24 Dec Some Personal Thoughts on Creating Champagne Memories at Christmas
As I age, the passage of time – and everything I do in it – makes me more aware of the meaning of my decisions. Those that I make, both big and small, are overwhelmingly scrutinised ones, often aligned to a sense of life purpose, engineered for immediate pleasure and joyful recollection as the years roll on.
Not to sound sombre about it, but my life with champagne is framed by this higher-level of awareness. Far from being a quaffing exercise, champagne is something that draws me closer to a way of mindful living. The more I experience champagne’s infinite tapestry, the more aware I become of my champagne choices and preferences: Where does it come from? How are the grapes grown? How is it made? What is its story?
The journey – the experience – makes for the most beautiful memories.
As Christmas rolls around for another year, I like to think about its lasting effect on my life, and on the lives of those I love. Champagne plays a part in our seasonal quest for perpetual love, hope and happiness. Traditions have been formed, the importance of which cannot be underestimated, because they help to create our family’s story and culture, acting as a special instrument in our bond which I hope will be passed on from one generation to another.
On Christmas Eve I like to play to its mellow and magical tone by serving a prestige cuvée. It’s a time of relaxation and reflection, before the flurry of Christmas Day, an opportunity to reward ourselves and take the time to savour something wonderful. Krug Grande Cuvée is often one I will open; a wine of greatness and distinction led by pinot noir character-filled expression. Its complex blend of up to 200 parcels taken from more than 10 vintages dating back 20 or more years spends six or so years maturing in Krug’s cellars. Layers and layers of complexity unfold to reveal secondary and tertiary notes of white flowers, citrus, dried fruit, biscuit, walnut and coffee. The palate is firm and intense with cherry, hazelnut, nougat, barley sugar, brioche and honey. It’s absolutely delicious.
I have fond memories of my mother sipping Grande Cuvée on Christmas Eve. For someone who doesn’t typically like champagne, she actually quite likes this one for its pinot noir drive and intensity. I will always associate her memory at Christmas with this cuvée.
Christmas Day carries a different tempo as the excitement of food and family makes for an atmosphere of fun and chaos. Pol Roger vintage is always on pour before and during our Christmas Day celebrations. Led by 60 per cent pinot noir with the balance coming from chardonnay, it never disappoints with its sense of elegance, grace and sensual appeal. Long lees-ageing in some of the coolest cellars in Champagne (for up to eight or so years) contributes to its complexity, richness, finesse and creamy, velvety mouthfeel. Its textural appeal makes our Christmas Day feast feel delicious and luxurious. I love it.
My memories of Pol Roger are many and varied, but I will never forget my single glass of Pol Roger vintage on Christmas Day a few weeks after my first son, Oscar, was born. Following almost 12 months of champagne abstinence, that single glass was a true ‘hallelujah’ moment for me… sheer nectar from the gods.
As I write this on Christmas Eve 2017, I take stock of the year that has been and the year ahead. It has been a challenging period – and one of major change – but through it all, champagne has acted as a constant reminder to live life with a sense of celebration and mindfulness, the result of which produces beautiful memories.
As I settle down tonight with a glass of champagne in hand, another year of Christmas experiences will be forged, the memory of which will remain with me forever. Whatever you’re drinking this Christmas, I wish you joy, pleasure and everlasting memories.