As I open day 3 of my advent calendar (a malnourished robin) I realise ‘tis the season to do an inventory of the cellar (check the cupboard under the stairs) and make sure I have laid-in sufficient supplies of the requisite bottles to facilitate a moderately merry Christmas. To the surprise of many I keep a pretty Spartan spirits store for 11 months of year. This is partially because wine is my stock in trade and I require little other diversion but also because if treats are at hand (cheese and chocolate are both fine examples) I feel it is my duty to consume them – all.
December, however, is the time to replenish stores in the anticipation of guests and a bit of festive cheer. Decent gin (Tanqueray or Sipsmiths) and Cointreau are both on the shopping list. These are the base ingredients (along with ice, egg white and lemon juice) for a ‘White Lady’ cocktail. These are highly-restorative but must be consumed in moderation - Mr Yapp senior’s interpretation could blind a horse. Good vodka, dry sherry, tomato juice and horseradish are equally essential to facilitate the production of Blood Marys – the only cocktail one should ever contemplate in daylight. Cognac we keep anyway – principally for (ahem) culinary purposes but we might also stretch to a bottle of Bas Armagnac and a single Islay malt for those that are that way inclined. (Lagavulin 16 year-old will do nicely if you’re stuck for a gift idea mother).
On a more effervescent note it’s a good idea to have a few bottles of Clairette de Die somnolent in the shed. This fruity fizz, from the foothills of the Alps, weighs in at just 7 °alcohol and is a great mid-morning pick-me-up served with a generous slice of panettone. A bottle or two of a good ‘growers’ Champagne and / or sparkling wine are also required for celebratory cork popping on the 25th and 31st.
My perennial and immodest wine buying habit should ensure we have appropriate bottles to broach with turkey, ham, smoked salmon etc., but a decent tawny port or Banyuls would be a welcome addition to deploy with mince pies and Christmas cake or pudding. We will also need a ‘pouring’ red and white for friends, neighbours and relatives who aren’t committed oenophiles but would certainly take umbrage if we sold ‘em short. You can’t go far wrong with the Saumur blanc from the Cave de Saumur - a dry, zesty, un-oaked Chenin that we have tried and tested as a versatile crowd-pleaser. While it's red sibling is perfectly agreeable I’m tempted to trade up to Fredrik Fillitreau’s organic ‘Château Fouquet’ – a toothsome Cabernet Franc brimming with bright, berry-fruit that should keep everyone smiling.
Although I consumed my allotted share of beer as an undergraduate I am tempted to invest in a wee 5 litre keg of Bath Ales’ ‘Gem’ – a lovely, local, amber brew that might incentivise the washer-upper. A couple of cases of sparkling water and some fizzy pop for the kinder and I think I’ve got it covered.