Wine for the Christmas season

It is well-known that food and wine consumed together can make the perfect partnership or end in a messy divorce! The ultimate goal is to succeed in providing more enjoyment than if the two had been consumed separately. Quite a tall order when we all have different sensitivities and our preferences vary so much.

That said the majority of people prefer their wines to have an attractive balance between fruit and acidity and will undoubtedly appreciate the generosity of any wine shared.

 

A great idea for keeping visitors happy over the festive period is to have some fun with a mixed case of wine. Fizz to mark the start of the festivities, red and white wine to comfort you through the meal and for something a little different, a well-chilled Tawny Port to enjoy with the Christmas pudding. If you need to look busy to avoid kitchen duties before your visitors arrive, double decant the red wine into a decanter to let it breathe and then pour it back into the bottle so people know what they are drinking! The wine will love being aired and the compliments will flow soon after!

 

Why not experiment this Christmas by offering both a red and white wine with the turkey. A well-rounded chardonnay is a delightful accompaniment, its rich creaminess and sweet spice notes can really enhance the mild and let’s be honest, often dry white meat. For the red winelovers there are lots of great wines that will match beautifully with the traditional Christmas lunch from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône or their southern hemisphere counterparts. Do try to avoid a wine that is too young or too tannic as it will be at odds with the leanness of the turkey.

2017 harvest – will it produce a good vintage?

The British are renowned for talking about the weather at every opportunity if only as part of a polite greeting. But it seems we have little to complain about, so many parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions which devastate lives and livelihoods.

 

The wine community is full of comment as the 2017 grape harvest is well underway. Although picking is 10-14 days early, due to a pleasingly warm June, it has been a particularly complicated growing season in Europe, notably France & Italy, with late frosts in April, extreme temperatures in mid-Summer and hailstorms in August.

 

Encouraged by a mild March the vine shoots and buds emerged early, only to be decimated weeks later by widespread frosts. Despite the desperate efforts of vineyard managers, lighting fires between the vines to keep temperatures from dipping further, many hectares were lost. The result has been that yields are reportedly down as much as 40% in France and 25% in Italy compared to last year. In South America where grapes were harvested in April/May, yields were also down due to extreme heat, drought and wildfires but most Southern Hemisphere producers agree that 2017 will be remembered for excellent ripeness and impressive concentration.

 

But what does all this mean to the wine lover?

It is too early to say yet but the 2017 harvest in Europe also, with tiny yields and glorious ripeness, could potentially rival some of the greatest vintages of the 20th century.  Nothing is certain until the wine begins to show its paces in the Spring but, as night follows day, low yields and high quality mean price rises. The challenge for independent wine merchants like ourselves, who are not restricted to wines only available in large volumes, is to find good value even if it means that we have to go to lesser-known vineyards.  Those who do choose to fork out a little more on wine from the classic regions can, in due course, expect to be rewarded with 2017’s of character and excellent quality.

Pale & steely or dark & exotic – what’s your favourite Rosé?

A refreshing glass of rosé wine is undeniably the epitome of the summer drinking; thirst-quenching, delicate and versatile. Somehow being offered a glass of pretty pink wine lifts the spirits and relaxes the soul and the shoulders!

But what about the colour? We all know that part of the enjoyment of drinking rosé is delighting in the colour which is the reason why it is sold in clear, often beautifully shaped bottles. The enticing colours vary between the palest steely pink to the dark richer shades of pomegranate. All rosé wine comes from red grapes and the depth of the colour is dependent on how long the red skins are allowed to lie on the grape juice. This period determines both the colour and the delicacy of the final wine. In the EU, only Champagne can be made by blending red and white wine to produce a rosé.

Does the colour make a difference to the quality? It is the grape variety and vinification techniques used to make the wine that determines the colour difference and it is the skill of the winemaker and the terroir that defines the quality. However, the popularity of a paler pink rosé definitely seems to be a global trend with the Provence rosés setting the benchmark.

Rosé can be produced in 3 different ways: many vineyards, particularly in France, plant red grapes specifically for making rosé. Most of the common red grapes Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache and Gamay are used to make rosé.  In the first example the grapes are grown purely for making a rosé wine. After picking, the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice for a just a few hours before fermentation occurs.

The second technique known as the Saignée method typically used by producers in Bordeaux. In this case whilst a red wine is being vinified a small quantity is “bled” off to make into an intensely flavoured rosé. Knowing the optimum time to do this is tricky and needs an experienced winemaker.

The final technique used to make rosé which incidentally is not permitted in the EU (except for making pink champagne), is known as the Blending method when a small amount of still red wine is added to white wine. New World producers use this method for making high volume, fruity inexpensive rosés.

We all know that rosé is a perfect apéritif but it also stands up well to food. For summer salads and cold meat platters go for the lighter styles. Darker rosés that are dry rich and full of cherry and pomegranate flavours will match well with more robust fish dishes and spicy foods and most offerings from the barbecue.

Don’t be afraid to pay a little more for a well-crafted rosé as you will be rewarded with a wine of depth and character.

Rosé is best served at around 7°C to get the full enjoyment of the flavours which is held back if it is too cold. If you haven’t got time to chill a bottle properly avoid the old ice-cube trick as this will dilute the wine too quickly but have a bowl of frozen grapes in your freezer ready drop into your glass.

 

We have five rosés at various price points on sale one of which was recently recommended by the Food and Wine writer Fiona Beckett. She said of the Bodegas Julián Chivite Las Finças “this should be a gastronomic rosé and it is. Clean, crisp and incisive with mouthwatering acidity, it could almost be a white.”  Try with prawns, fresh crab, langoustines, and gravalax all readily available locally just like our wine!

Come and try our rosés at our next FREE WINE TASTING on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th August. Corks out 11.30-3.00pm. All welcome

Don’t forget we are open daily for you to buy wines and we offer FREE DELIVERY in the South Hams. Keep up to date with all our events by joining our mailing list, just email us your details.