Our squabbles at home about Christmas are as traditional for us as carol-singing, roast turkey and stockings are for others. Our current standoff concerns the tree.
Our boys think a plastic one is most environmentally friendly. Yes, they argue, ultimately it will go to landfill, but it’s reusable, will last for decades and doesn’t necessitate a real tree being felled. But, says Mrs Ray, creating plastic is a no-no, and think of the environmental costs of its delivery from China.
Divide, conquer and I hate Christmas are my middle names, so I sat back, let them exhaust themselves quarrelling before landing my killer blow: what about no tree? Hmm, I hadn’t fully appreciated what a unifying call to arms this would be and was rather thrown when they turned on me as one: ‘No tree?! You’re pathetic!’
Ouch. Happily, I had the following own-label selection from Corney & Barrow to console me and what joyful, uplifting wines they are too.
The C&B Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Extra Dry NV (1) is a traditional method fizz of real style and substance produced for Corney’s by Boisset, based in the heart of Burgundy. There’s crunchy apple freshness, a touch of toasty brioche and a deliciously fine mousse. I’ve had many a less good champagne. £11.81 down from £13.50.
The 2019 C&B Blanc (2) is the perfect crowd-pleaser. Produced in Gascony from Colombard and Ugni Blanc, it’s light, fruity and inviting with a refreshingly dry to off-dry finish. £6.96 down from £7.95.
The 2018 C&B Bourgogne Chardonnay (3), produced by the fabled François Carillon, is Puligny-Montrachet in all but name and, as such, an absolute bargain. With fresh, peachy fruit, a touch of blossom and a tight mineral core, it’s completely gorgeous and, with fewer than 250 cases made, rare too. £20.56 down from £23.50.
The 2016 C&B Rioja Crianza (4) from Bodegas Zugober is also cracking value. A classic blend of Tempranillo seasoned with splashes of Graciano and Mazuelo, it’s aged for 14 months in oak and six in bottle. Rich, spicy and full-bodied, it’s all that you ask for from Rioja. £10.46 down from £11.95.
The 2018 C&B Côtes du Rhône (5) from Jean and Michel Gonnet is similarly approachable and rewarding. A 70/30 blend of Grenache and Syrah, it’s dark and powerful, with spicy fruit and a smattering of herbs. You can just taste the sunshine in it. £10.72 down from £12.25.
The 2016 C&B Company Reserve Claret (6) is produced expressly for C&B by Maison Sichel, who know more than most about fine claret. Merlot-dominant, it’s soft, smooth and succulent with easy tannins and a wonderfully long, classy finish. £12.21 down from £13.95.
I had to include the remarkable Delamotte Brut NV Champagne (7). This is the champers we downed in heroic quantities on our notorious Spectator/Cunard cruise around the Med a year or so back, and it’s revered by those in the know, not only as one of the oldest champagne houses (founded 1760), but also as the sister house to mighty Salon. I adore Delamotte, one of my all-time favourite fizzes, especially at this price. £31 down from £36.50.
Finally, we’ve a wonderful and very special Festive Selection comprising two bottles each of the 2018 Bourgogne Blanc Domaine Leflaive, a rare-as-hens’-teeth connoisseur’s delight whose pedigree belies its humble appellation; the plummy, spicy, velvety 2017 Psi Bodegas y Viñedos Alnardo from the legendary Peter Sisseck in Ribera del Duero; and, from Pomerol, the 2015 L’Hospitalet de Gazin, second wine of Ch. Gazin and immediate neighbour to powerhouse Petrus itself, yours for just £215.
The mixed case has two bottles each of wines 1-6. Wine 7 is available by the half dozen — or multiples thereof — as is the Festive Selection. Delivery, as ever, is free.