So the Christmas present shopping is mostly done. This can be quite a negotiation. The phone call to dad, for example, to ask what he wanted did not initially go well. “No, no, NO, I don’t want anything,” this in the strangled tone of voice of a man being threatened at knifepoint. But we got there in the end and I have ordered the last minute John Lewis click & collects; bought tins of biscuits, eaten them, bought replacements; and secured – no mean feat, this – stocking filler jars of Fortnum’s piccalilli (it is very, very good) and macadamia nuts (also superb). All set, then.
Well, nearly. For the first time in years I have a hankering for a festive bottle of vin santo. Successive dinners in Italian trattorie in my early twenties, all of them finished with a dusty, horrible glass of vin santo or six put me off this wine, I thought, for life. Then in Tuscany earlier this month I drank a few examples delicious enough to make me revise my views. They were glorious – luscious, glidingly unctuous, juicy like fat raisins…. In long, warm, well-ventilated rooms at Capezzana, a beautiful producer that just – on a clear day – has sight of Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence, we also saw the new vintage in action. Here it is: the grapes from 2014 basking on straw mats, under ceiling fans, drying before they are fermented and then sealed in small little barrels and left in an attic for six years to just get on with it.
It is glorious stuff, the Capezzana vin santo, one of the very best, and much-garlanded. Intense. Like liquid panforte. With alcohol. Gorgeous with or after or instead of mince pies (or panforte), or to leave out for Santa Claus. It costs about £40 a half bottle – the best way of finding stockists is to google, or look on wine-searcher.com, though I note that Martinez in Ilkley, my home town, has a couple of bottles. I left some with a friend after a carols & Cornish pasties night and he’s just emailed to say, “Bloody hell. That sweet wine you brought was incredible. I didn’t know wine could taste like that.” High praise from a civilian.
Another peach of a vin santo is the Felsina Vin Santo Chianti Classico, stocked by some branches of Waitrose at £29.99.
Finally, if you haven’t yet got Christmas completely wrapped up might I humbly suggest that if there is a chilli-loving-wine-drinker who is proving tricky, they may like a place at one of the two food and wine nights I’m running in February in London in partnership with The Culinary Anthropologist.
And whatever is in your glass, may it be half full and never half empty, and wishing you a Very Merry Christmas indeed.