Funny, but about the same time every year (maybe it’s when the mercury doesn’t get above 80 during the entire day, or maybe it’s when you know exactly how many shopping days are left till Christmas) I start planning the demise of some of the best bottles in my modest collection. Just last week, I moved my collection, probably more closely resembling a sparse gathering of bottles, to a new storage unit in St. Pete. St. Pete is a long way from where I live, which is precisely why I chose to store the wines there… too close to home = temptation!
Usually a few months before the holidays, I unconsciously begin planning the menu, the guest list and the wine list, although decidedly NOT in that order! First, before there can be a menu, the wine has to be decided. Obviously you cannot decide the wine until you know who you will be sharing it with, right? If my parents were in town, iced tea would be just fine. Casual friends get the casual wines (sorry casual friends). But on the rarified evening when I have a colleague over, bingo! So I will bring home all of the top bottles I hope to consume during the holidays, and plan around them. As I have written before, mine is one of the rare households where I chose the wines first, then decide what to cook. Most people, I guess, stop at the grocery and grab something, then get home and hope they have a wine to pair with it. All day I am thinking of the Sancerre at home in my fridge, which impels me to swing by the food shop and find the right shellfish. It’s almost like having auto-pilot and I like that a lot!
The holiday menu at home, at everyone’s home I would guess, ups the ante. People tend to spend more on the food, and buy better wines. At the Hebert house, my daughter and I plan a menu for each holiday dinner we will have, and I let her pick out the particulars, which are usually things she has never tried or our usual standby dishes like roast duck or crab. Gradually, I will retrieve the wines from storage and get them ready for the upcoming bacchanalia. These get together feasts are few and far between, so they really are the perfect setting for pulling out all the stops. Having lamb? Don’t settle with any Pinot Noir, get some Burgundy – Grand Cru Burgundy! Lobster and Chardonnay works just fine, but Batard-Montrachet takes it from wow to the most memorable meal of the vintage. I hope you do the same!
Shayne Hebert, AB C Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne