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The column is in the "box" when I discover that this will be the last one to appear this year, at Christmas of all times. Don't I owe "my dear readers" a hearty, festive "cheers"? Yes, but with what to toast? With a "festive wine", of course!

In search of the "right" festive wine

What is a festive wine? According to the advertising letters that have been flooding me, the wine lover, with offers for a good month now, the festive wine is one "that gives pleasure to all". Pleasing to all? Does this wine even exist and how can it be determined? By Parker points, for example?

I get to thinking: my festive wine has always changed, depending on the stage of life. For example, it was Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which was only served on festive days by my otherwise non-wine-drinking parents, and which I was only allowed to enjoy with my eyes as a three-year-old. Then, at the age of a pubescent teenager in the upper classes of the grammar school, it was an acidic, stale barrel wine that the brother cellar master conjured up in the boarding school, a glass for each pupil. And in the time when shaving became a daily ritual, I discovered the vineyards "ennet em See", from the Leutsch, a local "Beerliwein", rather light, fruity, velvety, ruby red.

So on festive days, I always chose the wine that I liked best at the moment, as a witness of my life. This principle proved itself: to crown my current wine taste in the festive wine. This continued throughout the years. Then came the student years, more oriented towards rebellion and dissociation: Paris, Sartre, "Boule-Mich", Gauloise, even better Gitanes... Of course, it had to be a workers' wine, which you could also get in the bistro: a hearty, rough fellow, usually from the south of France or from Algeria.

Memory of my childhood - a Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the table

Then came the entry into professional life. There was the aperitif wine on every conceivable occasion: white, either a dry, slightly sparkling Chasselas or a thin red wine, country nobility, almost always from the area where the reception, vernissage or meeting was held.

Own household - own flat - own family: immediately a wine cellar was needed. What I knew to be good wine went into the much too warm communal cellar (divided by a lath frame): From my mountain tours the real Veltliner, from my professional life the Burgundy, from everyday life in Swiss restaurants the Côte du Rhone, recommended by the Prince of Liechtenstein the Grüner Veltliner, from a couple of friends (she was Palatinate) the semi-dry Riesling. On festive days we always had some of this wine on the table, on "ordinary days" - if at all - a Beaujolais was enough.

I was astonished to discover that my wife did not like wine at all - until then this had remained hidden from me. So at home, wine was almost only served on festive days, for toasts. The majority of my bottles in the cellar have gradually become undrinkable due to the lack of festive occasions.

Can it be a Languedoc% Herrschäftler or does it have to be a Pétus?

Joining the association of cooking journalists, my first culinary flight of fancy. First acquaintance with big names, with wineries, with wine styles No longer cellaring, but buying from specialist retailers before festive days: Amarone della Valpolicella, DOC ai colli - les Murailles, Aigle - Château Labégorce, Margaux - Côte de Nuits-Villages, Maison Joulié - Chianti Classico, Gignavecchia Riserva.

For the first time, a festive wine was also allowed to cost thirty or forty francs. An excursion with the cooking group ended in Ticino with Merlot. From then on, Merlot - for some time - was my festive wine, especially that from the first self-pressers in Ticino: Stucky, Kaufmann, Klausner, Huber.

In a group of wine lovers who bought cheap and good wine from all over the world by the barrel and thus gave away the members, I got to know good cheap wines from all over the world: Greeks, Austrians, French, Algerians... I now bottled wine myself and was particularly proud of my exclusive Brouilly, which as a star cost about five times as much as the other bottled wines. Of course, it immediately became a festive wine.

Then came the big change: my new life partner was in love with Bordeaux. That's probably why one of our trips ended - purely by chance - in the Bordelais, in the car park of Gruaud Larose. When they wouldn't let us in, we found an open wine cellar at Château Beychevelle (Saint-Julien). There I bought my first "expensive" Bordeaux, vintage 1986, hopelessly overpaid. This was the beginning of a "great passion", which over the years almost developed into a connoisseurship, or at least a passion for collecting. For years, a Bordeaux, not infrequently a Beychevelle, delighted us on festive days. I thought I had now found my festive wine.

We moved - even before retirement - a good part of our residence to the south of France, to the Languedoc, and discovered the wine of the south of France there. Because we also spend many festive days there, we reach for a good Languedoc on this occasion: Domain du Mas Jullien, Clos Centeilles, Domain Saint-Pancrace, Domain du Grand Crès.

But have we reached the end of our search for festive wines? Far from it. For a few years now, we have spent three weeks at the grape harvest in the Bündner Herrschaft. The "Wimmellohn" is a festive wine from the Blauburgunder region. Now we are finally unsure. Who will make it onto the festive table now? A Mouton Rothschild, an Evangile, an Angélus. Vintage 1982, 1990 or 1996 or a Herrschäftler from the house of von Tscharner?

Which festive wine goes with this fine main course?290

So what is a festive wine? For me, it is the wine that is a witness to time: a witness to my respective periods of life. A wine that - concentrated in a bottle, as it were - can express all the beautiful moments, the joys of a period of life.

So the "festive wine" exists, but it is so colourful that I cannot describe it more precisely. Except with a hearty "to your health" and a toast with all "my dear readers", each of whom has his or her own festive wine in the glass.


Peter (Züllig)

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