Retailers in most big cities all over the world remind us about Christmas already in October which some of us might find confusing and even stressful. Seeing the lights, trees and red ribbons in shopping windows can become horrifying especially if you haven’t embarked for a present hunting trip yet.
The wine merchants seem to be a bit more realistic, for which I praise them. I guess, the majority of them are wine drinkers and cherish the relaxing effect wine often has on our brains. Therefore they don’t see any logic in ‘molesting” their customers with Christmas wine offers months ahead. Chasing the connoisseurs might spoil the magic bond of wine with a comforting moment.
Besides, you can buy socks in two minutes, but not wine. Unless, your friend told you about an excellent piece in the wine shop around the corner, or you have a list of your personal top 10 in your pocket, then go straight to the cashier.
Christmas wine shopping should be a joy, a special occasion a wine lover should savour intensely. We are celebrating (and not only Christians – everyone likes to celebrate something if given an opportunity) this merry time only once a year so what we drink should be something special.
Independent as well as franchised wine sellers know how to make the pre-Christmas time unique for their customers. Many of them organise wine tasting events to make the choice easier. I can recommend The Sampler, an independent wine merchant at Upper Street in Islington and South Kensington in London. They always have some special wines in their enomatic machines in December. So taste and then buy a case so all your family will have enough to drink. Hopefully, they have the same taste like you. Ideally, you should take each grown-up member of your kin with you and have a fun day of tasting.
There are plenty of private wine-group tastings and even some organised by the wine growers themselves.
Not only these directly connected with wine, but also artisan bakeries take on the job of  ‘heralds of wine’. One of them is an Austrian bakery Kipferl, a stone throw from the Smithfield market.
What a feast they set up for their devoted clients! I got there with a stroke of luck being invited by my Austrian friends who have done the tasting last year already and loved it. Would you search for a bakery hosting a wine tasting? Me not, plus, this time I went there fully equipped with the ‘Austrian-everything’ knowledge of my friends.
Austrian delicacies at Kipferl
My first pastry, roll and bun and food – matching event was wonderful. An intimate setting of a tiny shop packed with hungry and thirsty could not have been a more informal and cosy. Buns with tomatoes and bread with olives and thyme go very well with white Grüner Veltliners typical for Austria.
Grüner Veltliner, 2009, from Kamptal region North – West from Vienna was slightly sparkly with an interesting peppery start moving to citrusy and finally slightly sweetish flowery character. This wine is a good reminder of the sunny and warm summer days in this freezing wintertime. Its producer Matthias Hager has done a good job.
From the reds I liked the most my ‘old friend’ St Laurent Klassik, 2005, from Pitnauer. I had this wine once in Austria and since then I fell in love with it. It comes from Burgenland, the region in Eastern Austria famous for its reds. Its gamey nose and masculine tinge introduced a well balanced pheasant-like intense taste. The grape St. Laurent stakes only 2% of  all varieties in Austria, which is a shame as it has quite Bordeaux (Lynch Bages) character.
Ladies double pleased their sweet tooth with chocolate dessert and a super sweet botrytised wine from Burgenland at the end. The Chardonnay Beerenauslese, 2006, from Helmut Lang (not the fashion designer) was nicely balanced honey warming treat. Botrytis likes wet and misty mornings. The surroundings of the lake Neusiedlersee are perfect for this mildew causing ‘raisining’ of wines as the grapes shrink and the sugar levels become more concentrated.
If you missed the event you can still buy the wines as well as delicious sandwiches, buns, pastries and even the real Austrian soups and wursts (sausages) all year long at Kipferl.
KIPFERL austrian delicatessen:
70 Long Lane, London, EC1A 9EJ
tel: 020 7796 2229