This year, the "Elf on the shelf" has been collaborating with the "Gnomes in your home" in an attempt to do the unthinkable ... sabotage Christmas!!!
Elves can be mischievous. Very mischievous. In fact, they just deleted the first draft of this entire blog when I tried to load their photograph! They don't like being caught on camera. So, starting again ...
It's been rumoured that the London branch of "Elf Central" are really the ones behind the "Blade Runners" removing ULEZ cameras in the capital and, in Burgundy, northern France, two elf cyclists have been seen blatantly swapping road signs around to point in the wrong direction. A few really hardcore elves have even been known to use power tools taken from Santa's North Pole workshop to attack some of the the sign posts, causing major disruption to traffic in the area. At this time of year, many shipping companies are looking to collect wine from vineyards for the Christmas rush and they're finding it difficult to reach their destination due to those naughty elves. Sat-navs are proving to be essential on the rural French road network for UK truckers not used to the maze of back lanes in Burgundy. Here at Frazier's, we've already received our new vintage Jean-Jacques Girard wines from Pernand Vergelesses in the Cote de Beaune, so you'll have no problem drinking your favourite Chardonnay with the festive roast turkey. Liquid butteriness in a bottle, adding a whole new layer of flavour. Savour the taste and texture.
If Pinot Noir is a must with turkey or goose, head on over to Domaine Bertrand Ambroise in the unprepossessing, working village of Premeaux-Prissey near to the famous appellation of Nuits-St-Georges. The property's new release from 2020 has, on the nose, fruity notes of black cherry and plum with an underlying scent of flowers. A typically powerful, concentrated palate with a tannic, structured feel backed up by fresh acidity with a compote of black fruits and a light touch of toasty oak. Acidity is key to wines when paired with goose, as the meat can be very fatty, and Pinot Noir is an ideal foil to this. Make Nuits Saint Georges (or their 1er Cru Beaune) your choice this Christmas.
If you happen to be travelling around the north of Burgundy by car, be quick, and you'll beat the elves to the wines before they get to the sign posts. I recommend ordering your bottles of Girard and Ambroise now from Frazier's Wine Merchants. It's so much easier than driving round in circles looking for a winery in the middle of nowhere!
A little known fact is that elves have a distinct craving for mince pies. They'll do anything to get their hands on them and, if you leave some out for Santa to feast on after delivering the Christmas presents, you'll be very lucky if numerous boxes worth of said pies aren't gobbled up by the greedy munchkins. The only way of stopping them stealing is to be very quiet (elves have very large ears and great hearing) when plating-up under the tree and, preferably, covering the pies with a clean tea towel to prevent them picking up the sweet aroma of their favourite snack (elves have very small noses and a poor sense of smell). Be prepared, be forewarned, 'tis the season.
On the same theme, the elf on the shelf will, given the chance, drink any fortified wine he finds near the Christmas tree. His favourite tipples include sherry, any port wine ("Vintage" is his [and my own] personal preferred choice!), the hard to find Madeira wine and some have even been known to swig the cooking Marsala wine from Sicily.
The advantage? Elves are of small stature and vintage port is quite strong so, if you find some has gone missing, the elves will be sound asleep for at least 24 hours. Your Christmas day has been saved. Disadvantage? Elves snore very loudly!
If you're prepared to have a truly memorable celebration this December, I'd recommend an after-dinner bottle of the 2007 Niepoort vintage port to bring a big smile to your face. It's got a decade and a half of maturity, giving complexity and finesse on the palate which is, after all, the reason for paying the premium price for such a bottle. On release in 2010, the Wine Advocate gave it an excellent review saying that the wine delivers:
"A superb bouquet of fruitcake, plum, incense, blueberry, and licorice. Elegant on the palate but with layers of rich, succulent fruit, this intense, smooth-textured, impeccably balanced wine will have a lengthy drinking window extending from 2017 to 2037. It is one of the stars of the vintage."
What more is needed to be said? Make sure you let the bottle stand upright for 24 hours before opening to settle out any sediment and decant, or pour carefully into your guests' glasses. Don't forget to serve with some warm mince pies. If you're still feeling peckish and in need of a quick, midnight snack, how about a variation on the ever popular cheese & ham sandwich? Slice up some sourdough bread, adding the best Iberico ham and your favourite hard cheese (try it with some Manchego) and wash it down with the toffee and raisin flavoured delight that is a 3 year old D'Oliveiras sweet Madeira. There's no need to decant this one, so you can drink every drop.
If that hit the "sweet spot" with you, carry on with more of the same on Boxing Day!
Most people have just two ideas as to the origin of elves. One is that they are "Santa's little helpers", cute and happy creatures, dressed in red & green, working for Santa to make all the childrens' gifts needed for Christmas. The second, is that of the supernatural, proud "Middle Earth" warrior. There is a third kind, one who has gone to the "dark side" and this is the type of magical elf you don't want to meet on a dark, winter's night. Of course, there are also the gnomes. Let me tell you about the gnomes ...
The gnomes in your garden aren't real. They're just ornaments holding shovels and fishing rods. The real life gnomes live underground and have a great liking for mining, the earth and anything looking golden and shiny! So, when those mischievous elves on the shelf told the gnomes that there were gold coins hidden inside Christmas puddings, they knew they had willing allies in their aim to disrupt Christmas at your house, ruining your family's celebrations.
Before "health & safety" was a thing, coins were hidden inside home-made Christmas puddings. In pre-decimal currency times, the coin of choice was the old "Thrupenny Bit" (3d). It was only made of brass, but a new one looked like it was gold. Later, the coins were upgraded to a real silver "Sixpence". Smaller, easier to swallow accidently and much more dangerous to the end user. I think the use of this hiding of cash inside food has long since died out ... mainly due to the participating children choking on their pudding!!!
The elf on the shelf encouraged the gnomes to tunnel under your kitchen, break in, and remove the "Thruppence" from the puddings. The gnomes got their share of "gold" and the elves ensured any children would have to eat the strange tasting (brandy soaked) pudding without any monetary reward. Instant chaos ensued and the elves were as happy as can be. Another temptation for the gnomes in your home was the promise of an unlimited supply of "liquid gold" to drink. Really, those elves were telling more lies to the gnomes to garner their help. The mythical liquid was, in fact, the heavenly, golden dessert wine from Sauternes in Bordeaux. If you want to keep the gnomes away, go for some Australian, dark, Rutherglen Muscat instead. Lots of luscious fruit with raisins and spices to the fore.
Preparation is everything for a smooth-running Christmas. Organisation needs to be on a military level, with some people resorting to flow charts and spread sheets to make sure nothing is forgotten. A hand-written "To do" list is the other, more straightforward option, which will get you through the festivities without a hitch. Obviously, the presents need to be bought, the food, drink and recipes sorted, decorations put in place and jobs allocated so everyone knows what needs to be done in advance and on the day. After that, it's all fun, fun, fun!
The big day arrives, it's early, you're in the kitchen, putting together the party nibbles for the "pre-lunch" guest arrivals and the strain is starting to tell. Perhaps a quick glass of fizz will help with the preparations? Oh, go on, why not? Just ONE glass! The cork pops and the Champagne starts to flow. A delicate, Chardonnay-based Blanc de Blancs would be my number one choice for sipping throughout the day. Just watch out for the gnomes. They'll be hiding in plain sight, somewhere dark, but ready to launch their raiding party at a moment's notice. Searching for "gold" in your home, anything bright is a target and bubbles in a wine glass are an attraction, reflecting the light and shimmering softly. If you turn around and a moment later you can't find where you put your fizz, you've been "gnomed" in your own home. As robust, hard working creatures, they can handle alcoholic celebrations better than the elves on the shelves, but their image would lead us to believe that a crisp, chilled bottle of Pilsner or a rich, dark stout is more to their liking. Don't be fooled, there's a group of gnomes who target houses with "Fine Wines" as a preference. I keep mine under lock and key at all times.
A merry Christmas to all, and I'm happy to share the sprouts and any spare Xmas pudding, but keep your hands off my wine and mince pies!