Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Food & Drink
1 December 2021

Christmas is a time for wines that remind us of the small pleasures of home

What better to invoke the festive traditions of internalised resentment and reluctant compromises than a lovely Carricante?

By Nina Caplan

Christmas tends to be all about family, its presence or absence, and you don’t have to be a psychiatrist’s daughter to view that as complicated – although when the psychiatrist in question is both Australian and Jewish it certainly puts a child out of sync with peers focused on stockings, Santa and snow. These days, my reconfigured household has traditions – and complications – of its own, which, if you discount presents (and how I wish I could), largely revolve around food and drink. From roast monkfish with snails on Christmas Eve to eggnog made with Canadian rye whiskey and the almond galette des rois, with its hidden bean, that marks Twelfth Night in French tradition, we have cobbled together an idiosyncratic but delicious repertoire reflecting our status as a blended family – part English, part Canadian and part Australian, but largely based in Burgundy.

The wines are my department and this year I have decided to concentrate on indigenous varieties: vines rooted in specific places will help celebrate our internationalism. Perverse? Perhaps. If so, my father would surely have approved.

For the bubbles, whose sparkling, upward trajectory does more to lift my mood than any star-topped Christmas tree, I’ve dug out my last bottle of André and Michel Quenard’s Crémant de Savoie, made from dry but flower-scented Jacquère. As I bought this in Savoie, it will have the additional joy of pausing Christmas and transporting me back to the beautiful Quenard vineyards, dramatically backed by the mountains of the Massif des Bauges.

Still whites will include an Assyrtiko, the vibrant volcanic variety from the Greek island of Santorini, and a Hárslevelű from Hungary, spicy and perfumed. Back to France for the reds, with another Savoie grape, by another Quénard – unrelated as far as I know: Jean-François’s luscious, spice-filled Mondeuse, Elisa. And, for the turkey, the juicy cherry flavours and delicate tannins of the prettily named Trousseau grape, from the Jura. Years ago, I sneaked away from a family skiing trip and drove to the tiny village of Montigny-lès-Arsures, where Bénédicte and Stéphane Tissot turn Savagnin into superb vin jaune, the region’s yeasty, gorgeous “yellow wine”, but also make Singulier, a superb Trousseau. It isn’t cheap, but Le Beau Vin, a ripe, spiced-plum red, made primarily from the Négrette grape, is, and coming from Château Bouissel in Fronton it has the dusty warmth of high summer, too.

[See also: What does James Bond eat for lunch?]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

But why concentrate on France? My indigenous adventure is no exercise in jingoism; there’s room at my inn for all good wines, no matter their provenance. Italy has more native grapes than any other country, from Lagrein, a juicy, tannic red variety that grows in northern Alto Adige (Castelfeder make a very approachable one), or Schioppettino, a heady, raspberryish variety, to the effusive Gaglioppo made by Fattoria San Francesco down on the arch of Italy’s boot.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

Here’s a wine that seems imbued with the Christmas spirit of internalised resentment and reluctant compromises: Eruzione 1614 by Planeta, a lovely Carricante, stony and mineral with a touch of Riesling that adds fullness and a breezy tropicality. The vines grow on Etna in Sicily, but because they are above the arbitrary line that demarcates the appellation, Planeta aren’t allowed to say so: the label’s reference to an eruption is only clear if you know the subtext.

And to round out the dozen, here’s a choice: port for the traditionalists, or an amazingly well-priced magnum of Il Cascinone Barbera d’Asti (almost all the wines mentioned here are available from either The Wine Society or Jeroboams). There is nothing more gregarious than a magnum, which requires at least four drinkers, and Christmas is, after all, the most sociable time of the year. It is also the moment when a conflicting desire can become overwhelming: to push aside the plates, ignore the presents, turn down the chatter and indulge in a little peace on Earth. My compromise will be wines that offer both a talking point and a subtle reminder that, in ways both emotional and sensual, there’s no place like home.

[See also: Wine’s secret ingredient? Slowly crumbling rocks]

This article appears in the 01 Dec 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The virus strikes back