Christmas Food & Wine Pairing

Breakfast: Tradition dictates Bucks Fizz, freshly made with 2 parts champagne to 1 part orange juice, or why not try the Mimosa which is champagne and orange juice in equal measures – either are sure to get your Christmas off to bubbly start whether you’re serving bacon and sausages, eggs benedict, salmon or a lighter continental breakfast.

Aperitif:  In France the aperitif is often a sweet white wine, and our 2015 ‘Le Sweet’ with it’s rich golden colour and citrus followed by honey and caramel is perfect.  If not a sweet wine then try the Pierre Brigandat et Fils Champagne in our sparkling winter case with it’s creamy, lemony aromas on the nose and full palate finished with a sensation of crispness.  It will pair well with whatever nibbles you serve.

Also don’t forget that champagne can make some wonderful cocktails – click here to see our top 5 champagne cocktails!

Starters:  Our fruity, smooth and vivacious 2017 Blanc Sec Exceptionnel with it’s long clean finish will be a great compliment for anything you serve from light salads,  sea food, fish, paté and even spicy starters.

Main Courses:  If you are going traditional and serving turkey (it has been served at Christmas since the 16th century!) you have to take care not to overpower it as it isn’t a powerful meat.  We would recommend the 2015 Cuvee Classique – it is bright and fresh on the nose and round and fruity on the palate but without any heavy overpowering tannin.

If you’re serving goose or a heavier red meat dish, such as beef wellington or lamb then our 2012 Cuvee Prestige will be perfect with it’s elegant and complex aromas, rich, ripe dark fruit and warm spice.

A vegetarian mushroom roast will need a heavier wine like our Prestige, but vegetable tarts, or anything with cream and cheese will need more acidity and you should serve a dry white such as our Exceptionnel.  Our Classique will pair well with dishes such as a veggie lasagne and other pasta with tomato sauce.

Pudding: It has to be our 2015 ‘Le Sweet’ – with it’s unctuous sweetness balanced by a fresh acidity it will pair brilliantly with your Christmas pudding, mince pies and even with chocolate based desserts.

Cheese: You’ll be spoilt for choice with our wines to pair with cheese – try ‘Le Sweet’ with a salty goats cheese and other soft cheeses, our Exceptionnel with a lighter firm cheese, or either of our reds will be delicious with mature hard cheese.

Boxing Day: If you’re currying up the leftovers or serving cold meat platters with sauteed potatoes our 2015 Classique will be ideal.

Bon Appetit!

Feature – common faults in wine #2.

In the first of this mini-series on the subject of wine faults, we looked at cork taint (corked wines) and oxidation. In this feature we have a quick run through of a more recent and sometimes controversial fault, caused by a rogue yeast that is colloquially known as Brett.

 Brett, the Bad Boy of Yeasts

‘Brett’ is short for Brettanomyces, which is a type of yeast that lives on the skins of fruit, but also for winemakers can hang around in the winery, in particular in barrels. It changes the character of wine, in most cases for the worse. The conditions that allow it to develop are varied; poorly cleaned harvest and winery equipment, problems with fermentations, low acidity in wines, and less than perfectly cleaned tanks and barrels being the most common.

Once the winery is ‘infected’ with Brett, it is a devil to get rid of, which is why many wine traders who buy in bulk (ie from the tank) will not touch any wines from a property where they have detected even a small hint of Brett, for fear of contaminating their (usually very large) wine blending facility.

Having said that, it has long been argued that ‘a bit of Brett’ makes a wine more interesting. Well, it can do but only in specific circumstances; the Brett compound has to be the right type (see below), be only in small quantities – itself reliant on people’s sensitivity to it which varies a lot, and also the wine must be stable – that is to say, a bit of Brett today can soon become a lot tomorrow.

Btrett produces three phenolic compounds which give different characteristics to the wine, namely;

4-ethylguaiacol – typical aromas and tastes include smoky bacon, spice, and cloves

4-ethylphenol – band-aids and antiseptic, acetic acid

isovaleric acid – sweaty socks, cheese, horse, mouse droppings

The first one, 4-ethylguaiacol, can be pleasant in a wine – the others not so much!

To combat the threat of Brett, winemakers need a healthy crop of grapes, careful hygiene all stages of the harvest and winemaking process, diligence during fermentations, and good control of temperature and levels of sulphur (the all-purpose preservative and antioxidant used in winemaking) are also important. In organic winemaking, given we use much less sulphur, the other factors become even more important.

2018 is a vintage marked by low acidity in Bordeaux (high pH) which has set the alarm bells ringing, due to the relative inability of sulphur to protect wine with low acidity, so extra care (and even, in some case, acidification of wine), is needed.

Incidentally, there are winemakers who take the opposite view and let Brett do its thing (along with all the other volatile compounds), most notably Chateau Musar, the famous Lebanese wine. However, they are the exception and most people in the industry nowadays view Brett as a fault to be avoided.

Fun fact; Brettanomyces actually comes from the Greek for ‘British Fungus’, as it was first discovered when chemists investigated spoilage of British beer over a century ago.

Chateaux Musar (Lebanon) and Beaucastel (Chateauneuf-du-Pape), two famous wines who, it is said, have had a strong presence of Brett over the years.

A few of the aromas caused by Brett…