Christmas, News

7 Great Wines for Roast Beef

I’m going to be honest, this started out as “5 Great Wines for Roast Beef”, but there was just too many good options.

You can’t beat Bordeaux (or Bordeaux Blends)

It’s possibly one of the most classical pairings, and for good reason. The salt in the dish smooths out the intense grippy tannins of Cab Sauv, making the wine seem smoother and fruitier. The wine packs massive intensity to stand up to Gravy, sauces and even horseradish.

Despite being a very adventurous drinker, I love a classic Bordeaux. Chateau Cantemerle is part of the exclusive 1855 classification, which recognises the best estates in Bordeaux. This Cab Sauv blend show classic notes of blackcurrant and cigar box (wood and smoke basically). With a big of age on the wine, it’s also developed some smooth leathery notes.

If you’re looking for a red that works with Roast beef but can also be enjoyed on it’s own, you’ll love the Chateau Cruzeau. Part of the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classification, this wine is 73% Merlot, 27% Cab Franc. It shows that velvety smooth and incredibly drinkable quality that good Merlot oozes.

The wines of Bordeaux are so popular, that wine regions all over the world use Bordeaux as a template. None have this more successfully than Bolgheri. The wines are often referred to as “Super Tuscans” and combine Cab Sauv, Merlot and Sangivoese (the grape of Chianti). This wine is rich, powerful and shows a great alternative to classic Bordeaux.

It’s not all Port, Portugal’s red are seriously under-rated (& under-valued)

This year we have 3 outstanding wines from Portugal, all of which will work great with Roast Beef.

the Mariana Tinto is a returning favourite that has got even better now that it’s moved onto a new vintage. If you love big fruit and loads of vanilla from oak, this is for you. at £12 a bottle, it’s a lot of wine for the price.

Cabriz Special Edition is one of the most surprising wines of the year for me. Whilst it’s smoother and lighter than all the other wines in this post, it firmly belongs here. the wines is from 2005 and has developed great complexity whilst holding onto its tannin structure and fruit.

The Rola Tinto is possibly one of the best selling wines this year. Not only does it’s squatty bottle and sleek design make it a brilliant gift, it’s also a cracking wine. This Douro red is rustic, oaky and spicy, which works perfectly with Roast Beef.

Feeding a crowd?

Having a few people around this Christmas? Chances are you will need more than one bottle. So why not go for a magnum. Everyone remembers the time they drank a Magnum of wine, the is a certain “Boss Factor” about it, in the same way, they make exceptional gifts. This year we’ve found a classic Mendoza Valley Malbec in Magnum for under £30!

Christmas, News

5 Great Wines for Christmas Day Turkey

Christmas day turkey deserves a great bottle of wine to match.

For many, this could be the most important meal of year, a rare opportunity to get our favourite people all together for a meal. With that in mind, I feel it’s important to have a great bottle of wine for Turkey.

Whilst it may be the main event of the dish, the turkey, isn’t really a key consideration in the pairing. Instead, more flavoursome elements like pigs in blankets, sprouts and roast potatoes are what we need to focus on. In food and wine pairing we match intensity so what ever wine you go for, it needs to be flavoursome. The sheer richness of this dishes means that high acidity is key, you need something to cut through the dish. Whilst you could go for something like a Cab Sauv or a Shiraz, my preference is for a light red or full bodied white. It’s already a big meal, and lighter or fresher wine can be a welcome break. So here are my top choices for 2022.

Poultry & pinot noir are perfect

One of my favourite matches is Pinot Noir. Whilst I had considered a classic Red Burgundy, I was given this as a sample and was blown away by the quality of this wine for the price. Furthermore, Burgundy is a major influence on this wine. The vines come from Burgundy cuttings and the vineyards are located in the cool region of Elgin. The wine shows beautiful purity with layered red fruits, cranberry, raspberry, silky tannins and a long, savoury finish. Whilst it’s a premium wine, it’s well worth the money.

A pinot with some punch!

Whilst popular with many, some can find Pinot noir lacking intense (sometimes described as watery). That definitely can’t be said about the Lockwood Pinot Noir. This Californian Pinot Noir has more body and is brimming with super ripe red fruits. It also works fantastically as a good all rounder with a cheeseboard.

Are you feeling adventurous?

It’s no secret that I love Greek wines, they offer such exciting varieties and exceptional value for money. Xinomavro is one of Greece’s premier red varieties, often described as a cross between Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. This wine shows notes of dried red fruits, leathery oak and dried herbs.

Prefer white over red?

If you prefer white wine with your Turkey, oaked wines are spot on. Again, the fantastic South African producer of Lismore stood out for me. This wine has all the hallmarks of a white Burgundy, but at about half the price. This wine shows the perfect balance between rich complexity and refreshing mineral notes.

Feeding a crowd?

If you’ve got loads of people around for Christmas this year, you may favour quantity. This White Rioja has smooth oaky complexity and juicy stone fruit, but sits at just £12 a bottle.


Two of my favourite wines are now ‘by the glass’

Portugal is a country that I find fascinating when it comes to wines. There is a whole new set of grape varieties to learn about, the wines are amazing value for money and the quality is amazing. So it’s not surprising that I work with a specialist Portuguese Wine Importer to find the best wines the country has to offer.

I recently tried two samples from this importer that I thought were exceptional. Not only are these wines now available to buy at The Wee Vinoteca, I’m currently doing them by the glass. Whilst I do recognise that these are both premium wines, If these wines came from countries like France, Italy or Spain they would easily be worth an additional £10 per bottle.


Barbecue Wine Pairing By Lauren Ballantyne

As the sun in the UK finally decides to make an appearance, the smell of BBQ fills the evening air and therefore, it seems only right that we put together a list of our favourite BBQ wines, giving you some summer inspiration. Remember these are simply recommendations, rather than rules. When it comes to wine, drink what you love.


At big barbecues, there will be an array of meats, veggies, fish all thrown onto the grill, along with big colourful salads. This brings a whole spectrum of flavours to consider when matching wine. The wine needs to be bold enough to stand up to all the flavours going on, have something to say for itself but also easy going to get along with everything on the table….much like your guests!

When you BBQ food, you change the flavour characteristics of what you’re cooking. It takes on a beautiful smoky, charred and caramelised flavour. This changes the perception of the wine in your glass. Because you have big bold flavours in your food, you will need to match this energy with your wine. You will also need wines with good acidity to cut through your meats, sauces and salad dressings.

Regardless if you’re behind the barbie or eagerly awaiting the food, nothing quite beats starting off with a refreshing glass of bubbles. The Undurraga Pinot Noir sparkling wine ticks all the boxes. It’s easy and approachable in style, much like a BBQ should be! This fresh, fruity sparkler is perfect as an aperitif but also great with salads and the picky bits but goes particularly well with grilled prawns.

unsplash-image-8GyBBABRGmE.jpgFor the veggies, whether it be halloumi and red pepper skewers, or cauliflower steaks, there’s a wine for it all. Try matching the saltiness of the cheese or the charr of the cauliflower with a wine that has higher acid and lots of lovey citrus notes. We think our Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc blend is the perfect pairing. With its delicious citrus fruits, little gooseberry and a slightly grassy notes which matches with the veggies wonderfully.

If you’re anything like me, dreaming of coastal summer evenings with grilled white fish and a crisp white to go with it, try our Grillo from Sicily. Combining the charred fish, and delicate, floral and citrusy white, this is a match made in heaven that’ll instantly transport you to the Amalfi Coast.

If BBQ salmon is more to your liking, try the 1573 Rose from the south of France, made in a dry, light delicate Provencal style that we have all come to love. The bright citrus fruit, with a hint of red berries cuts through the oily fish. This rose would also be great with any of salads you’ve got going, but a perfect summer sipper on it’s own.

Whilst red wine pairs better for most of the meats, we’ve got a new suggestion for you. Time to try pairing white wine with your bangers. Pork’s wonderful juciness and sweetness in barbequed sausages allow them to be complemented by a wine with higher acidity. Regardless of if your chef has perfectly caramelised or cremated them, a wine with lots of green apple notes will be a game changer. Riesling is my go to wine with sausages to give them a lovely vibrancy and zing to your palate. Try our new Picpoul de Pinet for that zesty hit.

For the burgers, it’s more about what you’ve got going on in between the buns rather than the meat itself.

The classic cheese, lettuce, tomato combination, you need a fruity wine with slightly grippier tannins to combat the gooey melted cheese and juicy patty. Try our Tempranillo from Ribera Del Duero, the juicy red and black fruits with high acidity and firm tannins will compliment this cheeseburger to a tee.

If you’re more into the BBQ bacon topping, try our GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) from Australia, the smokiness from the Syrah compliments the bacon and charred meat, whilst the Grenache gives a crunchy refreshing cranberry note to cut through the fat.


For a steak, whatever the cut may be. The classic Malbec pairing springs to mind. Known for its plump, dark fruit flavors and smoky finish. If you’re looking for something special, try our Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir. It is a fuller bodied, more intense style of Pinot. This pinot has beautiful bright acidity, with ripe and soft tannins, and flavours of black cherry, redcurrant, spice, and some earthiness which pairs with beef exceptionally well.

When we have BBQ chicken, we try and match the sweetness of the BBQ sauce with a wine that has ripe fruit flavours giving the perception of sweetness to the wine. If you would like a white wine, we suggest something with a fuller body, good acidity with citrus and stone fruit aromas. Our Malvasia Fina ticks all those boxes, it is a great alternative to an unoaked Chardonnay.

However, if reds are more your thing, we suggest the Terrior Blend from Portugal. This wine is incredibly fruity, with ripe red fruit flavours, cherries, and forest berries, with lovely soft tannins which results in a very easy drinking style of wine that everyone just loves.

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, try our natural Chilean Chardonnay, ‘No Es Pituko’ that we currently have available (and I am loving!!). It has amazing bright acidity to cut through all your charred flavours and fat from the meat. Wonderfully bizzare and great wine to introduce you to the world of natural wine, a great pick for all you inquisitive wine lovers.

Well that has certainly made me hungry…. I do hope we’ve given you some food for thought. We welcome any of your suggestions, or favourite pairings. If you do try any of the wines, please tag us on Instagram or send us through some of your foodie pics, we love to see it!


Sweet wine: explained


Sweet wine tends to raise a lot of questions. Some questions are easier to answer, for example, how should sweet wine be served. The answer is, easy, everything with the exception of Port, should be served as cold as possible. Some, however, are harder to answer.

When it comes to matching sweet wine with desserts the most important thing to remember is that the sweetness of the dish must be matched by the sweetness of the wine. For example, a selection of summer fruits would be paired with a light “late harvest” Sauv blanc or Moscatel, whereas a sticky toffee pudding would need something like an Icewine or a syrupy sweet Pedro Ximinez Sherry. Colour is always a good indicator here, the darker the colour the richer and more intense the wine.

With the festive season ahead of us this is the time of year when people entertain larger groups, desserts are made and we all give sweet wine another attempt. The four main types of sweet wine,  are:-

1. Ice wine – The grapes for ice wine are picked at a temperature of -8 degrees or lower. As the water in the grapes is frozen, when the grapes are pressed in the winery, a thick syrupy liquid is produced, which is then fermented into a delicious sweet wine. The biggest producers of Ice wine are Germany, Austria & Canada, with Riesling and Vidal being the most common grape varieties. As well as being very sweet, ice wines always have pure fruit character, making them a great match for rich fruity desserts like apple pie or crumble. Due to the extreme methods of productions, ice wine always comes with a premium price tag.

2. Late Harvest – Late harvest and ice wines are very similar in style, however, late harvest wines are more affordable and less intense. The grapes are left on the vine for an extended period of time, increasing the amount of sugar in the grape and this also leads to a natural dehydration of the grape and leaves you with something closer to a raisin. Many different varieties can be made into late harvest wines and as such styles can vary.

3. Noble wines – Although this may sound rather unpleasant, this method produces some of the most prized sweet wines in the world such as Sauternes & Tokaji. Botrytis Cinerea or Noble rot is a very particular type of fungus which evaporates all the water from the grapes, leaving behind sugars and fruit acids. It also imparts lovely non-fruit flavours of honey, beeswax & marmalade. As such Noble wines tend to complement desserts with caramel or toffee.

4 . Fortified wines – It is said that the process of fortification was invented to help wine survive the sea voyage from Portugal to Britain. Brandy was added to halt the fermentation, leaving some residual sugar in the wine as well as strengthening (or fortifying) it for its long sea journey. Port, Sherry and French “Vin doux natural” like Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise are all fortified wines. They cover a wide range of style, but unlike the other styles, these are high in alcohol and can be too much for light desserts. Port goes well with cheeses to chocolate, whereas Pedro Ximinez Sherry is great when simply poured over vanilla ice-cream.

If you’re feeling like trying sweet wine this Christmas, get in touch or pop into our Hitchin Wine Shop and we can recommend the best option for your meal and budget.


Matched wines for Christmas Day

Sparkling wines

If you are entertaining a lot of people (more than 6) I would recommend something like a Crémant. Crémants are a French sparkling wine made the same way as Champagne but from a different region of France. Our Blanc de Blanc by Diligent Moutard is 100% Chardonnay (Champagne grapes, meaning it can easily pass as a good quality Champagne) at £13 a bottle.

If you feel like spoiling yourself or are feeling particularly patriotic, our 2014 Brut Reserve by Gusbourne is an award-winning English Sparkling wine that can easily outperform champagne. It has all the classic bready and biscuity notes of Champagne but with a cleaner citrus backbone, it reminds me of lemon shortbread.

White Wine

Starters for Christmas day tend to be pretty varied from home to home, but they all tend to share one common characteristic, a high level of fattiness or oiliness. Where it’s a terrine, something battered, cheese or a creamy sauce, these high levels of dairy or fat need a wine high in acidity to cut through it.

My two favourites for meeting this requirement are Riesling and Pinot Gris, particularly from Australia / New Zealand. They always have high levels of acidity and tend to be intensely flavoured which is important as Christmas day has normally full flavoured dishes.

Red Wine

The classic Christmas day main course is a funny one to match wine to, this is primarily because the main element (Turkey) is the least important part of the food match. All of the various accompaniments (roast potatoes, stuffing, pigs in blankets, gravy) push us towards a low tannin, but flavoursome red. This is perfect Pinot Noir territory. If you are looking for something different, we have a lovely Mencia / Garnacha blend from Spain that fits this bill perfectly.

Sweet wines

More than any other style of wine, sweet wines are really difficult to match well. A very intense sweet wine with a light dessert (or visa versa) can ruin a perfectly good bottle and dessert. For pairing with a classic Christmas pudding or a rich chocolatey dessert, I recommend a tawny port. It may be full bodied, but the mellow toffee and coffee notes make it a great all rounder.

We know that everyone does Christmas differently, these are recommendations based on classic Christmas dishes. If you’d like us to match wines to your Christmas meal, please get in touch. Alternatively, pop into our wine shop in Hitchin.

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