Last Saturday Julia and I celebrated exactly 10 years of working together, and combined it with our annual Christmas dinner for members of the JancisRobinson.com team.
Our Spanish specialist Ferran Centelles was able to join us in London last year when I was still suffering from pneumonia, but this year only the UK-based members of the team and (most of) their other halves were round the table so we were a mere dozen. (Perhaps Ferran was put off by the slightly bizarre nature of the wines we served last year – two Ningxia fizzes and another collection of magnums which included a Chateau Mercian, Kiiroka Koshu 2007 from Japan and a Movia Slovenian 1999 oaked white blend – both in fine form.)
Before dinner Rachel Shaughnessy’s husband Lee, a professional photographer who would doubtless have set up the shot rather differently, took this picture of (left to right) my husband Nick Lander, Emily Percival, who helps Tam upload all those tasting notes, Tamlyn Currin, Richard Hemming MW, me, Alex Hunt MW, Julia Harding MW and our subscriptions supremo Rachel, the longest-serving member of the team other than Nick and me.
As usual, and as you can tell by the distinctly distressed apron, Nick was chef for the evening and served us Quality Chop House smoked cod’s roe on toast; fresh crab with heirloom tomatoes; roast beef with fresh horseradish cream, baked onions and his very own cross between roast potatoes and chips; a whole Risely (our current favourite British cheese, a washed-rind cousin of Wigmore); and a wide range of sweetmeats to finish off with.
We kicked off with a magnum of Cristal 2005, specifically chosen to celebrate Julia’s 10 years in harness. We are all so lucky to benefit from her exceptional diligence, appetite for work and eye for detail. I can assure you that this site would have a far, far greater incidence of typos and grammatical infelicities were it not for the role Julia plays as copy-editor in chief – quite apart from her brilliant contributions to articles and tasting notes, as well as all her work on The Oxford Companion to Wine (all the viti and vini entries), The World Atlas of Wine (checking all the maps) and Wine Grapes (almost all of the sections on Where it’s grown and what it tastes like).
This 2005 set me thinking that I would make the theme of the dinner vintages divisible by five – not least because we are drawing to the end of a year that ends with a five and is looking very promising in terms of wine quality. It was a bit of a struggle to find suitable magnums as most of my cellar is made up of bottles, with quite a few halves of sweet wines. But I managed – until we got to the Graham’s 40-year-old tawny port very kindly donated by the Symington family in recognition of my 40th anniversary as a wine writer on 1 December. That 75cl bottle disappeared with lightning speed and was supplemented by various other favourite leftovers from my researches into sweet and strong wines.
My tasting notes, taken just before everyone arrived, are below.