2020 has probably not panned out how any of us would have imagined. But with Christmas just around the corner, we wanted to make sure your festive holiday is as exciting and special as it can possibly be. So we asked resident sommelier Jim Bass to share some of his top tips for a festive tipple to help you celebrate in style. Over to you Jim…
I genuinely love every wine that I am recommending and I hope you do too. Most were actually discovered by lockdown Zoom tastings with producers arranged by my fabulous suppliers – sadly the new normal for wine tastings, plus a few old favourites for good measure. I am really passionate about quality and sustainability in my wine selection, so have highlighted some of my favourites which are ethically produced, made with integrity or have been certified, values we hold dear at the Scarlet.
Spark celebration with a classic Christmas fizz
Nothing sets the tone for a great day like popping a cork on a special bottle. This year I discovered Raventos I Blanc, Blanc de Blancs (Catalonia, Spain) 2017 which is made as traditional method Champagne. This wine has incredibly balanced acidity, fruit (apple and lemon) and toasty notes with an abundance of fine bubbles. Biodynamically certified, Pepe Raventos has broken away from the Cava Do in the pursuit of quality and sustainability. A significant move as Pepe’s family created the first traditional method sparkling wines of Spain in 1872. It is worth mentioning here that English sparkling wine has gone from strength to strength and many great options are available. The 2020 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2020 was Langham Wine Estate in Dorset, England – an incredible achievement! This would make the perfect Christmas morning fizz too.
For your traditional turkey roast
A quality Pinot Noir, Gamay or Grenache work best with traditional turkey if you prefer a red, with fruit profiles of cranberry, raspberry and cherry. They are all slow ripening, thinned skin varieties so tannins should be soft and velvety (without being jammy), and have a great acidity which allows for beautiful matches with your meal. Any oak should be subtle and well-integrated, while a little bottle-age and some tertiary flavours create the best pairings in my opinion. My top recommendation would be Morgon, Marcel Lapierre (Beaujolais, France) 2018. A leading light in the natural wine movement, these wines are always exciting and bright. If you want to try searching for an older vintage, 2009 was an excellent year and is drinking very nicely now.
If you prefer a white wine, I would head to the Languedoc for great value. A Limoux Chardonnay with a year in French oak and a little bottle-age would be my preferred choice. It features subtle tropical fruits and butterscotch along with the depth of concentration and ripeness needed for your Christmas roast.
What to pair with a lamb dish
It’s a French Malbec every time, for me. Dark fruit, coffee and winter spices work so well without the heavy tannins, not necessary just with lamb. I also love a Primitivo from Puglia or an old vine Carignan from Chile or the Languedoc in France – neglected treasure in my opinion which provides a great match with a hearty lamb meal. My top tip here is Les Anciens, Chateau Maris (Minervois, France) 2017 with blackcurrant, herbs, and sweet tobacco, winter spices. The vision of ex pat Bertie Eden, the godfather of biodynamic wine in the Languedoc, it’s certified by one of the top five sustainable wineries in the world.
The perfect pairing for your roast beef
Either a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah / Shiraz based wine is needed here. Beef has big, bold flavours and fat so a classic Bordeaux blend or Southern Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) would pair perfectly.
The Reyneke Cornerstone (Stellenbosch, South Africa) 2016 would be my top value recommendation. It’s a classic left bank blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and a little Merlot for finesse. This wine has a full and luxurious palate combining the freshness and concentration of dark fruit with the necessary tannic structure for roast beef. The Cornerstone wines are certified organic and the project has an incredible story; the proceeds of this wine helping farm workers and their families with education, housing and retirement annuities.
And if you’re not a wine lover, try a dark stout – an underestimated but incredible match for roast beef.
Best for Boxing Day (and second helpings)
A quality Rosé – yes, Rosé is not just for summer! I would highly recommend Judith Beck Pink (Burgenland, Austria) 2019 which is a stylish pink with vibrant red fruit with hints of peach from native varieties Zweigelt and Blaufrankish. This wine is pure and bright with biodynamic certification and a focus on minimal intervention in the winery and farm. This is what I will serve on Boxing Day this year – it’s great with most dishes but will brighten up any leftovers making them taste fresh and exciting once again.
I hope that my festive suggestions help you to celebrate in style, wherever you are this year.
Have a merry Christmas, Jim Bass