Will Lyons

Winter Wines

by Will Lyons At Thyme 24 Nov 16

Will Lyons, senior fine wine advisor for Berry Bros. & Rudd and wine writer for The Dish in The Sunday Times, was the perfect person to ask about wines for our winter dining and the festive season ahead.

Will on matching wines …

In an ideal world when matching food with wine you want a full list of the ingredients to avoid any delicate clashes. I like to go through a check list which includes matching the weight and texture of the wine with that of the food, then I try to look at the acidity, bitterness and saltiness of the dish - all components one can marry with the appropriate wine. For example wines high in acidity naturally cut through dishes which are oily and fat. That is one reason why Champagne works so well with smoked salmon as the acidity cuts through the oily texture of the fish. Similarly with red wine, if the dish is fatty, like roast lamb, you need a lot of bitter flavours; these are found in the tannins in the wine, that is why Cabernet Sauvignon works so well. Le Soula, which is produced at high altitude in the Agly Valley, west of Perpignan, has plenty of uplifting acidity but its real benefit is that it doesn’t overwhelm with one dominant flavour so it is one of those wines which naturally lends itself to pairing with food.

The season dictates rich game dishes on our menus, our last Thyme’s Table dinner featured the most delicious venison dish and the chefs asked Berry Bros for a Chianti, good choice?

Without doubt Chianti Classico is one of the most exciting categories in Italy today. This red wine, produced between Florence and Siena produces glorious fruity wine made from the Sangiovese grape variety. I’m in favour of matching two Tuscan classics. Personally I love serving this wine with roast meats, even roast turkey. What Chianti possesses in abundance is vibrant, taught acidity and in good examples lot of fleshy summer fruits which will match well with the gamey character of venison.

December is on the horizon & thoughts turn to festive dining ...

The run up to Christmas is always my favourite time of year; forget the budget and splash out on that bottle of something really special. English wine has never been better and as an alternative to Champagne a bottle of Nyetimber from Sussex is a fun option. Smoked salmon lends itself to white Burgundy but Le Soula is a wonderful alternative with a wonderful chalky, crisp dryness. There are two approaches to matching wine with the traditional Christmas lunch, roast turkey with all the trimmings. For those that enjoy warm, ripe flavours one can easily pair it with reds like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Australian Shiraz or even Zinfandel from California. But I always like to serve something a little lighter such as a Beaujolais Cru or even Chainti which as we discussed brings vitality to the table. Traditionalists should look out for Bordeaux, 2007, 2006 and 2001 are all drinking well now. I’ll be opting for 2007 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste which has just started to evolve wonderful tertiary notes of cedar and tobacco. And for a rich, heavy pudding I like nothing better than a sweet wine from Bordeaux. 2002 Château Coutet is drinking superbly at the moment.

Sweet wines – choosing can be tricky …

Sweet wines are some of the best value wines in the world. The fact that they are unfashionable is a bonus for the canny buyer as you can pick up all sorts of examples at favourable prices. At home I always serve them at dinner parties and when eating out a glass of sweet wine at the end of the meal can make for a good alternative to pudding. The Vouvray chosen for your last Thyme’s Table dinner has a delicious honeyed note and a trace of dryness, picked for its delicate style and acidity. I keep mentioning acidity but when it comes to matching food with wine, it really is your best friend as it refreshes the palate and leaves you wanting a second glass.

Berry Bros. & Rudd is full of characters who would not seem out of place in a Dickensian tale, reason enough to visit at Christmas?

Berry Bros. & Rudd is as much an institution as it is a company. Founded in 1698 by a lady named the Widow Bourne she originally sold coffee, tea and spices. If you walk into the shop at No.3 you can still see the original weighing scales, hanging from the ceiling, where they would weigh the shipments of coffee, tea and spices. In 1765 the company started weighing customers, one of the reason for this was that the shop is situated in the heart of ‘gentlemen’s club land’ and men were particularly conscious of their weight as their clothes were a snug fit. The list of characters weighed is astonishing from Beau Brummel, the Aga Khan, sons of King George III and the actress Vivien Leigh. George Berry, a wine merchant from Exeter, married into the family in the 1800s and focused the business on wine. Simon Berry, the chairman, is the 7th generation of the Berry family. Hugh Rudd, who came from a family of wine merchant’s in Norwich, joined the business in 1920 bringing with him a deep love of Bordeaux wines.

Berry Bros & Rudd will be matching wines for Eleonora Galasso's Italian Christmas feast at Thyme on 10th December