects the season. I always seek out a large-sized bottle at Christmas and this year The Society’s Exhibition Rioja (£29 per magnum and £13.95 per 75cl bottle) will take pride of place at the Braganza dining table.
The ripe sweet fruit is a crowd pleaser and should stand up nicely to the accompaniments that make Christmas lunch such a hard meal to match. Its silky palate also imparts an elegance that lends itself to contented sipping after the meal and prior to 40 winks. As they say in Spain, Feliz Navidad!

Leflaive-loving Paul Trelford

Leflaive-loving Paul Trelford

Paul Trelford – Head of Copy
Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne Oncle Vincent 2013 (£16 per bottle). Leflaive is one of my favourite white Burgundy growers. To me, his wines are the perfect embodiment of what Burgundy does so well with the chardonnay grape: luxurious complex rich oaky flavours while retaining a genuine freshness and bite. Unfortunately, his wines are usually out of reach for a father of two on an honest copywriter’s salary. So when I spotted this wine at less than £20 a pop and on which Olivier had been proud to put his legendary uncle’s name, I jumped at the chance. The 2012, now sadly sold out, certainly didn’t disappoint. It was exquisite. Gloriously opulent and nutty on the nose with a palate combining pure citrus fruit with tropical pineapple notes all underwritten by a mouthwatering, oh-so-moreish freshness. Such complexity and length! If the 2013 is half as good I’ll be a happy bunny with a glass of this and a well-stocked cheeseboard come the Queen’s speech.

Shaun Kiernan – Fine Wine Manager
I’ll be enjoying a delicious Half bottle of Williams & Humbert As You Like It Medium Sweet (£22 per half), which was one of my WOW wines of last year. Just so many different flavours going on in the glass. Definitely one for a cold Boxing Day afternoon by the fire watching some sport too.

Gareth Park – Marketing Campaigns Manager
Alheit Cartology, Western Cape 2012 (£24 per bottle; low stock). This South African Chenin stopped me in my tracks earlier this year and has to be one of the most outstanding whites I’ve tasted while working at The Wine Society. Made in ridiculously small quantities, this is deep, rich and wonderful and will be replacing the tried and trusted Exhibition White Hermitage on Christmas day. High praise indeed!

Buyer Jo Locke is planning a sparkling Christmas

Buyer Jo Locke is planning a sparkling Christmas

Joanna Locke MW – Buyer
Christmas will certainly include fizz – either The Society’s Champagne (£29.50 per bottle or £19.92 when you buy six in our current Champagne offer) which I am always proud to serve, or something more local which might be our own excellent Crémant du Jura (£12.50) or something as yet undiscovered.

Jon Granger – Tastings Team
We will be devouring a turkey on Christmas Day with all the trimmings. This generally consists of potatoes (par boiled, fluffed and roasted with garlic & rosemary), sprouts (chopped up with chestnuts, cream & bacon), carrots a la Tom Kerridge, honey-roasted parsnips, cabbage (gently fried with ginger) and gravy.
Rather than looking for a wine to match any specifics from the cornucopia of flavours on the plate I would always try to find a wine that sits well with all of it. Year after year I have found that southern Rhône blends work really well for me.
My wine of choice for this year would be Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Chapouins Vieilles Vignes, Famille Perrin 2006 (£40): a wonderful full-flavoured wine dominated by juicy ripe grenache from old vines and from a very good vintage. Still tasting quite youthful with lots of sweet fruit and well-balanced tannins and acidity, perfect for all those yummy flavours on the plate but with the potential to age gracefully over the next 10 years or so too.

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Fri 12 Dec 2014

20-Year-Old Tawny For Christmas

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Sadly my dwindling stock of mature vintage port is not readily available this Christmas, so I decided to opt for a 20-year-old tawny port comparison.

Port because the gathered assembly regard it as essential to Christmas as it is traditional, perfect with nuts, cheese and those splendid preserved fruits that sit in the sideboard and taste even better at leisure on Boxing Day or the day after.

Indeed, my colleague Janet Wynne Evans has also pointed out in the video below that tawny port is often a better match than vintage for cheese.

20-year-old because it is the perfect age for tawny port. A comparison because there will be several of us and one bottle would simply not have been enough – and besides which some of us need little if any excuse to compare different wines.

They will be served cellar cool to an eager audience, and my guess is that Taylor’s (£34) may win for finesse and class. Graham’s (£37) will score well on account of its depth and rich fruit, and that Noval (£40) will seduce us with its charm.

I look forward to finding out.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

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Fri 05 Dec 2014

Society Members’ Christmas Favourites

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Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée 2009 from The Wine Society

A homegrown star at all of the tastings: Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée 2009

Well, the decorations are up in the streets, the whacky jumpers are lining the shops and the John Lewis advert has made us all cry. This can only mean one thing: Christmas is coming.

For many, Christmas is a time of joy, happiness and late-night panic buying. For the little elves in the Tastings Team, however, tucked away in a little corner of The Wine Society it is time to tackle the nightmare before Christmas of food and wine matching.

As with previous years, we arranged a series of informal tastings across the country dedicated to Christmas food and wine. This time, it was a chance for me to put together a list of 20 wines that I believe to be ideal for any Christmas situation; from light, easy-drinking party wines to lusciously sweet/fortified wines for the quiet moments once everyone has gone to bed.

On Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th November, I was joined by my fellow Tastings colleague Jon Granger in Leicester and Bradford in order to showcase these wines for a number of members. For those that have been to a Wine Society tasting of a similar theme before you will know that at the end of the evening we like to take a quick vote in order to ascertain the favourite wines of the evening.

For the Christmas Recipe Tastings, however, I decided to break up the voting into the five separate categories. By doing this, my ‘20 best wines for Christmas’ became your ‘Wine Society Member Top 5 Christmas Essentials’.

Here were the results from both days:

Leicester AND Braford: Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuveé 2009 (£27.50 per bottle)

Party Wine
Leicester: Saint-Chinian, Domaine Raynier 2013 (£5.95 per bottle)
Bradford: Duo Des Deux Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2013 (£6.25 per bottle)

Christmas Day
Leicester AND Bradford: Domaine Cordier, Pouilly-Fuissé Vers Pouilly 2011 (£25 per bottle)

Boxing Day and Beyond
Leicester: The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2007 (£13.95 per bottle)
Bradford: Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Von Kesselstatt 2013 (£12.95 per bottle)

‘And Relax…’
Leicester: The Society’s Exhibition Tawny Port, 10 years old (£17 per bottle)
Bradford: Maydie Tannat 2011, 50cl (£13.95 per bottle)

Special mention should be given to both the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2011 (£17.50 per bottle and £9.50 per half bottle) and the half bottle of Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Muscat, 12 years old (£16 per bottle) that both came to within two votes on both evenings!

Following this, it was up to Tastings & Events manager Simon Mason and Tastings & Events co-ordinator Emma Briffett to take the reins in Reading and Swansea on the 1st and 2nd of December respectively. Amazingly, both evenings shared the same result as Bradford a week previous!

So, it would seem that no Wine Society Members Christmas Holiday period is complete without:

Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuveé 2009 (£27.50 per bottle)
Duo Des Deux Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2013 (£6.25 per bottle)
Domaine Cordier, Pouilly-Fuissé Vers Pouilly 2011 (£25 per bottle)
Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Von Kesselstatt 2013 (£12.95 per bottle)
Maydie Tannat 2011, 50cl (£13.95 per bottle)

Merry Christmas!

Matthew Horsley
Tastings & Events Team

Categories : Wine Tastings
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Mon 23 Dec 2013

Wine, Christmas & Song

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noel montreuilLast year, at this time, we came up with a few ideas for Christmas wine songs, tweeted them and asked punning Twitter followers to come up with their own. It was fun, so we did it again this year. If you can’t deal with plays on words, whether clever or corny, look away now! Here are some of the best suggested songs.

Cinsault Claus Is Coming To Town – Silent Nyetimber – Blue (Nun) Christmas – Warre-king in the Air – I Wish It Could Be Cristal Everyday – Stop the Cava-lry – Ding Dong Merrily on Aÿ – Angels From The Reims Of Glory – Dão They Know It’s Christmas – Maury’s Boy Child – While Shepherds Watched Their Phylloxera By Night – Rudolf The Full-Bodied Red-Nosed Reindeer – Hark! the Herald Angelus Sings – Godello Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – Rioja-ing Around The Christmas Tree – It Came Upon A Midnight Kir – Yquem All Ye Faithful – It’s Bourgogne To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Many thanks to the following Twitterers for their contributions – @VinopolisTom @MadeleineMehalko @woodswine  @gwyddeles @Gastropuppy  @JamesHubbard113 @CarringtonsMcr @RiojaPlease @johnjdc  @HoggGoblin

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

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Thu 19 Dec 2013

Christmas In The Cellar Showroom

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The deadline for UK Christmas orders has passed, but members living in the vicinity of Stevenage can still stock up at The Cellar Showroom until 4pm on Christmas Eve.

Christmas in The Cellar ShowroomI have just popped down to see Lisa and the team, who have decked the halls in some style (pictured). Over 800 wines, spirits and accessories are available to buy on the spot, but if you want something in particular you can pre-order wines for collection in store (via the website or by telephone) until noon on Monday.

Lisa had just taken delivery of a fresh selection of fizz, including magnums of our own cava, which struck me as a particularly good option for festive celebrations, and the wine range has been supplemented with some tempting food gifts and nibbles. This year’s selection has particularly rich pickings (in more ways than one) for the sweet of tooth; look out in particular for the giant cupcakes!

Both the Showroom’s Enomatic wine-dispensing machines are currently free of charge, and will be until New Year’s Eve, and are filled with the team’s choices for Christmas drinking. Feel free to pop in for a taste.

View full opening times and directions to The Cellar Showroom

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Mon 16 Dec 2013

The Season Of Advint: Staff Tips For Christmas

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At the end of November I asked the team here at Stevenage what they would be drinking over Christmas. While some had decided to go with something on the spur of the moment, many had planned ahead – we have shared some of those ideas on The Society’s Twitter feed (using the hashtag #Advint).

Given that tomorrow (Tuesday 17th) is the last day for ordering to ensure UK delivery before Christmas, I thought I would share those plans not yet tweeted – perhaps you may wish to try the suggested wines yourself over the festive period and put them on your final pre-Christmas order.

Sauternes 2010 BW4182Tom Buzzard, Member Services adviser: Forcing the family to break tradition this year on Christmas Eve, with Sauternes 2010 replacing the same old Sherry. Fingers crossed they like it as much as me!

Gareth Park, campaign manager: Christmas Eve – sparkling Filipa Pato 3B Rosado, in the hot tub with my Christmas hat on (there’s an image for you!).

Stephanie Searle, Tastings Team: Accompanying the starter of goat’s cheese and smoked salmon on lightly grilled toasted squares will be Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 with its distinctive flair.

SamosLaura Vickers, copywriter: Samos Anthemis 2007 with Christmas pud and/or mince pies – a revelation, and crazy good value!

James Malley, Member Services adviser: I am looking forward to sitting down on Boxing Day with a few glasses of The Society’s Exhibition Tawny Port, 10 years old, a cheeseboard and relaxing in front of the TV.

CH331Sam Vooght, Showroom superviser: Christmas Eve – The Society’s Champagne, The Society’s Vin d’Alsace, Chateau Pey La Tour Réserve 2009.  Christmas Day – more Champagne, The Society’s Exhibition Reserva Rioja 2007, The Society’s Exhibition  Sauternes 2010 & Nuy Red Muskadel, plus something special from my own Ridge Vineyards collection.

Janet Wynne Evans, specialist wine manager: Afraid I don’t even know where I will be spending Christmas yet (probably at Leigh Delamere services) let alone what I may be uncorking, but it will hopefully include the last knockings of some very ancient purchases from a glorious bygone age when we weren’t saving up for retirement: 1990 Bolly, 1992 Bonneau du Martray, 1981 Leoville Las Cases and a 1999 Gevrey from Mortet. There will be some 1994 Madeira just to help things along. Think of all that in a car park off the M4 with a starter from Harry Ramsden’s, mains from Burger King and everything else from M&S!

Whatever you’re drinking this Christmas, may it be a Merry one!

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

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