What we are drinking this Christmas – Pairings from the L&S team

by Beth Thomas

The saying goes that Christmas is a time to ‘eat, drink and be merry’, and this is certainly a mantra that we at Lea & Sandeman try to live by. If you have popped into one of our shops over the festive season you may well have received some brilliant pairing advice from a member of the team, but for those of you still looking for inspiration, let me walk you through some of our suggestions.

When I asked the manager of our Chiswick shop, Andrew, for his pairing suggestions, he was quick to point out that Christmas begins before early morning stockings and sleepy cups of tea. The chilly walk home from midnight mass calls for something warming and Sipsmith Sloe Gin, with its almost creamy black fruit and moreish sweetness it is just the tipple. The perfect way to kick off the festivities!

We couldn’t come to a consensus about what you should drink with breakfast, but everyone did agree that sparkles were essential! Phil, who heads up our restaurant team, suggests that if you are having smoked salmon with your breakfast, then LEGRAS Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru Chouilly is a must. The crisp purity of this 100% Chardonnay Champagne from the Cotes de Blancs acts as the perfect foil for the oiliness of the salmon – bright citrus and chalky minerality swirl around the smokey luxury of the fish, creating the perfect match. LARMANDIER-BERNIER ‘Latitude’ Extra Brut 1er Cru is also a great breakfast Champagne, zippy and refreshing, it is a real ‘pick me up’ style; Charles suggests this wine for a mid-morning refresh! Bubbles doesn’t have to mean Champagne. We have recently introduced the wines of a fantastic Franciacorta producer, Corteaura, to our range. Their Pas Dosé Brut is the perfect accompaniment and even holds its own with impossible to pair scrambled eggs (so says David, I am yet to try it…).

When it comes to the main event, The Christmas Roast, the entire Lea & Sandeman team has being singing about Pinot Noir. Turkey is a delicately flavoured meat and a very full bodied wine will overpower it. The soft and delicate flavours of Pinot Noir balance beautifully with Turkey, but it is also a fruity enough grape to be appreciated with the melange of side dishes you are likely to have on the table. David recently visited California on a tasting trip (you can read about his finds here) and recommends 2013 PINOT NOIR Mesa del Rio Vineyard Metz Road for Christmas drinking, it is full of red fruit and what David calls ‘West Coast charm’. The wines of Rippon should certainly get a shout here. All of their wines would have a deserved place on the Christmas table, but for a real treat then their single vineyard wines are real showstoppers. Of course it is in Burgundy that Pinot Noir is most at home, and our suggestions here could be endless. 2009 MERCUREY Cuvée Carline 1er Cru Domaine Bruno Lorenzon and 2013 GEVREY CHAMBERTIN 1er Cru Fonteny Domaine Huguenot are a good place to start, but explore our selection of Red Burgundy on the website for more ideas and inspiration.

Of course we won’t all be eating Turkey and drinking Pinot Noir. Ophelia and family tuck into roast goose on Christmas day, and she’s taking home 2012 BAROLO Andrea Oberto. The good structure and acidity of this wine works well this the slightly gamey flavour and high fat content of the meat. Ed suggests 2012 GIGONDAS Domaine la Bouïssière with roast lamb – the lovely nose on this wine entices you into the glass and then with a mouthful of sumptuous roast lamb the juicy red fruit of this wine rolls out over your palette with a hue of delicate peppery spice and a satisfying acidity that really brings out the flavour of the fat in the lamb. A hard to beat wintery combo! For white wine drinkers 2013 POUILLY FUISSÉ La Roche Domaine Daniel Barraud is rich and deep, but has enough acidity to keep it refreshing.

Christmas pudding (or sticky toffee for Angus) calls for perfectly chilled SANDEMAN 20 Year Old Tawny, best enjoyed next to an open fire! If you aren’t a fan of port, then 2013 LES PINS Monbazillac Château Tirecul la Gravière is a wonderful sweetie to have with your Christmas pud. Madeira and mince pies are also a winning combination. The cold, sweetness of the Madeira is a great contrast to the dry texture of the mince pie pastry – you won’t go wrong with Sercial 10 Year Old Reserva Velha Barbeito or Boal 5 Year Old Reserva Barbeito.

My favourite part of Christmas lunch is the cheeseboard. Derek, manager at our Barnes shop, opts for Niepoort Dry White Port with the Christmas Cheese Board, including the Classic Stilton. Rich, creamy, and honied and just the right side of dry, slightly chilled it will go with hard cheeses, soft cheeses and blue cheeses, a real all rounder. Something of a novelty and sure to be an interesting talking point. Finishing the day with a wee nip of Kilchoman Machir Bay Islay Malt Whisky – classic peaty Islay without the excesses of the Laphroaigs of this world – and making sure you’ve got something to have with turkey sarnies on Boxing Day (M2 wines Old vine Zinfandel 2013 is hearty, juicy, satisfying and a wine you don’t have to try too hard with), and you’ve got your Christmas drinking wrapped up!

We wish you all a lovely festive season!