#49: Australia

Year: 2015
Grapes: Chardonnay
Producer: Heirloom Vineyards in Adelaide Hills
Alcohol: 12.5%
Source: Waitrose

Those of you who attended our wedding will know that I was suspiciously old when I had to be told that Father Christmas wasn’t real. I was eleven and about to start secondary school and was so utterly convinced of his existence that my parents decided that they had to tell me, rather than risk my earnest convictions causing me to be bullied or laughed at or any of those other perils that await an eleven year old at a new school.

Mum and Dad called me into the kitchen in our old Tudor house in Somerset and I have a strong memory of sitting up on the sideboard, which brought me closer to the dark oak beams that crossed the ceiling. I don’t remember much of the actual bad news breaking, although Mum says that it was one of the hardest things she’s had to do – particularly when I responded with ‘does that mean the Tooth Fairy isn’t real either?’

This story sort of provides all the evidence you need for my belief in the magic of Christmas. Of course Father Christmas was real, all he needed was magic! (I had also conducted a conclusive study over several years to successfully prove his existence, leaving questionnaires that were inconveniently knocked into the fire in his hasty departure or later completed with handwriting that didn’t belong to any family members; checking wrapping paper stocks and finding no matches; receiving irritatingly noisy toys that prompted so many complaints that my parents would never have bought themselves. What’s a girl to think??)

And although I have conceded that presents aren’t delivered by a kindly old man with phenomenal powers, I still haven’t found any proof that there isn’t magic associated with Christmas. I just call them Christmas Miracles now instead, but they’re no less real. I’ve been a doctor for eight Christmases and haven’t worked any. Miracle! I was once scheduled to work a long day on Christmas Eve and had given up hope on finding a swap when someone offered on 21st December – he’d changed his plans last minute and was no longer going home so was mopping up as many holiday shifts as he could. Miracle! Hets has worked retail shifts that were quieter than expected so got to leave early, the traffic on drives home has been clearer than usual; all miracles. And, of course, Chris first sent me a message on Boxing Day so that definitely counts as a Christmas Miracle!

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t be so effervescent in my love of Christmas because all the love and family and happiness that make my Christmases so magical could make it an unbearable time of the year if they were lacking. If I were alone or bereaved or grieving, if I were estranged from the people that all of the Christmas paraphernalia tells you that you need to draw close to be happy, or just didn’t like them, it must be difficult to feel that same warmth that convinces me that miracles and magic are real.

It may seem strange to be gushing on about Christmas in the bleakest part of January but we haven’t yet finished writing about the wines we drank in late December and I have reached Christmas Eve! In Denham, and now Curtis, family lore, Christmas Eve is almost a bigger day than Christmas Day itself. Granddaddy used to visit his patients on Christmas Day, to carve a turkey on the ward and dress up as Father Christmas, so Christmas Eve became the day for family even after Granddaddy retired. We wait until 5:30 before beginning the festivities! Opening presents, drinking sparkling wine and eating smoked salmon sandwiches, then a big dinner, party games and eventually Midnight Mass to loudly sing in Christmas Day with as many descants as we know! I love, love, love it! And then Christmas Day is for stockings, turkey and collapsing!! It is a perfect two day holiday, or one that splits quite nicely between two families now my sisters and I have other families to spend Christmas with too. That we can do that and no-one misses out on too many important family traditions really is another Christmas miracle!

And so it was that on this Christmas Eve, we drank our Australian wine with my whole immediate family. One of the truly wonderful things about growing up is that my ‘immediate’ family keeps getting bigger – it is no longer just Mum, Dad and the three sisters. There are now husbands and boyfriends too, which just increases the Christmas magic! Having almost started this challenge with a bottle of Moroccan wine in early January with Chris’s family, it felt right to almost finish it with mine in late December. Because I will never get over my luck at having such a wonderful family who love me the way they do, or my luck at finding a beautiful man who makes me feel at home just by sitting beside me, or that his family would be so kind and accepting. These are all miracles in themselves but seem to become heightened at Christmas time.

And as I sat in our house, drinking a delicious Australian wine, surrounded by these incredible people and just basking in happiness, I knew without doubt that magic and miracles are real…

Wine Info

Edited from the Heirlooms Vineyard website:

This Heirloom Vineyards Chardonnay was produced from our best…hand tended vines, sorted bunch by bunch, naturally fermented free run juice, gently tank pressed and stored in French oak barriques for 12 months.

The colour is vibrant pale yellow with hues of gold. The aroma is̴ like spring in the Adelaide Hills, and a veritable ripening of stone fruit especially white peaches and nectarine in the market gardens, butter melon, rock melon and cooking leeks in butter, the French oak smells are a terrific frame for the stone fruit.

The palate has that extra dimension, not just fresh and tangy but mouth filling with citrus flavours that fulfill and refresh. Brilliant white peach and nectarine again, almost impossible to over-chill, this wine can be drunk with an amazing array of foods or just by itself. The acidity and freshness is the key to keeping all the flavour to the forefront.

Wine Verdict


Having left an Australian wine until later in the year as it was one that would be comparatively easy to obtain, we may not have ended up with the best that the country could offer, although it was very good. It looked at tasted golden and was very rich and oaky, but managed to stay surprisingly light. It was a classic Chardonnay and tasted as smooth as you would expect. There was a slight sharpness from the fruit but this was tempered by the softness of the oak, and then end result was very well balanced.

7/10, delicious but not that special


I must confess to being just a touch disappointed with this one! Not because it was unpleasant or badly made, but because it was just a little bit boring – or rather, it didn’t taste like a £15-20 wine. Much like the Kiwi white we had back in May, I expected a little more for my money than we ultimately got – it didn’t stand out over the £10-12 Aussie Chardonnays you can get in any decent wine shop.

That said, it was drinkable enough. Clean, fresh, well-balanced (not too much oak), and with peachy fruit flavours, it was both easy and enjoyable as a pre-dinner white to share with friends. I just won’t be rushing out to buy it again.



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