I laid the loaf of sourdough bread down on the floor, alongside my faux fur and handbag. “Jeez, it’s hot in here” I said to my Goldie Hawn Lookalike (GHL) of a neighbour. A glass of Walter’s Royal Riesling Sekt Brut in hand I spied the canapés on offer. Geraldine – the generous owner of Raoul’s and solely responsible for starting off this annual Christmas event in the ‘hood noted it. “It’s okay, every year our glasses get mixed up with The Winery’s next door, but eventually they find their way to the right home.”
I was glad about that, because even as I sampled the Riesling from David’s wine gaff, I had one eye on Raouls’ Prosecco – both pink and white on offer.
The chat started to flow, a local beautician joined us as we talked botox, Trump and blind dates in no particular order. Niblets of chorizo and beds of bruschetta laiden with mozzarella, pesto and dried tomatoes stimulated the taste buds, and before I knew where I was I found myself one glass of rosé bubbly down.
“Let’s go next door!” GHL cried. It seemed a good idea, as we were down to our last sophisticated sausage roll and the hostess of the evening had bade us ‘goodnight’.
“I’ve got a piece to publish tonight and Christmas cards to write, I can’t stay out much longer..!”
“Just one!” she replied.
Next door The Winery was buzzing. The venue for a monthly tasting, at this Christmas evening event it takes on an entirely different hue. People chatted and laughed, strangers mixed discussing the wine on offer, asking questions that at other times of the year would simply not be an option: “What’s it like where you live? and “What do you do at Christmas?” I asked the son of Walter’s Riesling. “Is it hilly? Are there pine trees? When does it snow?”
“We’re in the south west of Germany – by the river, and all around are the vines. Mostly Christmas is about eating and drinking. On Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag (that’s Boxing Day to us) the whole family gathers for a huge five course meal in the evening.”
“And different wines with every course?” I asked.
“Of course” the son of Walter said. “Of course!”
“And when does it snow?” I asked now fully visualising a fairytale land of wooded hills and twinkling lights.
“Maybe in the New Year, but when I left the other day it was frosty”
I closed my eyes momentarily imagining it. I breathed it in.
“Let me give you my card” I said to Walter. I rummaged past the pot of chilli jam (along with the bread – a gift from the wholly organic Sheepdrove Farm shop across the road) to find it.
Outside we took photos; goodnight hugs were exchanged, and running late I rushed home.
I spread a few oatcakes with humous, and although no tree yet, I put Vince Guaraldi on and started to write.
Christmas. The magic has begun.