There are a number of highly excellent advantages linked to the run-up to Christmas, and the festive period in general. For one thing, it is entirely permissible to accept and consume a small sherry at any time of day or night should the opportunity present itself; equally, entire afternoons may be safely passed in the watching of a succession of low-quality festive films, often featuring brave canines, small children lost in dangerous snowscapes or - ideally - a combination of the two.
Statti 'Feudo dei Baroni' (Greco) Calabria 2012
Ciconia 'Branco' (Anton Vaz, Viognier, Verdelho) Portugal 2012
Domaine Patrick Vauvy 'Sauvignon de Touraine' (Sauvignon Blanc) Loire 2012 - this was a favourite with most people. I am suspicious of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly in non-summer conditions, finding it often a bit acidic and rather tasteless. Not so with this one - soft, fruity and pretty exquisite with a sliver (/slab) of goat's cheese. I think this was £12.95 but as measures were fairly generous I'm afraid I cannot be completely certain on this matter.
Levenwacht 'The Tin Mine' (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne) South Africa 2011 - another favourite, with an unusual minerally taste and a blend of grapes that really works. Not currently stocked at the deli, but SURELY it should be.
Cours la Reine 'Saint-Chinian' (Syrah, Grenache Noir) Languedoc 2012
Tierra Segrada 'Antigua' Tempranillo, Garnacha) Carinena 2006
Devil's Corner 'Pinot Noir' (Pinot Noir) Tasmania 2012 - in truth, I enjoyed all the reds, but this was my standout favourite. Although I did, ahem, have to try it several times, just to be really sure.
Chateau Les Rochers Mirande 'Montagne-Saint-Emilion' (Mainly Merlot) Bordeaux 2006
The Extra Blagged One
Niepoort 'LBV' Douro 2007 - I am only a very recent convert to Port, but as a room full of wined-up people were baying lustily to try this, it seemed churlish not to join in. I think I have been put off Port previously by exposure to nasty, cheap, supermarket stuff; this one is in a whole different league and worryingly easy to drink, particularly when someone has foolishly placed a plate of blue cheese right by you on the counter. Hickson and Black's sell a half bottle for - I think - £12.50, and I am keen to procure one for my Christmas drinks cabinet (which is, in truth, only a metaphorical cabinet, but is none the worse for that).
All of this booze was ably soaked up by a selection of cheeses, pâtés and meats from the deli counter; the range and quality of cheeses here is particularly impressive, as you will see if you have a little browse of the website here. Thanks to Jay and Steve for their excellent hospitality; now all we need to do is start a campaign for Hickson and Black's to have its own dedicated tram stop for those of us who wish to cart their wine back to the wilds of East Didsbury...
- Hickson and Black's is at 559A Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 8AN; tel. 0161 881 2001.