This time of year is a rare period when all my consumption is just wines from my cellar that I want to drink, chosen to go with food I am preparing for myself and guests. This year the meals to match were:

  • Roast Goose with roast root veg and sprouts (stir fried with lardons, cranberries and chestnuts);
  • Mature Pork Leg joint, with a cider and honey glaze served with red cabbage;
  • Goose and green bean Risotto;
  • Slow cooked blade of Beef.

So – the wines I chose were

Alsace Grand Cru “Brand” Pinot Gris 2005 (Cave de Turckheim) & Cornas 1998 (Noel Verset) for the Goose. Alsace Grand Cru “Brand” Riesling 2007 (Baur) & Bourgeuil Chevalerie 2008 for the Pork. The (at the time) Super-Tuscan:  Sa’Etta 1994 (Monte Bernardi) for the Risotto, and a Saint-Estèphe – Château Tronquoy Lalande 2000 for the Beef.

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The PG and the Cornas are classic choices with Goose, combining richness with acidity to frame a rich flavoured but slightly sweet, close textured and gamey meat.

The PG (current vintages are available in UK for about £15) is very typical but showing warmth and minerality of the Brand vineyard. The nose is slightly smoky with floral and citrus hints with something more exotic – quince maybe. The palate is dry and rich with a good long acid frame building to a mineral finish. Very good indeed with the goose, although the dryness is perhaps more than one would usually expect from a typical PG. That said, not as good as>>>

The Cornas 1998 from the legendary and lamented Noel Verset. I bought a case of this en primeur and have tried them now and then down the years (I still have a couple…). A legendary winemaker and a wine that deserves the same status… This has quite a Burgundian nose: sweet fruit and a hint of compost – though the fruit is darker with a sharper tinge underneath. The palate too calls to mind Burgundy with an amazing slightly warm, smooth and velvet texture hiding an elegantly powerful richness. The fruit is blackberry and plum with great length and pleasure with warm supple evolved tannins and just a hint of spice. It frames goose perfectly – fabulous!

The Baur Riesling is another cellared case that I acquired in 2011. Very lean initially I thought it needed time but have tried a bottle each year. This year the development is quite pronounced, showing clear diesel with hints of soft fruit and floral elements. The palate has high acidity with chalky minerality offsetting sweet and dense glazed pork very well. Now the wine is opening with food but on its own the narrowing of the finish still needs a couple of years… I’m quite pleased with the progress… approachable now – better in two years or more…

However the Bourgeuil is a lovely partner. The nose is initially untypical of Cabernet Franc, with plum and chocolate notes recalling Right Bank Claret. Later the wine has some understated herby and damp leaf notes. The acidity goes well with the pork and a slightly grainy tannic and peppery finish frames the sweet flavours in the glaze and red cabbage.

The Sa’Etta was a Birthday gift from Anna and Paul, 3 months ago. A 100% Sangiovese , this couldn’t be called Chianti Classico Riserva in 1994 but could now. Like some other notable wines the maker still uses the Super-Tuscan name (Cepparello by Isole e Olena, is another example that comes to mind). A rich Italian dish seemed the perfect opportunity to try this generous gift. The wine, still bright although browning at the edges, opens with typical sour cherry notes, but quickly reveals the fruit-cake notes that age supplies. The palate is a quite big and powerful expression of Sangiovese – more typical of Brunello than Classico. Smooth textured leading to a slightly grippy plum-skin bitterness at the finish. This proved a good frame for the Risotto, which had a rich texture and a counterpointing crunch from the green beans. Surprisingly a very herby note came to the fore with the food – thyme, which was a pleasant bonus. Thanks so much P&A!

The slow cooked (3-4 hours) blade of beef has a very broad flavour, the meat still slightly pink at the core despite flaking and melting in the mouth. The gravy a reduction of red wine, stock, strained onion, carrot and celery in which the meat poached. Against this something austere but with charm was called for. So hence a 2000 claret. This estate has 45% Cab Sauv, 45% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot – though the assemblage isn’t the same every year. I haven’t been able to ascertain the exact blend of this wine but the nose was certainly Cabernet: cedar, mushroom, forest floor, black fruit. The palate initially showed more Merlot character – plums, chocolate grainy tannins but then a bay leaf finish. It provided the austerity the dish demanded certainly, but not quite the matching charm… As it was a little four-square – a cru bourgeois indeed!

So overall a pretty pleasurable set of meals and wines. In situations like this typicity is a pretty valuable quality – after all one is relying on a significant amount of it in trying to match the wine and food. All this wines met that criterion, the most pleasurable those with typicity plus. On that account – the smoothness, complexity and evolution of the oldest wines – the Cornas and the Tuscan – excelled.
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I hope you had as enjoyable a vinous Xmas. Until next… year!

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