Why you should stock up the cellar now for the holidays: Richard Esling, November 4

Whether your cellar is a purpose-built underground room with racks, alcoves and barrels, or simply amounts to the cupboard under the stairs, now is the time to think about laying in stocks.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 3:53 pm
The Ultimate Christmas Day Case from The Wine Society

Every year we see the advertising slogans telling us to ‘Buy now whilst stocks last’, often just a marketing ploy for cashflow reasons while the warehouses are packed to the rafters.

This year, however, things may be different. Supply chain problems are very real, with containers in short supply worldwide as they are in the wrong place at the wrong time due to effects of the pandemic, staff shortages and strikes at docks, and

not forgetting a lack of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK.

While it is unlikely that there will be no wine on the shelves this Christmas, certain items may well be in short supply, so avoiding disappointment by stocking up on your favourites makes a lot of sense for Christmas 2021. With our fingers firmly crossed, this year we should be able to celebrate properly with family and friends, instead of a Zoom apéritif or huddling in the garden round a fire pit, feeling colder than the glass of Champagne in your hand.

Certainly, the advice of Steve Finlan, CEO of The Wine Society, is not to wait, due principally to the logistical challenges presented this year. In anticipation of both this and the exceptionally busy time of year, The Wine Society currently has very good stock levels, hoping not to disappoint too many of its members this year. They are also promoting an excellent range of Christmas gifts, be they for your family and friends or purely for self-indulgence.

One of the best of these is the six bottle Ultimate Christmas Day Case priced at £155, perfect for a family gathering. Start with the superb vintage Champagne Alfred Gratien Brut 2009, sipped while the bird is quietly roasting in the kitchen, or enjoyed with a plate of smoked salmon. Wonderful flavours of peach, almond and gala apples, with toasty brioche notes on the nose.

Follow-up with the white burgundies, both from the great 2019 vintage.

Domaine Cordier is from the lesser known and great value appellation of Saint Véran in southern Burgundy. From low yielding vineyards, the wine is deep flavoured with well-balanced freshness with ripe fruit flavours. Pair with fish or fowl.

Slightly higher up the scale is an organic wine from Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2019, partly matured in large oak barrels by one of the leading producers of the region. Firm, mineral palate with citrus notes and good length on the finish. Tremendous with fresh tuna, roast salmon or the bird itself.

Moving on to the two reds in the case, The Society’s Exhibition Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017, is rich and refined, with mellow, ripe, dark fruit, together with notes of fig and spice. First-class Rhone red for your roast goose, duck or beef. Château Charmail Haut Médoc 2012 is a lovely, mature claret from a property close to Saint Estèphe. Mellow, tobacco and cigar-box aromas and complex fruit flavours.

Unmissable with a hunk of Stilton and a few crackers at the end of an indulgent lunch is the last bottle in the case – Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port 2001. Beautifully mature 20-year-old vintage port poured from the decanter is the ultimate treat for the taste buds on a special day. Complex and balanced with sheer classic elegance.

Richard Esling is a wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. He runs agency and consultancy WineWyse, is founder and principal of Sussex Wine Academy and is chairman of Arundel Wine Society