Em Marshall-Luck picks some Wines for the season – and some special Smoked Foods
The rich foods that grace our tables at this time of year require bold yet sophisticated wines that will stand up to and complement their full flavours, with wine and dish drawing out nuances in a melding of harmonious complexities. For this festive period, I have one sparkling recommendation, two reds and whites, a dessert wine and a cider choice, as well as options for those who may not, do not wish to, or are not allowed to drink!
Firstly, the sparkling – a 2010 sparkling rose from the family-owned Furleigh Estate vineyard in Dorset. The wine is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, using the traditional method, resulting in a most superior sparkling wine with delicate pink blush and a nose that combines citrus fruit and sweeter strawberries. The bubbles are fine: tight and small, and the wine has a crisp, refreshing and elegant taste – quite dry and with predominantly citrus fruits, but grassy tones as well; very stiff competition for champagne.
The two red wines are available from the wine club 3D wines – which not only provides interesting wine selections to its members, but goes a step further in also offering tours to wine regions and vineyards and the opportunity to meet producers. They also produce a beautifully-presented newsletter and run fabulous-sounding events, such as the forthcoming truffle hunting, wine & gourmet weekend in the Rhône Valley, which includes a visit to the producers of one of my recommendations, the Saurel family at the biodynamic vineyard, Montirius. I won’t patronise readers by explaining the principles behind biodynamically-grown products; suffice it to say that the fully organic Montirius Vacqueyras 2011 reaches your glass after a gestation in harmony with nature. It is a blend of old vine Grenache and Syrah grown on classic Garrigues, chalk and clay terroir; this is reflected in its dark and intense flavours. The colour is a deep purple, and the nose is of dark berry fruits and liquorice. Blackcurrants predominate in the taste, alongside brambles and hints of leather – a black and rich flavour with goodly quantities of spice and black pepper. With quite a dry and lingering finish of black fruits, this is a good, bold, robust wine for steak or shepherd’s pie.
The La Fagotiere Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 comes in a beautiful bottle embossed with “Chateauneuf-du-Pape” and cross keys – quite splendid even before one reaches the beverage itself. The wine is a combination of old vine Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes and has been produced with good husbandry – hand harvested at very low yields. It is a deep, dark burgundy colour, with a nose of dark bramble fruits and, again, a hint of liquorice. The taste is smooth, rich and dark – with blackcurrants and plums but also masses of pepper and spice, and some tar. Intriguingly, as the wine breathes, odours and flavours of dark chocolate come through as well. This is a superb wine for red meats and warming stews. With its emphasis on supporting its producers, as well as the extraordinary events and tours it offers members, 3D Wines is to be commended on its breadth of vision, as well as on its products. (Visit www.3dwines.com if you’re interested in finding out more.)
To accompany gammon or turkey, you could do worse than try a Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Blanc Sec – a combination of the three grape varieties of Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle. Its colour is surprisingly deep for a dry white; while the nose is sharp and fruity and the taste lingering and elegant – fresh citrus fruits and apples abound. All in all, a most refreshing white. Another commendable white option would be a Semillon Sauvignon from Prestige de Calvet, Bordeaux, with its rich colour; mineral nose and taste that is a combination of fruits (including grapefruit and lemon), floral tones – especially jasmine, and minerals. This impressive wine proffers a taste that is both fragrant, yet also dry and immensely crisp at the same time.
I’ve also been impressed by Sheppy’s Mulled Cider – the perfect beverage to warm one through after a long country ramble at this time of year. The drink combines Sheppy’s cider (which they have been producing for two hundred years) with spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, creating a drink that is warm and vibrant in colour, nose and taste. Heat well and enjoy the superb combination of honeyed cider and the spices which lend the sweet drink an enticingly exotic and intriguing twist.
Meanwhile, children, drivers and non-drinkers might like to consider one of Luscombe’s ever-burgeoning range , such as one of their Ginger Beers or a Cranberry Crush. Luscombe drinks (from Devon) are all organic and their lists of ingredients are pleasingly natural and short. Of their two ginger beers, the Cool Ginger is a gentle and refreshing ginger beer, sweet and moreish with a little fiery kick at the aftertaste. Made with root ginger, cane sugar and Sicilian lemons, the flavour of ginger sings through loud and clear making this a wonderful non-alcoholic option. The Hot Ginger Beer effervesces enthusiastically and delivers a powerful but not overwhelming gingery hit, along with mouthfuls of sweet lemon, and lingers in the mouth as a warm glow. The Cranberry Crush is made with cranberry juice, sparkling spring water, damascena rose water and Madagascan vanilla, resulting in a sweet and rich drink with strong cranberry flavour but with additional tastes kicking in from the rosewater and vanilla. Children will adore it – as will those adults with a slightly sweeter tooth – though with its sophisticated twists, it’s far from a saccharine option.
To accompany the pudding? Easy – a Chateau Filhot Sauternes. Appearance, nose and taste all come together in this rich, honeyed wine, with its aromas and flavours of sweet, sun-heated apricots, golden syrup and plump, golden raisins. Although sweet, it isn’t cloying, and its honeyed element has an elegance that dances in the mouth. This wine complements desserts without either overpowering them or being shouted out by them. What better way to conclude a festive meal?
The Black Mountains Smokery, www.smoked-foods.co.uk situated in the Brecon Beacons, offers excellent products which make superb gifts or indulgent treats for yourself alongside your festive wines. They produce a range of hampers, selections and even subscription gifts. I tried their Taste for Two hamper box, with its Welsh smoked salmon, smoked chicken and duck breasts and smoked salmon fillet – and was hugely impressed, especially by the smoked chicken. I am extremely partial to this and tend to opt for it whenever I see it on offer but can honestly say that this was probably the best I’ve ever had – ever so succulent, moist and tender; with a nice smoky flavour that was prominent but not overwhelming. The Welsh Smoked Salmon had a texture that was quite chewy – almost crunchy – though not unpleasantly so. The flavour was full and wonderfully woody and smoky, though not overpowering; a rich and luxurious product. The duck was also good – dark and quite dense; although I found it less impressive than the other products. The smoked salmon fillet, however, was again superb – tender and moist, with a delicate smoky flavour to add an extra and welcome dimension to the fish. I roasted it gently it with tarragon and a little hollandaise sauce, which worked well. The accompanying condiments are from Trackelments – cranberry and dill sauces. The latter was full-flavoured (so one only needed a little with the Welsh smoked salmon), and was nicely balanced in terms of sweetness, acidity and saltiness. On the whole, both sauces worked extremely well – bold accompaniments, but ones that complemented the smoked products perfectly.
Although the duck, darker and more robust than the smoked chicken or salmon, would prefer a light red (perhaps a pinot noir) or a more spicy white, such as a Gewürztraminer, the fish and chicken would all go superbly well with the Prestige de Calvet Semillon Sauvignon, or you could even try the salmons with the Furleigh Estate for a truly luxurious and sumptuous pairing.
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s food and wine critic