I think we can all say, after the year we have had, that the warmth, celebration and cheer of Christmas is very much needed! Even if you’re more of a Grinch than an Elf, one cannot say they don’t enjoy delicious food, around a candlelit table with friends or family and a large glass of a good vino! Which to me, is what this time of year is all about.
Making the Christmas shopping list is one of my favourite things about this month. What meat are we having? What nibbles? Starters? Canapes? WINES?? I love it. Who shouldn’t like to line up days of their own perfectly paired indulgence? Fortunately for me, I work in a wonderful wine shop surrounded by lovely bottles of inspiration for my festive dinners.
We were even lucky enough to have a virtual wine tasting via zoom (I’m sure you all know what that is in this year) all the way from just outside Stellenbosch, in South Africa. Johan Reyneke of Reyneke wines gave us a very interesting and inspirational introduction into his not only delicious, but organic and biodynamic wines and viticulture. We tried five beautiful wines, (four of which are open in the shop for customers to taste) and all of which displayed their terroir and talent of their wine makers.
Their Sauvignon Blanc was one of my favourites, crisp yet complex, not new world at all. It would go amazingly with a winter warming Fish Chowder, slight oak from the wine with creamy smoked haddock, prawns, oooh yes, and yum! I did also love their ‘Cornerstone’. Not only for its lovely and balanced blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but for its story. It is dedicated to all of the workers in the vineyards, like they are the cornerstone of a house. The wines would simply not stand without them. I’ll be having this classic Bordeaux style - whilst showcasing the best of Stellenbosch – blend, with my Beef Bourguignon this weekend that’s for sure!
The Reyneke bottles are simply elegant as well. They look so smart stood lit up amongst our other wines in our wine emotion machine. As soon as we saw the end of lockdown 2.0 coming, we serviced the machines and filled them with delights, ready to cheer up and inspire our shoppers! Filled with eight white wines (one being an absolutely incredible dessert wine) and eight reds, in order of style, at the correct temperature, it’s great. What more could you want than to taste a yummy selection of great wines when you’re stuck between which wines to take for the weekend, or pair with your dinner plans?
As well as the Reyneke wines, there are also a couple of wines from our Christmas mixed case collections in our machine for tasting. One of which is the Chateau Cres Ricards, Marsanne Roussanne. The palate is full of apricot and passionfruit, white flowers and honeysuckle, finishing fresh and long with underlying vanilla. I can just imagine a chilled glass with a simple salmon spaghetti or a smoked trout and cream cheese Bellini, just dreamy... one taste will be all you need to tempt you into a delicious case of the six or twelve specially selected wines to set you up for one tasty and slightly boozy Christmas!
If you’re stuck on what to cook this weekend, you could copy me with having a really warming and super easy classic Beef Bourguignon! All you need is some good-quality braising steak (chuck steak) season well with salt and pepper, sear that in sunflower oil and transfer into a hob-to-oven casserole dish, some smoked bacon lardons or smoked streaky bacon cut small, fry, then into the dish with the beef, then again with a large white onion, finely chopped and a couple of garlic cloves crushed, fry off in the pan until soft (use one pan for all your frying to keep that flavour!) then add that to the casserole dish with your bacon and beef. Now add a 75cl bottle red wine (you can go for a cheap-ish one for that part) 2 tbsp. tomato purée, a beef stock cube, a sprig of or dried thyme, 150ml or so of water, stir well, bring to a simmer, then pop that lid on and whack it in your oven for 1 ½ - ¾ hours.
In that time, get some button onions (shallots will do) peel and stand them in boiling water for 5 mins. Then when the beef is nearly done, fry off until golden, pop them to one side then fry your mushrooms (chestnut preferably but any will do) in butter, salt and pepper. Take the beef out, stir in some cornflower mixed with water to thicken, followed by the onions and mushrooms and put back in the oven for another 45 mins or until the beef is sumptuously tender and the sauce is velvety thick (if it’s thin, just add some more cornflower and water) and you’re good to go!! And happy as Larry that you decided to stay in and cook something so filling. Pair with a Bordeaux, Cote du Rhone, Primitivo or Malbec, but I do highly recommend that Reyneke Cornerstone… and enjoy!