Ah yes. The Christmas "Round Robin". A British tradition under threat. Or so I'm told. You know the sort of thing. A photocopied letter from a half-remembered relation. Folded into the Christmas card. Packed with "news" ("boasting") about distant cousins you vaguely remember but only because they turned up unexpectedly to your 7th birthday party, sobbed through the Punch & Judy and then soiled themselves when someone burst their balloon Dachshund. Few mourn its decline. But I am among them.
So, in support of this festive tradition… what a whirlwind year it's been. For the first time in a twenty-five-year career in wine writing and broadcasting, I was humbled to receive an award. Well, as it happens, two. In my acceptance speech for the IWC's Personality of the Year Award I suggested it had "been in the post".
Bubbling resentment isn't attractive. But it's honest. Someone else asked if the IWSC Wine Communicator Award was "for journalists who spend all day drinking in restaurants." I pointed out this description fails to distinguish it from any other journalism award. But yes, it is.
This year wine journalists have stepped out of the restaurant and weighed in on some of the bigger issues of the day. Not only Brexit, climate change and financial turmoil. But important stuff. Like Donald Trump's wines. This summer the Trump Winery came in last place at a tasting competition in London. It was the biggest electoral upset since… well, the last time Trump lost the popular vote. Which was the last time people voted. But all was not lost. Wine tasting is a complex thing. And British competition organisers guard against bias. We use a special process. It's too complex to explain here. And American readers would find it baffling. But after all the votes had gone through the competition's "Electoral College" it turns out that Donald Trump is the greatest winemaker of all time. Believe me. Winning Again! GREAT!
Not that he'd ever enjoy his own wines. Temperance organisations suffered a terrible blow in 2017 as Donald Trump explained how he’d become the man he is today by not drinking alcohol. Fortunately, others in the public eye shared their love of wine. This year we learned that Sir Alex Ferguson and Meghan Markle have the same favourite wine. It’s Tignanello, an expensive Super-Tuscan red noted for its refinement and complexity. There was some depressing coverage of the news. Notably, a subtle racism about people drinking fine wine from some ethnic backgrounds. Meghan Markle was appalled. She said it was disgraceful to suggest you can't enjoy fine wines just because you come from Glasgow.
We also heard rumours David Beckham was looking at buying a vineyard. There was a lot of interest in the sort of wine he enjoyed. Journalists asked if he went for something fruity and voluptuous. Or perhaps a more challenging style of wine. Something lean, with sour and wooden characteristics. Well, obviously yes, said David, that was what he normally had at home. But he loves something voluptuous when Victoria is staying at her mum's.
As you might be able to tell, I've been trying something new this year too. For most of the past twelve months we've been travelling across the world making series two of The Wine Show. It's on Hulu in the US and will come to the UK and other countries around the world in the New Year. I don't want to give too much away (although there’s a sneak preview here). But in one memorable episode I'm challenged to come up with a series of jokes and perform them on stage. It's hard to judge your own performance. But the compere on the night was there to give me a quick review. And "as a gift to stand-up comedy" he said I "make an excellent wine taster".
Which brings me onto some Christmas wine recommendations. Rather than print them out here you just need to click through to the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s web site. I wrote them there on account of being named their Wine Communicator of the Year. I may not have mentioned that. Honestly, it was the biggest shock I’ve had since that time I came to your Punch & Judy party and your sister burst my balloon Dachshund…