From the tasting team

‘How I holiday’: wine picks from the team

18 Dec, 2020

From the best Champagne to old-vine shiraz.

The tasting team reviews thousands of wines among them each year. But what do they drink for fun? We ask them to share the top traditions and wines they wouldn’t celebrate the season without.

James Halliday
Which wines are guaranteed to please as special gifts this year?
Any good Burgundy, even if it’s not quite up to Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
What are your favourite festive traditions?
Catching trout in the morning and eating them raw with soy and wasabi for lunch.
What will you be cracking on New Year’s Eve to see out 2020?
Champagne, of course.

Four outstretched hands holding flutes and one person pouring sparkling wineJames Halliday is all about the clink of a great glass of bubbles to ring in the new year.

Tyson Stelzer
Which wines are guaranteed to please as special gifts this year?
Look past the supermarket specials and order a case direct from your favourite winemaker for your Christmas treats this year. We all got behind the ‘buy direct and buy local’ push when Covid hit, and winemakers still need our support as much as ever. My sure-fire winners this year are Tasmanian sparkling, and Margaret River cabernet and chardonnay. The sweet spot right now is between $40 and $80 per bottle.
What will you be cracking on New Year’s Eve to see out 2020?
There will be a lot of mixed emotions about the end to this bizarre year. I’ll be celebrating it with the best: Champagne from 2008, the most sublime and enduring vintage in at least a generation.

Ned Goodwin MW
What are your favourite festive traditions?
When I lived abroad, I enjoyed returning to Australia and drinking sparkling shiraz with my grandmother, with sliced mango and blue cheese. Now that she’s gone, it’s more about celebrating those Australian wines that resonate with an international audience while rejoicing in what makes those particular wines so good: their poise and inimitability. Sorrenberg Gamay, particularly with five to eight years of age, seems to resonate more with friends who have drunk a great deal of Burgundy than pretty much any other Australian wine. Mount Mary Triolet, Castagna’s Ingenue and Genesis, and certain Yarra Yering wines as well.
What will you be cracking on New Year’s Eve to see out 2020?
This year isn’t deserving of something truly festive, like Champagne. I think 2020 demands the sort of joyous and gulpable wines from the Beaujolais, southern Rhone, Langhe and McLaren Vale, particularly easy-swigging expressions of grenache.

Jeni Port 
What are your favourite festive traditions?
In the days when we weren’t cooking lunch, we’d start the mid-morning festivities with Champagne – usually Bollinger or Pol Roger. That all changed with the arrival of cooking duties, which definitely require a sober mind and steady hand. The ‘new’ tradition is to enjoy some lovely wines over lunch and finish with a Rutherglen fortified. Campbells and Morris tend to take it in turns, unless I can find a vintage fortified from the late, great Chris Killeen of Stanton & Killeen. It finishes the day nicely and gets us all mellow and in the mood for another airing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Which wines are guaranteed to please as special gifts this year?
In Australia, it would be old-vine shiraz. We have some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, and they deserve to be celebrated far and wide. The deep concentration of flavour and overall complexities delivered with these wines can be astonishing. Outside Australia, I’d head to northwest Italy and the wines of Barolo. They are nebbiolos capable of stopping you in your tracks such are their arresting beauty and sheer finesse. Buy Barolo with a little bottle age for the best results.

Glass of muscat and blue cheese Jeni Port’s lunch finishes with top Rutherglen fortified. Pictured: Campbells muscat alongside blue cheese.

Erin Larkin
What are your favourite festive traditions?
I tend to save up my best wines for the festive season, and I open my favourite on Boxing Day morning. The Test has traditionally been my preferred part of Christmas, although I suppose that will have to change this year – cheers again, 2020!
What will you be cracking on New Year’s Eve to see out 2020?
Probably Bollinger, or Dom Perignon. It’s always Champagne at the bell. 

Jane Faulkner
What wines or styles are you most excited about enjoying this season? 
One of my favourite white varieties is the rare timorasso from Piedmont in Italy. The variety has high acidity, yet it is textural, floral, heady and so compelling. I’m also enjoying blends, both reds and whites, such as bakkheia Tripartite, which is a fab GSM, and Ravensworth’s Fiano & Friends.
What will you be cracking on New Year’s Eve to see out 2020?
Put up your hand if you’re glad to see the back of 2020? Oh, look, everyone. Bidding adieu to a dreadful year while welcoming a new one full of promise, hope and a COVID-19 vaccine deserves the best booze. I’m going out in style with the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne – one of my favourites because it is a blanc de blancs, classy, expensive (I’ve saved my pocket-money) and the outstanding 2008 has recently landed. Cheers. 

Tony Love
What are your favourite festive traditions?
We often we have a late-night Christmas Eve prawn-peeling session with Champagne and Australian sparklings. Christmas Day includes at least one great bottle of sparkling shiraz early in the day, then Pimms No. 1 by the jug for about 20 people each year. We have a second wave of visitors in the afternoon, which is when a couple of special bottles might magically make their way out of the cellar.
Which wines do you believe are guaranteed to please as special gifts this year?
I think something like a great amaro or vermouth is great because they always come as a surprise.

This is an extract of an article from issue #55 of Halliday magazine. Read it in full here. Not a member? Join today.

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