The comfort of Claret
Author: Philip Moulin
Over the years, I’ve had many people tell me (sometimes even those whom I trust) that red Bordeaux, or “Claret” – as we call it fondly in Britain, is not necessarily the best thing to go with a traditional Christmas dinner. It is claimed that the wines’ subtleties are lost amongst the powerful flavours that are part of a yuletide roast. To my mind this is stuff and nonsense. For me, Claret is the finest partner to a great number of what we consider to be the cornerstones of a Christmas feast. Whether it’s turkey with all the trimmings, a decadent goose, a rib of beef or even the joint of ham on Boxing Day, an even-mannered, savoury bottle of Claret is the absolute ticket.
I would go further and say that, for me, a decent case of Claret is an absolutely essential part of Christmas. With its inviting notes of cigar box, pencil shavings and blackcurrant fruit, there is something reassuring about it that few other wines can come close to offering. With food, red Bordeaux is more than capable of holding its own, but it rarely shouts too loud either. It is the classic accompaniment to a roast, with just enough fruit to be charming, yet enough structure to refresh the palate and bring the dish to life. Come the end of the meal you know exactly where you stand, or rather where you ought to be sitting – namely in your favourite armchair, clutching the last glass from the decanter, and perhaps a corner of the decent Cheddar you were hoping your companions were too full to tackle.
Three to try
2016 Berry Bros. & Rudd St Julien by Château Léoville Las Cases: Coming from one of the great terroirs of Bordeaux, and from arguably the best vintage in the last 20 years, our own St Julien is a clear contender for best-value wine on our list. With fabulous intensity of fruit, silky tannins, and beautiful balance, it would be hard to find a finer Claret for the price, and this will be a perfect match for all the Christmas Day classics.
2013 Ch. Haut-Plantey, St Emilion: A firm favourite of traditional Claret drinkers, Haut Plantey is the perfect example of a plump, rounded St Emilion. It manages the neat trick of being both gorgeously fruit-driven, yet serious and savoury at the same time. I would save this for Boxing Day, and enjoy it with slices of gammon and a wedge of mature cheddar.
2011 Château Giscours, Margaux: This is one of the grand old names of Bordeaux, and one of our favourite châteaux in recent years. The languid, opulent style of Giscours wines is instantly apparent in the 2011 – an easy, rounded sort of vintage. Full of dark, glossy cassis fruit, with hints of creamy oak, this is an effortlessly graceful Margaux for drinking now.