Sunday, December 18, 2016

Jeanette Winterson's Christmas Days with Champagne

Because so far I've failed to get round to reading Jeanette Winterson, despite good intentions, I put Christmas Days - 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days on my wish list. And then because this is such an attractive book I bought it for myself - some things aren't worth leaving to chance.

I haven't read any of the stories yet - there hasn't really been time, but I have been working through the feast parts which are turning out to be worth the price of the book alone. I hope I like the stories as much as the collection of food, memories, and thoughts that sandwich them, because at the moment it's that wonderful feeling of having found an extremely agreeable companion - the sort who (in the written word at least) could go on to be a lifelong friend. Not least because so far when I've found mentions of wine we're in perfect accord.

Anyway, this is another book that has 'perfect stocking filler' stamped into its DNA, and as I'd quite like to read it over the 12 days of Christmas (maybe that'll work out) there's an excellent chance there will be champagne around to enjoy with it.

I spend quite a lot of time telling people to spend more (and drink less) when it comes to wine, but champagne is sort of an exception. It shouldn't be particularly cheap - part of the pleasure of drinking it is in knowing that you're committing a small extravagance when you do so. To me that means spending somewhere between £20 and £30 pounds on a bottle that's probably on offer.

There are some excellent supermarket own label champagnes but when there are only a few of you they lack the hint of decadence that years of expensive marketing has imbued the grand marques with. So, for example my mother and I have a tradition, when I go to her on Christmas Eve I take the best bottle of champagne I've got, and we drink it. In the past it's been Dom Perignon, one memorable year it was Pol Roger's Cuvée Winston Churchill, Veuve Clicquot's Grand Dame was another highlight, but those were pre mortgage days. Now it will more likely be Billecart-Salmon, Taittinger, a Laurent Perrier, absolutely anything that Pol Roger put their name on, or Bollinger because they're all really good, all can be found (just) under £30, and all of them represent a proper treat to me. Taking the last glass to bed, knowing all the fuss is over at work for another year, and winding down over a short story, is something to really look forward too.

I love champagne, and love seeing what variations on a house theme different vintages bring, but I also really value the consistency that non vintage (NV) expressions have, unless you particularly want to spend the money on vintage there's no need to do so. It's more exclusive, but not necessarily better, or more enjoyable (although it can be). However, if you want a bottle with a date that means something to you, or something that has the potential for medium to long term cellering then vintage is the way to go. If it's for keeping consult a vintage chart before buying for an indication of ageing potential, and only do it if you have somewhere sensible to cellar your wine.

There seem to be more half bottles generally available these days which I see as A Very Good Thing. Half bottles make very nice presents (feel free to consider that a hint), they're perfect for 2 people to have when neither wants to drink a lot, or for one person who wants to drink just this side of enough, and fit the bill in terms of feeling mildly extravagant.


  1. Reading Jeanette Winterson is like drinking vintage champagne from Paul Getty's cellar.
    At other times it is like drinking from a stream of pure, crystal-cold water.
    Only water can quench the thirst.
    Her novel Art and Lies and her essays Art Objects have a permanent place on my bookshelves.
    She can be both intoxicating and sobering.
    As Edna O'Brien said, the unconscious is the big room.
    Jeanette Winterson's writing comes from that big room.
    Call it a deep underground spring.
    This explains the profound connection she makes with her readers.
    I shall be reading her new book when the Christmas trees have been dumped outside on the pavements.
    Did Hans Anderson write a story about Christmas trees being thrown out with the rubbish or was it Jeanette Winterston?
    J Haggerty

  2. I like your Christmas Eve tradition with your Mother.