With Winter’s cold, long nights firmly setting in, the days becoming short and brisk, what better way to spend a cosy evening in than enjoying a delicious glass or three of good wine with loved ones. Here at Bespoke Black Book, we recognise that going out doesn’t have quite the same appeal when it’s so cold outside, and so we’ve decided to write a wine roundup of all of the greatest and latest bottles worth buying for this festive season. We’re excited to share these with you!
Of course, every evening really ought to start with a glass sparkling wine or a cocktail. Or, perhaps, both. We recommend starting with the Original Bellini cocktail, a spectacularly delicious blend of both by Giuseppe Cipriani himself. Invented at the renowned Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1948, this beautiful classical drink comes packaged, for the first time, in true elegant form: a large turquoise blue bottle of the Prosecco Bellini mix. A glorious peach in colour, with a delicate sparkle, this sparkling drink is low in alcohol and the perfect glass for well…every occasion. Delicious in the morning, delicious in the evening, it’s the perfect sparkling cocktail for every hour of this festive season.
Naturally, a glass of sparkling wine must follow a cocktail (what else), and so in the international spirit with which we started, we now suggest going to South Africa to try one of their finest and newest sparkling wines – the Van Hunks Brut Sparkling. This unexpectedly dry sparkling wine is hand crafted from the grapes of the viticultural paradise of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Made in the same method as champagne, in the Methode Champenoise, this Methode Cap Classique is bottle fermented in small batches. A beautiful golden colour, with tiny, tiny bubbles, a sumptuous and creamy biscuity finish, it is smooth and dry – and truly comparable to some of the finest champagnes. A crowd pleaser and a good story for a party (how many of us have tried a sparkling wine from South Africa?), we highly recommend!
A mix of new and old world is always fun, though. To balance the new, we recommend the Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux. A multi award winning sparkling wine from Bordeaux, this fantastic value Bordeaux blend white comes with accolades of critical reception and is the second most sought-after wine from the region on Wine Searcher – quite the title. Produced by Calvet, a renowned wine producer in the region, this fruity, clean, and bright wine comes with apple aroma, a touch of herbal notes, and excellent acidity that is balanced with a creamy mousse. Very refreshing, and a drink that’s dangerously quaffable.
It’s quite hard to stop on the sparkling wine once one has started, so we cracked open the Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. This wine is known as the Lace of Champagne because of its very fine and persistent white mousse. Delicate, made exclusively from Chardonnay, the grapes are sourced exclusively from grand crus vineyards ‘Cotes des Blancs’. Made only from vintages, too, with 25 going back to 1985, this wine is aged four years on lees with ten months further ageing after disgorgement. Very dry and crisp, creamy, and surprisingly lively, given the delicate bubbles. A very elegant sparkling wine.
Itching to try just one more, we decided to come closer to home and open the Black Chalk Wine from England. A small batch traditional method sparkling wine created using the three classical varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, this oak barrelled sparkling is made on the lees, which gives it a beautiful depth and complexity. Winner of the Gold 2020 International Wine and Spirit Competition, Gold 2020 WineGB Awards, Gold 2020 Independent English Wine Awards, and Trophy Winner of 2020 Wine GB and IEWA, its clearly an outstanding wine representing the UK’s ability to make great sparkling wine and a great choice to bring to any dinner party or occasion. English bubbly always gets a convo going!
Four bottles of sparkling seems like quite enough for a night in, so moving on to the whites, it’s a delight to stay in Bordeaux and move to a light, spicy number. Chateau Lestrille, 2021 from Entre-Deux-Mers, is a wonderful still wine predominantly from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and made south of St. Emillion and Pomerol, north of Sauternes. With a distinct stoney, spicy undertone that gives it a warm richness and healthy texture, this is a fulsome, fruity wine with an array of white fruit flavours. The perfect wine to kick off canapés or a seafood starter. Moving slightly away from the Bordeaux region, we suggest a move sideways to Burgundy and trying the Calvet Chablis, 2021. A chardonnay based still wine from the same producer of the delicious sparkling above, this is a distinctly flinty, fresh, and crisp wine with flavours of green apple, grapefruit, and lemon zest. With an appealing minerality, it is pleasantly complex. An excellent choice for oysters, or a soft, creamy goat’s cheese. Last, because perhaps three white wines is sufficient, we suggest a richer Chardonnay to pair with a second starter or, perhaps, first main. Staying in France, and in Burgundy, this well reviewed wine has elegant aromas with subtle, well-integrated oak notes, and the sort of richness one would expect from a premium Burgundian white. Yet it remains beautifully fresh and crisp, with the orchard apple notes one would expect of a Chablis, and a hint of melon reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc. Fantastically complex in its delicate buttery goodness, this wine from Edouard Delaunay is well worth trying.
Whilst on the topic of French wine, we decided to try something a bit avant garde, with the ‘Hey French, You could have made this but you didn’t – Edizione II’ by Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine. Made in Italy, from vineyards across several areas of the Veronese side of Mount Calvarina, in the easternmost part of the Soave designation, this wine is a total revolution and revelation to the palate. Made with partial malolactic fermentation, with 10% of the wine spending time in barriques, and raging in second-use wood for about 6 months. It’s further refined in steel tanks, and all of this is a blend of the best vintages of the last decade. A super interesting take on making wine, it has great ageing potential given its diverse production method, and is super complex with solid structure. Fresh and fragrant with healthy minerality, there are tastes of volcanic-origin soil and aromas of chamomile, almonds, citrus, white pepper, and, fantastically, tropical fruits. A nice nod to France from Italy, this specular wine finished off our white wine section of the evening with aplomb.
Even in the Winter, there really must be a rose. This versatile wine works so well with smoked salmon (a festive classic), or blinis, and seafood. We look to the aptly named Pink Diesel Rose, a French vineyard from the South in Bandol and Cotes de Provence appellations. Elegantly branded, it’s a sexy showstopper to bring out after the more classic whites and add some zest to the evening. Yet much like Provence, it remains incredibly elegant. Made from Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah, it is pale in colour, with notes of honey, peach, and citrus, it is light and approachable. Asian notes give it a depth that lends itself to more meaty dishes like chicken and pork, rendering it a versatile wine for pretty much any course in your Winter cuisine.
By this point in the evening, night has inevitably set in and guests, or loved ones, are likely looking forward to a hearty main – and so, it is time for the reds. To start, we return to the wonderful Edouard Delaunay producer, with his 2020 September Bourgogne Pinot Noir. Starting the reds with all the elegance and grace that we associate with the finest Burgundy, this hand picked cuvee balances freshness, expressiveness, richness and crispness perfectly. With aromas of cherry and redcurrant jelly, followed by warm notes of baked marzipan and blueberry tart, this light Pinot Noir is delightfully fresh. Yet there are pleasant nuances of oak and cumin that give it a depth and complexity we would only expect from the most expensive Burgundies – yet this remarkable wine dodges those steep price points. A fantastic start.
Next, we move to a slightly more hearty red wine, with the Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild Montagne Saint Emilion, 2018. A blend from the wine team of Chateau Clarke in Listrac-Medoc, this Bordeaux blend is classically elegant with ripe blackberry flavours, healthy tannins, and a sumptuous acidity. Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild are an exciting producer – they have vineyards from France to Argentina, and from Spain to New Zealand. It is this international edge that perhaps gives them their excellence as they bring the best of Bordeaux in this bottle.
We wrapped up our reds with Château Lassegue, another Saint Emilion wine, but this time a Grand Cru. Made up of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this esteemed vineyard brings fresh, delicate aromas. Awarded with many accolades, it is aged 12 months in 60% new French oak and truly an elegant red wine from the region. A perfect pairing for a rich beef dish or warm winter main. This wine is super elegant and capable of further ageing so if you would rather keep this one to yourself no one would blame you!
At this point in the evening, the meal is likely wrapping up and it’s time to finish off the evening with some sweetness. As dessert rolls in, what better way to enhance the flavours than with a sweet wine. Arguably the kingdom of sweet wines, France always offers a fantastic finish. Chateau Montagne, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, a botrytis sweet wine is perfect. With a gloriously deep, burnt gold colour, this decadent nectar oozes of warm apricot, creme caramel, and allspice, with nuances of orange and zest fruit. Citrusy yet sweet, this is both a palate cleanser and dessert enhancer in one – and the most delightful end to a thoroughly delightful range of wines. We hope you get to try some of these, and enjoy them as much as we did!