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Come up with the perfect food and wine pairings for the holiday season!

Come up with the perfect food and wine pairings for the holiday season!

Holiday season is most definitely upon us. If you haven’t thought about wines to go with your Christmas dinner, it’s more than time to get cracking. But not to panic, the Décanté team is here to help.
Tis the season to share joy and a good bottle of wine with those you love. Although within the team, impatient or epicurean as ever, there is no need to wait for a festive occasion to crack open a special bottle.
We are well aware that the appellations (AOC, IGP…) can’t aspire to completely defining a wine – a winemaker’s work greatly impacts the wine’s quality and character – however we will use them as reference to tell you all about the wines you could choose to refine your meal. It is undeniable that appellations still stand for quality most of the time.

In order to give you a wide berth, we will go over all the main foods we typically encounter at Christmas. If on a whim you decide to stray towards an ambitiously unique meal, ask your wine merchant for advice as he will surely be delighted to help out.

Here are the keys to setting up for unforgettable evenings around an expertly thought up table.

I – Appetisers and starters 

We’ve selected a few original pairings for your great Christmas classics.

Let’s begin with our oysters. Often Muscadet is associated with them, and for good reason as they do very well together! We can recommend the wines of Jo Landron, the new ambassador of the region. Otherwise you could go for a Chablis, or a Chenin Blanc and play with their sharp and vibrant character. To be even more original you could venture out towards a young Riesling.

Now regarding Foie Gras, have your pick of the litter! You could go with the traditional Sauternes. It can, however, seem slightly sickly to some due to its sweetness. In this case you may favour a semi dry such as Vouvray. It could also be served with Champagne (Blanc de noir, and an old millésime), a Porto, or even an old red Bordeaux from Haut Médoc (but avoid those with a strong woody character).

Now, if you prefer Salmon as a starter, we can suggest a very different type of pairing. We quite like to counter the fatty quality of salmon with some acidity to cut through it. This can be found in several wines, take for example a champagne, ideally blanc de blanc extra brut. If you’d rather steer clear of bubbly, try a Riesling with sharp acidity, from Mosel in Germany or Alsace. We can recommend the Bott Geyl domain, or Achilée in Alsace. Finally for something more traditional but just as pleasing, why not select something from the Sauvignon Blanc variety, like Sancerre.

It would be a shame not to mention Scallops these wonderful shellfish we call Saint-Jacques. You could serve them with a Savennieres, or even a Champagne (extra brut or non-dosé).

Finally, the ultimate starter: Caviar. Enough to make quite a few green with envy, you might as well serve it with Champagne. Don’t hesitate to vary the Champagne according to the types of Sturgeon and their flavour characteristics.

II – Mains

Would it really be Christmas without the classic turkey? It is often served with chestnuts, and would be the perfect match for very fine reds like Burgundy. Our thoughts go straight to Corton Volnay, but you could also pick a Morgon which would suit perfectly. A millésime from a few years ago, ideally. Another option is to aim for wines such as an old Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais). In any case, avoid serving wines with too strong a body and high tannin.

            Another classic, Capon, can be served with wines from the Loire Valley (Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-loire in particular) or a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Truly a match made in heaven. Alternatively, a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape will do very well too.

            Perhaps Christmas, for you, calls for game instead. In this case, we can suggest a wine from Languedoc or from Provence, like red Bandol from a few years ago.  Otherwise why not give Cornas a try, a little gem from the Rhone Valley which we tend to forget. This wine, just like a Côte-Rôtie, would be the perfect escort for quail.

            Holiday season if also a good occasion to share platters of seafood, either as a main or a starter. In this case, white wine from Burgundy is always a good choice: Meursault, or Montrachet in the may variations they come in. Or perhaps the more budget-friendly Givry or Montagny. A more original choice would be white Hermitage, always a pleaser too.

 

            If you’re lucky enough to sample some truffles over Christmas, select your wine depending on what you serve them with. With eggs, in an omelette for instance, go for a red Beaujolais (Cote de Brouilly, or Morgon for a more powerful option) or a wine from Loire like Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Served with white meats, a white would be more appropriate for truffles. Hermitage, Saint Joseph or a white from Burgundy.

III – Cheese

Here we are, face to face with our toughest dilemma: red or white with cheese? We won’t attempt to convince you either way, but rather to give you a few pointers.

An old classic consists in serving camembert with cider. Trust us, this will forever be a pleaser. For soft or pressed cheese, you can’t go wrong with a white wine, or even bubbly. They go very well together and light acidity will cut through fatty cheeses. This pairing always goes down well.

It remains difficult to convince those who like red wines with their cheese. In this case, you’d better stick to rather powerful reds such as those produced in the Rhone Valley.

IV – The Christmas Yule log

We did warn you we were going over the classics. What could possibly be a more typical Christmas dessert? Unfortunately, one could easily go wrong in selecting a wine for this delicacy.  Many serve it with champagne, although bitter chocolate doesn’t really go down well with its acidity.

            We recommend having a look at fortified wines. Often we think of Porto – and it does indeed work very well – but you could also choose young wines from Maury or Banyuls, in the south of France. A true delight.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !

And there you have it, the perfect wine for whatever classic you decide to enjoy over Christmas. So don’t hesitate to introduce a little bit of variety and most importantly to share it with your loved ones.

            All of the Décanté team wishes you a splendid holiday season. Make the most of it, and don’t hesitate to share your favourite food and wine pairings for the occasion in the comments. Cheers!

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The Beaujolais, Kingdom of Gamay

The Beaujolais, Kingdom of Gamay

For the red variety Gamay, paradise sits a little way north of the French capital of gastronomy. The region’s varied terroirs (Particularly on Mount Brouilly) accommodate varieties for still reds and whites as well as bubbly, such as Cremant. Often overlooked in the past, Beaujolais is beginning to draw more and more attention, and with good reason…

I – The Beaujolais, 3rd river of Lyon through the ages

Since roman times, and through to the middle ages, the romans have been attracted to the Beaujolais. During the 17th century, the region’s wines acquired their first patents of nobility and then Lyon began claiming its local produce. The Bourgeoisie and the Canuts (The famous silk workers of Lyon) took hold of the region and started referring to it as the Beaujolais. Eventually, this name and reputation reached Paris and sank in. With time, Lyon’s typical Bouchon (a type of restaurant) became the regions celebrity ambassadors, creating awareness for the regional wines they served and still promote today. These hallmarks of savoir vivre and savoir faire (mastering respectively lifestyle and quality) are tightly linked with the Beaujolais.  (check out our article about Gastronomy in Lyon).

Although the region may have suffered from a notorious reputation in the past, it is important to note that before World War 2, some Beaujolais wines were valued at the same prices as Burgundy’s grand crus. Beaujolais’s popularity then was miles away from what it would become in the 70s. As the years went by, its wine was increasingly perceived as easy drinking wine – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing –  rather than the fruit of an emerging and promising region. The high yield certainly didn’t help, and neither did the Beaujolais Nouveau (“new” Beaujolais) movement, despite its initial goal. Following its bumpy ride through the end of the 20th century, the Beaujolais is recovering its former glory. The region shines through its unique culture and its authenticity remains thank to the Bistrots du Beaujolais.

II – The Beaujolais Nouveau, a worldwide success despite mixed results 

There are over 90 countries in which you may have heard about this very international celebration of wine. Although it is often discredited, it remains the only event gathering wine lovers from so many countries on the same day to celebrate wine coming out of its tanks. The general idea of course is to have a good time, but it is also an opportunity to reveal a wine’s potential with age. The Beaujolais nouveaux are not known for their fine qualities, although some are carefully crafted wines. If you’re not enthralled by Beaujolais nouveau, you may choose to try the crus from the previous year!

A key event of this celebration takes place very year on the third Wednesday of the month. This event called the Sarmentelles, beginning with the breaking open of the wine barrels at midnight, carries on until Sunday in the region.  The Beaujolais nouveau and the perforation of the barrels take place every year on the Place des Terreaux (except for 2018).

The mixed feelings about the influence of this celebration on the Beaujolais’ reputation reflect the reservations of certain winemakers. Indeed, much of the region’s wine is now commonly associated with the nouveau wine. Quite a shame given all the Beaujolais has to offer, particularly its 10 crus and its new generation of winemakers standing up for the region’s potential.

III – La renaissance du Beaujolais, royaume du Gamay

For the past years, and even the past decades, the Beaujolais has been ridding itself of its lacklustre image. The region has collected many advantages in order to deliver quality wines and restore its reputation. The Beaujolais crus were very useful in this task: Julienas, Saint-Amour, Chenas, Moulin a Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly. All renowned for their quality, and all made from the same grape variety: Gamay. As you’ll have noticed, no white wines share ranks with the Beaujolais’ crus. Gamay however is making a slow and steady comeback on French dining tables. In addition to these crus, which are gaining in popularity, the region boasts 2 appellations: Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais. Winemakers from over 2700 vineyards operate within the region.  

It must also be mentioned that Beaujolais is the birthplace of natural wine. This rather vague concept refers to organic winemaking, which uses very little or no sulphur. The reputable Marcel Lapierre Pioneered this vision in Villie-Morgon. We recommend his world-famous wines, particularly for their excellent quality price ratio. This ideology emerged in the late 70s and is spreading little by little all over the world. Regardless of their support for natural winemaking, anyone would agree that Mr Lapierre’s bottles are little marvels. He has several followers in the winemaker circles, notably Jean Foillard, Jean-Claude Thevenet, Guy Breton (Regnie and Morgon), Georges Descombes and Yvon Metras (Fleurie).

Overall, the organic planted surface in this wine country is less than 5%, surprisingly low compared to the rest of France where the average ranges from 8 to 12 percent.

Our very personal advices !

After several meticulous wine tastings with the team, we can confidently recommend the following domains: Marcel Lapierre at Morgon, Cédric Vincent also at Morgon and Domaine Le Père Jean on the Cote de Brouilly, where we particularly liked the cuvee parcellaire (wine from delimited vines) and the Morgon Côte de Py of Domaine de la Bonne Tonne.

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Top principles and steps of wine tasting

Top principles and steps of wine tasting

Have you ever wished you could taste a wine like a pro and uncover all its secrets? Read on to discover the method and different steps of wine tasting.

More than an art, wine tasting is really a moment of pleasure. In order to experience the complexity and expression of a wine, however, it is crucial to acquire a little bit of basic knowledge. Conditions, steps, appraisal, we will provide you with all the key insights required to effectively decipher a wine and show off a little on Saturday evenings over drinks or dinner.

I – The key steps of wine tasting

In order to successfully taste and appreciate a wine, there are few principles you must follow. First of all, using adequate material is crucial. Getting specific wine glasses is the first crucial step of a tasting. Last November, during a wine fair called “Sous les pavés de la vigne”, a winemaker even told his team “the glass is 80% of the wine tasting”. INAO glasses are a base requirement in order to enjoy all the aromas the wine has to offer. Other glasses with specific characteristics exist to accommodate particular wines, especially great wines, and let them express the wide range of aromas they can deliver. 

Once you’ve validated the glass, special attention must be paid to the environment: you must be surrounded with neutral scents and benefit from natural lighting, to better observe a wine’s colour. A white background or piece of white paper will be very helpful in observing all the subtleties of a wine’s appearance. Wine writers even speak of dinners during which they saw one of the gentlemen present roll up the sleeve of his smoking jacket to inspect the colour of the wine in his glass against the immaculate white background of his shirt sleeve!

Once all these requirements are satisfied, it is time to proceed to the wine tasting, but in a specific and important order which will depend on the wines you’ve chosen to explore. Generally, you would begin with dry white wines, followed by rosé, then red, and finish with sweet wines and liquors. You mustn’t forget to keep a sharp eye on temperature as the wine is served. To get this right, ask the staff in wine cellars who will certainly be able to give you a recommendation.

II – Wine and the delicate art of making it twirl

The visual step of appreciating a wine is seriously underrated, when really it deserves to capture all of our attention. To master this first step is to uncover a great deal of information, such as the age of a wine, details about its geography and origin, and even the amount of alcohol it contains.

 

If you tip the glass 45°, you will be able to better admire a crucial element: the colour and intensity of the wine. For white wines, the colours will range from translucent to straw to deep gold. Rosés can appear to be any variation of grey, faded salmon, or raspberry pink, while red wines vary from vibrant ruby to brick red, sometimes diverting towards the deep purples.

The hues observed in a wine will give us an clue on the age of the wine.  Green hues in white wine and bluish hues in reds will indicate youth, whereas silvery hues in a white wine and copper, crimson hues in a red will betray its age.

Finally, if you delicately swirl the wine around in your glass, you will discover what we call the legs of wine. That’s right, a wine can surprise you with its fine legs. They look like tears running down the side of you glass when you hold it upright again, and they betray the level of alcohol which is escaping through these discreet trails.

III – The bouquet and aromas

The nose, or bouquet of a wine must be examined in three stages. An exhaustive approach will ensure the wine surrenders all the delightful (and not so delightful) scents it conceals.

During the first exposure of a wine’s aromas, we keep an eye out for potential flaws and the initial aromas. To do this, you simply give it a sniff before even swirling it around. There are 6 main flaws to look for, the most famous of which is the scent of corked wine. You may also encounter a certain scent which some commonly compare to horses or stables, or oxidation, where wine will smell like chards and lose some of its colour and aroma. Other relatively common flaws include volatile acidity (nail polish, glue), a smell comparable to a musty and humid environment, and what is referred to as beady, or slightly gassy wine, which, surprisingly enough, is sometimes appreciated. This last flaw can be corrected by sharply tossing the wine around or by transferring it to a decanter.

The “second nose”, or second exhibition of the wine’s aromas, will help you decipher the subtler aromas or the aroma families. If you are struggling to put a finger on a particular scent, try to take a step back and identify families of aromas instead. Here are the most common:

  • Fruity: citrus (lemon, grapefruit, orange), white fruit (apples, pears), yellow fruit (peach, apricot), red berries (strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry) black berries (blackberry, blueberry, blackcurrant)
  • Floral: white flowers (acacia, hawthorn, jasmine), lime tree, violet, iris, peony, rose
  • Green or vegetal aromas: forest floor, mushroom, scrubland, thyme, moss, ferns
  • Spice: pepper, clove, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, liquorice
  • Mineral: granite, iodine, gasoline, flint
  • Strong and bitter: burnt, toasted aromas, woods, coffee, cacao, caramel, tobacco

The third and last « nose » which the wine will reveal gives you an opportunity to notice the evolution of aromas, since they will shift with time. After a few moments, take another sniff at the wine in your glass, it will probably have opened up and be offering new aromas for you to discover.

IV – Gustatory bliss

You are now prepared, excited, and impatient to bring this delicate liquor to your lips. By this stage, you are certain the wine doesn’t have any major flaws and awaits but your imminent satisfaction. Move on to the next stage with confidence, but keep paying attention to what your senses are telling you.

            The quality of the wine in terms of taste is the first thing you will feel. As you analyse the “attack”, or initial pang of flavour, the mid-tasting feel and the lasting flavours, you can create a comprehensive panel of flavours and sensations you will or won’t appreciate. Try and identify whether the aromas you identified in the previous step carry on to the palate, as they say.

            The second parameter you might think about has to do with balance, whether the sensations you feel weigh each other out or whether one dominates. For white wines you look at acidity, sweetness and alcohol, and for reds you must also consider tannin. An unbalanced wine isn’t necessarily bad, some are actually designed to be more acidic, for example, and very much appreciated. More generally, however, a delicately balanced wine is valued and conveys an agreeable harmony.

Et voilà, vous savez l’essentiel de la dégustation !

            N’hésitez pas à partager cet article avec un maximum de monde afin de connaître les clefs de la dégustation. N’oubliez pas que le vin ça se déguste mais ça se partage, c’est le plus important. Aller chez un caviste vous permettra de savoir dans quelles conditions déguster un vin et avec quoi l’associer au mieux. Vous rendre dans un bar à vin vous permettra de déguster dans des conditions optimales. Alors n’hésitez plus à faire la démarche ! Faites-vous plaisir, mais toujours, faites attention, l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé ! 

Bonne dégustation et n’hésitez pas à commenter ce que vous aimez déguster 

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