This month in our London Shop’s wine-tasting machines we’re
shining a light on Bordeaux. While you’ll find a host of reds, we’re
championing one of the region’s superb and undervalued whites
2016 Château Langlet Blanc, Graves
What is it? We love
Claret as much as any other dedicated oenophile, but Bordeaux’s whites spend
far too much time in the shadow of its reds. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and
Sémillon, they often offer brilliant value – like this one from Château Langlet
in the Graves.
Why’s it different? While most of the region’s whites are a blend
of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, this – like the rather more famous Pavillon
Blanc – is pure Sauvignon, sourced from a single 0.6-hectare vineyard. There’s
some new oak – 20% – which adds weight and complexity to this rich yet fresh
wine. The fruit is deliciously exotic, almost tropical, but with a lovely line
of acidity keeping it in check.
What should I eat
with it? Delicious enough to drink
solo, this would be ideal alongside white or shellfish – a platter of fruits de
mer, perhaps, if you’re feeling fancy.
Christmas Day provides the perfect excuse to uncork
something truly special. As the day approaches, we asked a few of our Buyers
and Masters of Wine to tell us – if money was truly no object – what they’d be
drinking, as well as the more affordable bottles that are more likely to be gracing
their tables this 25th December
Max Lalondrelle, Bordeaux Buyer
1986 Château Léoville-Las Cases, St Julien, Bordeaux: If I could choose to collect a vertical from one château it would be Château Léoville-Las Cases, which is a phenomenally consistent estate. Firing on all cylinders, the 1986 typifies a beautifully crafted and aged Claret.
2006 Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido, Tuscany Italy (in magnum): Christmas calls for pushing the boat out – and what better a way than with a magnum of a seminal Italian wine. Sassicaia was the first of the Super Tuscans and remains very much on top today. The 2006 vintage was slightly warmer than average, and wonderful for Cabernet Sauvignon. This exotic wine is drinking exceptionally now.
2009 Gattinara, Vallana, Piedmont, Italy: This offers fantastic value from the lesser-known Gattinara appellation which actually has a longer history with the Nebbiolo grape than the Langhe. Here the soil is volcanic and rich in iron, giving the wines fantastic concentration and nerve. They often take longer to age and Vallana is never in a hurry to release, preferring to mature them in their cellars so they drink well as soon as they’re available to buy. This 2009 (their current release) is already fantastically complex and full, and drinking beautifully for this Christmas and many to come.
Catriona Felstead MW, Spain Buyer
2010 La Faraona, Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo, Spain: La Faraona is a tiny, yet unique vineyard, perching almost vertically, at incredible altitude high on a hillside in Bierzo. Alvaro Palacios talks about the “magnetic” energy of this place and you can see how this translates into this absolutely thrilling wine with its poise, complexity and perfection.
2016 La Montesa, Crianza, Bodegas Palacios Remondo, Rioja, Spain: La Montesa is one of my favourite “everyday” Riojas. Alvaro Palacios is putting so much energy and care into transforming this vineyard, changing all the trained vines to dry-farmed bush vines, and the focus on this terroir is clear. Fine and elegant with rich cherry and macerated cranberry fruit, this wonderful wine also has freshness and balance, making it an easy decision to enjoy another sip.
Demetri Walters MW, Wine Educator & Presenter
1920 Bual, Blandy’s, Madeira, Portugal (in magnum): Fortified wines give year-round pleasure, though never more so at Christmas. Both this, and my slightly more affordable choice, can be enjoyed lightly chilled before your Christmas lunch or dinner, are the best match for plum pudding and are a superb accompaniment, in tandem with a cup of tea, to Christmas cake and mince pies. The 1920 Bual, by the venerable house of Blandy, is one of the very best vintages of the last century and in magnum format the joy will go even further. Best decant this two or three days before drinking. It’ll keep for months once opened.
Berry Bros. & Rudd William Pickering Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal: With an average cask age of 15 years, our William Pickering Tawny Port, made for us by the famous Quinta do Noval, will provide a wonderful treat at a fraction of the cost of the above. Two hugely enjoyable sweeties to reminisce over, to sip with friends and family, or accompanied by a snoozing cat or dog in front of a roaring fire.
Champagne Jacquesson, Cuvée 742, Extra Brut: Jacquesson’s 700 series Champagnes are carefully crafted with a view to express the intrinsic qualities of particular vintages. The Cuvée 742 is based on the excellent 2014 vintage; it is wonderfully rich and biscuity and ready to enjoy with smoked salmon blinis.
Barbara Drew MW, Events Manager
2013 Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley, Australia: This was one of the first Australian wineries I ever visited and I was blown away by the vineyards, the winemaking philosophy and the combination of elegance and power that Hill of Grace captures. A rare treat, but worth every penny.
You might be debating turkey or goose, but our Head Chef Stewart Turner has another option to add into the mix: capon. Here’s his recipe for a festive bird to rule the roost
As we get into the business end of the year, I’m always
asked to provide recipes for Christmas -whether it be general tips or dishes. Having
done most of the classics, this year I thought I’d do a recipe for a capon,
which is very popular in Europe and is commonly eaten for the festive family feast.
Capon is a castrated cockerel or rooster that is then fattened. The lack of hormones and slow growth rates mean they tend to be more tender and flavourful, as well as having a higher fat content which results in a juicer bird for the table. They are only available for Christmas and we have done many Italian and French themed Christmas dinners where the capon is always the main event. It’s a great alternative to either turkey or goose. They are not commercially produced and are very much an artisan or even luxury product due to the amount of growing time compared with today’s mass-produced poultry. As such they don’t come cheap, but – as with all boutique products – I think you get what you pay for.
Roast capon with fig, chestnut and truffle stuffingServes
1 capon – weighing approximately 3 to 3.5kg,
wishbone and giblets removed
Salt and freshy ground pepper
1 head of garlic – split
1 lemon – halved
5 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 large onions – thickly sliced
100g butter – softened
oven to 200°C.
Season the butter with salt and pepper. Loosen the skin from the breasts of the
bird, being careful not to tear it. Pipe the butter under the skin and rub the
outside to evenly distribute it over each breast. Fill the cavity with the
garlic, lemon and herbs.
onion slices evenly over the base of a roasting tin and sit the capon on top. Roast
in the oven for about 20 minutes and then baste well with pan juices, lower the
oven to 160°C
and continue to cook for a further hour and 40 minutes, basting every half an
point the capon should be almost cooked. With a meat thermometer, check the
thickest part of the thigh – you need it to be about 70°C. If it’s not quite there,
return to the oven and check every five minutes.
hit the right temperature and the bird is cooked, remove to a serving dish. Cover
and keep somewhere warm to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Retain the juices from the
pan and deglaze for gravy.
Fig, chestnut and truffle stuffing
2 large onions peeled and diced
100g button mushrooms – diced
1 tsp thyme – picked
200g chestnuts – cooked, peeled and chopped
100g dried figs – chopped
150ml chicken stock
100g butter – diced
50g truffle paste
1tbsp truffle oil
10g fresh truffle (optional)
Salt and freshy ground pepper
frying pan over a medium heat with 50g of butter. Lightly fry the onions,
garlic and mushrooms with the thyme until softened but not coloured. Season
with salt and pepper.
chestnuts and figs, cook for a further five minutes, then add the stock and
bring to the boil, remove from the heat and fold in the breadcrumbs, truffle
paste and oil and remaining butter.
mix into a buttered baking dish and bake at 160°C for about 40 minutes, until
the top is lovely and crispy. If using, finish with freshly sliced truffle.
What to drink: It depends on whether you’re making this even more indulgent with the addition of truffle. If fresh truffle is on the cards, you’ll need something with equivalent perfume and a savoury edge; mature red Burgundy, Barolo or Barbaresco would be ideal. If you’re abstaining from truffle, we’d be tempted by something with a sweeter core of fruit to rival the figgy richness of the stuffing – a top-class New World Pinot Noir, from the likes of Storm, Crittenden or Au Bon Climat would do the trick.
Produces: red and white wine These three villages are included at the top table because of their shared ownership of the Grands Crus on the Hill of Corton: Corton itself (usually with a vineyard name appended) with its hearty, substantial reds, and Corton-Charlemagne for intense, stony whites. At village and Premier Cru level, good value and quite serious reds can be found in Aloxe. Pernand has some tasty, lemony whites and a few reds that can be quite light, and the best of Ladoix produce its spicy, quite exotic whites. But the jewels are the Grand Cru vineyards that encircle this distinctive Burgundian landmark.
Produces: more red wine than white Three-quarters of Beaune’s vineyards are classified as Premier Cru (there are no Grands Crus) but, if truth be told, not all are worthy of the grade. The best land is in the middle of the appellation and the slope, and wines from those vineyards can be well-structured and age-worthy. But the main attraction for Beaune’s reds is the pleasure principle: fruity, red-berry-scented wines, soft in tannin, easy in acidity. Increasing amounts of white are made, mostly in the south of the appellation, towards Pommard. These are easy and open-textured with attractive stone-fruit notes.
Produces: exclusively red wine The wines of Pommard are most easily identified by their sturdy tannins. This indicates potential longevity and Pommard does have the capacity to be the longest-lived of all the reds south of Beaune. To the north of the village, the wines are strongly influenced by the eroded soils washed down from the hills, and the wines are deep and textured. Immediately to the south of and around the village, there is the greatest accumulation of clay with iron, giving a firmness to the wines, while further south on the border with Volnay the wines are at their most aromatic and among the finest.
Produces: exclusively red wine For many, Volnay makes the finest reds of the Côte de Beaune. There are no Grands Crus, but the best vineyards, towards the border with Meursault (Clos des Chênes, Cailleret, Taillepieds and Champans) make wines of translucent delicacy and heady violet fruit that implausibly build in intensity through the palate. Although in the neighbouring commune of Meursault, the best parts of Santenots are also in this category. Bordering Pommard, the wines have firmer tannins and, around the village itself, the wines are light and floral, but lacking the thrill of the very best. Generic Volnay can be very prettily aromatic but tends to be rather light-bodied.
Produces: white wines, with the occasional and rare red Stylistically, Meursault’s whites are broad, nutty and rounded, and its finest wines come from the band of Premiers Crus at the south of the appellation, especially from the sweet spot that runs through the middle of those vineyards. But Meursault’s real strength is the quality of its generic wines, commonly endorsed with a vineyard name. Some share the geology and altitude of the Premiers Crus but face east. Climate change is making these increasingly interesting. Higher on the slope, the wines are leaner and more floral, lower down they are buttery and soft.
Produces: exclusively white wine, barring a miniscule amount of red The majestic Grands Crus, especially Le Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet, dominate the landscape in Puligny. These set the tone for the commune’s style of a precise, steely framework, overlaid by haunting notes of blossom and white fruit. The best Premiers Crus lie immediately beside the Grand Crus to the north and at the same elevation. Wines from the higher vineyards show an ascetic minerality. There are many well-placed village vineyards, especially below the Grands Crus. Generic Puligny can offer a fine portal to the excellence of the village.
Produces: more white wine than red Chassagne has a share of the Grands Crus Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet, and one of its own: Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. The style of the white wines is hard to generalise, as a lot of Chardonnay is planted on red wine soil, but the best whites are full-bodied and with a creamy texture, sometimes verging on opulence, but also with minerality in the best vineyards. The finest Premiers Crus sites tend to be to the north of the appellation and closer to the tree line on the slope, but it is not easy to generalise. The red wines can be delicious, although the tannins can sometimes be a bit burly.