Christmas is nearly upon us, yet I am barely in a festive mood.
The humidity and warmth doesn’t jive with 35 years of Christmas experiences and habit. Nothing can be weirder, for example, than eating pizza whilst torrential rain hammers down and lightening cracks, to a soundtrack of festive songs.
I am nostalgic for the familiar lead in to December. Boozy office parties and hot water bottles; stocking-filler panics and menu planning; Christmas day walks and games by the fire – all are off the cards in KL. And so I yearn for these things. Instead, we are spending Christmas and New Year in Thailand. Not only will we be on the beach – climbing rocks and diving reefs – but eating un-Christmasy food and drinking un-Christmasy alcohol.
It’s around this time that my Dad asks me to put together a wine list. I carefully craft a selection to pair with a week’s worth of beautiful, organic meat from Oxford’s Feller Son & Daughter, usually from the Wine Society or our old local wine shop Highbury Vintners. This year there is no such fun, so I have to make do with memories of years gone by.
I can’t even console myself with slugging bottles of wine here in Malaysia during Advent. My hunger for wine has been depressed because of the supply here. I do feel content not drinking crap wine for the sake of it, but also deeply sad that I can’t indulge a passion – especially at this time of year.
But today, some early festive cheer!
My wife bought a lovely bottle when last in the UK for a friend – James – who she was hoping to catch up with for his birthday. She never did, so she brought it back in her luggage and I’ve benefited (sorry James!). And boy, this is what I’ve been missing out on. To accompany a truly epic chili con carne I made (one of my specialities – this one made with three cuts of beef; tri-tip, steak mince and chuck) I threw caution to the wind and cracked it open.
A £12 bottle (c 50 MYR – which will get you no more than vile piss out here) from John Lewis – this early drinking 2010 Crozes-Hermitage “Les Gravieres” by Jean-Luc Colombo is a classic Northern Rhone Syrah (reviewed here by Anthony Rose). As I’ve said before, I LOVE Rhone – so was very excited to try something of quality. And we weren’t disappointed. It was extremely lively on the nose – white and black pepper, pencil shavings and ink. Full but not heavy, lean and sinewy with sour plums, blackberry and thyme, this was everything I love about the region – simply an extremely interesting wine. A Christmasy wine.
So this particular bottle will shine like a sparkly bauble in my mind for a few more weeks; a reminder that there are still some things that provide comfort and enjoyment at this special time of year – even in new and unfamiliar surroundings.
Who knows, perhaps I’ll follow this up by opening that bottle of 2008 Domaine de Chevalier which I ‘accidentally’ bought at Singapore’s Changi airport…
Selamat malam and Happy Christmas