Notes from the vineyard: settling

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Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs

As much of the country is dusted with snow, something else is settling in the tanks at Nyetimber. In his final post for 2017, winemaker Brad Greatrix follows the festive season in the winery

Most of our tanks have now finished their fermentation processes and are starting a slow, natural clarification by settling. We’ll be tasting all the wines over the next couple of weeks for an early first impression, but the real work on that will begin in earnest in January, when the wines are better clarified and the true characters of the wines are revealed.

At this stage, with the wines having just completed the malolactic fermentation, Cherie and I taste them and consider lees stirring for the individual base wines. Bâtonnage benefits wines that need a bit more mid-palate weight, and so suits certain parcels of Chardonnay. Pinots get assessed in this way too, but, as they naturally have more body and weight, tend not to receive bâtonnage. I’ve mentioned before that, when assessing wines at this stage, we pay most attention to texture and balance, because the flavours of young wine are transient. This year, certain parcels of Pinot Noir slide across the palate with a silkiness we’ve not seen in quite a few years. I am eagerly awaiting January when blending can get underway!

In the meantime, as we cross over to December, one can’t help but think of the festive season. It’s an exciting time, and there are many occasions for which sparkling wine makes the perfect accompaniment. Behind the scenes, the flurry of parties keeps us very busy in the winery preparing Christmas orders. The whir of the labelling line is as sure a sign as frost on the windscreen that the holidays are just around the corner.

One of the things I’m most excited about this year is all the festive events taking place, including our presence at the Royal Exchange, bringing festive sparkle to the City of London this Christmas. If you’re in the area, do join us for a drink at the Threadneedle Bar, Gallery or Grand Café. All three venues will be offering delicious food pairings with our wines, providing a great opportunity to discover perfect seasonal dishes to accompany a glass of Nyetimber.

As one can imagine, the meals of Christmas Day at my home always feature sparkling wines. This year, I will be pouring a few special vintages of Blanc de Blancs, including our 2007. If you would like to do the same, I can’t help but notice that Berry Bros. & Rudd has some of this special vintage available in magnum. It’s a sentimental favourite of mine, and at recent tastings this has been showing beautifully as it approaches its 10th anniversary in bottle.

Whatever you’re drinking, I wish you all very happy holidays.

Category: Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Essential ingredients: smoked salmon

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

In our books, smoked salmon is as essential at Christmas as Champagne (perhaps using a slightly liberal definition of “essential”). While delicious on its own, our Head Chef Stewart Turner’s terrine – as easy as it is impressive – might just be the ultimate dinner party starter

Smoked salmon is synonymous with Christmas for me, my father-in-law used to always serve it very classically with lemon, black pepper and buttered brown bread as a starter for Christmas, Easter, the Queen’s birthday (and any other special occasion, for that matter). I think this harks back to when it was still seen as a luxury ingredient and carried the appropriate price tag.

Nowadays the market is flooded with smoked salmon of varying degrees of quality. Much as for wine, there are many different ways of incorporating the effects or flavours of oak into a wine (from chips and staves through to fine barrels) which will have an effect on its quality. The same can be said for smoked salmon: there are many ways of incorporating smoke and they don’t all involve “smoking”.

So if you’re going to indulge in some this Christmas, make sure it’s from a quality producer. At Berry Bros. & Rudd, we use Forman’s which is the oldest smoker in London, although they now have a state-of-the-art facility in the East End. Like us, it’s a family business with over 100 years of expertise.

Their London Cure smoked salmon has just received PGI status, that which is afforded to Parma ham, Wensleydale cheese and, of course, Champagne, marking it as truly special and worthy of any Christmas table.

This terrine is great for Christmas day as it can all be prepared in advance, leaving you free to focus on the main course. But, if you don’t have the time, just make the butter and use this on your brown bread, to serve with the salmon and a wedge of lemon. I’m sure my father-in-law would have approved.

Smoked salmon terrineServes 8
  • 90g butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon and juice of half a lemon
  • 25g anchovy – chopped
  • 2tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1tbsp chopped chives
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 1kg sliced smoked salmon
  • 2tbsp lemon oil

Whip the butter in a food processer until light and fluffy, then fold in the lemon zest, lemon juice, anchovies, herbs and shallots. Season with freshly ground pepper (to taste).

Line a 1.4kg bread tin with a double layer of cling film leaving the excess over the sides. Begin to fill the tin with a layer of smoked salmon across the base, ensuring there are no gaps. Spread over a thin layer of butter with a palette knife covering the entire space. Continue to build with alternate layers of salmon and butter until the tin is three-quarters full, finishing with a layer of smoked salmon.

Cover the top with the overhanging cling film and press with a 1kg weight; leave to chill overnight to allow the butter to set.

Turn out on a clean chopping board and slice, brush with a little lemon oil and allow to come to room temperature before serving. Accompany with some toasted sourdough and a few green leaves dressed with some oil and freshly ground pepper.

Try it with…

Find a full range of wines suited to Christmas (including up to 25 percent off Bollinger) on bbr.com

Category: Food & Wine,Miscellaneous

A Lyons Christmas

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For many of us, Christmas offers the excuse to open a few truly special bottles; here, Will Lyons shares with us the wines he has lined up for 25th December and beyond

In the far corner of my cellar, just before the jumble of loosely packed Claret cases, stands a metal wine rack, around eight feet tall, complete with a grill that can close like a cabinet. It was a gift, given to me many years ago from my mother and is believed to have come from a Parisian wine bar. Inside I keep my empty bottles, trophies of memories long past. The first bottle of Ch. Lafite Rothschild I ever tasted, a very old bottle of Bordeaux from the 19th century, a pre-war example from Burgundy, past vintages of old Port opened at birthdays and anniversaries, and of course the remnants of Christmas past.

A few weekends before Christmas Eve, I’ll take the key and wander down to spend a few hours rootling around my collection of odds and ends to choose what, in just under a month’s time, will become the memories of Christmas 2017.

Not all our wine comes from the cellar, I order in the “drinking wine”, but I raid the cellar for the more special bottles that we will open and enjoy at various stages over the course of the week. I still have a few bottles of 2004 Pol Roger which we will probably open, fresh from the church on Christmas morning. The 2004 vintage followed in the footsteps of the spectacular 2002, but it is no shy sibling and loses no impact with delicate honeyed notes and an attractive floral character.

Those who know me will attest for my love of Le Soula, a curious blend from the south of France whose white is made up principally of Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. I still have a few cases of the 2011 and will almost certainly be drinking those. If I need any more white I might look to Château des Quarts, the joint venture between Olivier Merlin and Dominique Lafon in the Mâconnais. The 2013 has really impressed me this year with its impressive weight on the palate and moreish nutty richness. I also have a few very old bottles of Sancerre by Domaine François Cotat, I may well break the wax seal if the mood takes, simply to enjoy its racing acidity – more than likely with some smoked salmon, supplied by my father-in-law from the Outer Hebrides.

I can never resist the appeal of a bottle of decent Claret on Christmas Day. I have some 2008 Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste which, with a long decant, will fit the bill this year. If money was no object, I might be looking to 1996 for this Christmas, some of those wines – such as Ch. Léoville Poyferré – have a sweet, seductive cedar character.

I’ll also be drinking is the 2015 Domaine Lyrarakis, Kotsifali from Greece, which has an evocative garrigue character on the nose and enough dark fruit to make it very drinkable. I could envisage serving it with cold meats on Boxing Day, possibly alongside 2015 Beaujolais-Villages, Lantignié, Alexandre Burgaud. Its delightful black fruit will lift the mood of anyone who smells it.

And we will finish with a Port. This year I have my eye on some 1985 Graham’s, which I bought in Oporto in the summer of 1997. I was accompanied by Kate, my then girlfriend, now wife, and with whom, among others, I will be spending this Christmas.

Browse our range of Christmas wines on bbr.com.

Category: Miscellaneous,Old World

In the spirit of the season

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Photograph: Piers Cunliffe

As the first doors on advent calendars are opened, it’s time to start planning properly for the season. Here, we turn our thoughts to the Christmas cocktail hour – with three recipes to ensure you celebrate in style

With December’s jam-packed diaries, it’s all too easy for one drinks party to merge with the next. We asked our spirits team to create three essential festive serves that will make your party stand out from the rest. Whether entertaining a crowd, or hosting one essential other: these cocktails are guaranteed to impress, no matter your skills behind the bar.

For the budding bartender: The King’s Festive Sour

  • 50ml The King’s Ginger
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • 15ml cranberry juice
  • 15ml egg white
  • Angostura bitters

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over cubed ice into a tumbler. Serve with a mince pie on the side for a fully festive affair.

For the cocktail creative: Father Christmas Fizz

Add the rum, honey syrup and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled flute or coupe. Top up with sparkling wine and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

For the master mixologist: Mulled Rum Sour

  • 50ml Penny Blue, VSOP, Rum
  • 25ml sugar syrup (3:2 mixture of sugar and hot water)
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 25ml egg white
  • 25ml cold mulled wine
  • Star anise, to garnish

Add the rum, sugar syrup and lemon juice and egg white to a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice, strain into an empty half of another shaker (or some other receptacle). Discard the ice and shake again. Strain into a tumbler over ice. Once settled, add the mulled wine and garnish with star anise.

Find our full range of hampers, gifts, wines and spirits (including our essentials for the cocktail cabinet) at bbr.com/christmas.

Category: Spirits