During the spring lockdown a cosy night in was still a luxury, but after six months, it has rather lost its sheen. This time last year we were relishing the changes that autumn brings and the prospect of hunkering down for the winter with plenty of good food and wine. We were slowing down after a summer of parties, holidays, weddings, impromptu barbecues and plenty of socialising. We don’t need to go into the details of what this year has brought but we appreciate that being at home so much is starting to wear thin.
However the few occasions we have been out we have been reminded of the benefits of home hospitality. It’s not as simple as the lack of value in a restaurant wine list but rather, the frustration of not being able to match what we want to eat with what we want to drink. The T-bone steak would go beautifully with the top class burgundy but the markups to three or four times the retail price can feel a bit much. So in restaurants we end up compromising in a way that benefits neither the food nor the wine.
We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to rekindle our love of being at home by setting aside a bottle we have been wanting to try or enjoy again and planning a meal to go with it. So far it has been a pleasure; spending that bit more time thinking about what might work together or what it is we haven’t had for a while has helped provide a focus for a Friday night or a lazy Sunday lunch.
A good quality Chablis or a rich white burgundy go beautifully with white, meaty fish but they are a little hit and miss in most restaurants. Spending a little more on a bottle to have at home offers much better value.
Patrick Piuze Chablis Butteaux Premier Cru £50 per bottle
This is a very clean, fresh and flinty Chablis but one that is also intriguingly complex. The layers of oak are subtle at first but build in the glass to bring depth but doesn’t throw it off balance.
2015 Domaine Bachelet-Monnot La Fussiere Blanc Maranges Premier Cru £42 per bottle
Bachelet-Monnot is a relatively new Domaine but it was set up by two well established winemakers from the region. The wines offer great value given the expertise behind them. This has a little age but is full of citrus fruit and a good balance of oak.
Properly aged Spanish wine is not something you find very often on a wine list, even in Spanish restaurants, yet there is great value to be found in this region and the top Gran Reservas last for decades. Luckily tapas is an all-encompassing term for small plates of anything that takes your fancy – as bespoke a meal as you want to make it.
2007 Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero DO £53 per bottle
Ribera del Duero isn’t new to the Spanish wine scene but finding them with suitable age has become harder over the years. Bodegas Aalto is owned by Vega Sicilia’s winemaker Mariano Garcia and the expertise is noticeable. Grown from old vines this is a wine designed to be drunk with age; soft and velvety with plenty of dark stone fruit and spice.
2004 Bodegas Muga Prado Enea Rioja Gran Reserva DOCa £76 per bottle
This is a good example of a traditionally made, oak aged Rioja from one of the greats of the region. It is not for the faint hearted as 2004 was a year that provided plenty of concentration.
A good Sunday roast is more than just the food on the plate which is why it is never quite the same in a pub as it is at home. The roast potatoes may be crispier at the pub but the atmosphere never invites you to truly relax. Roast lamb with a top class claret followed, perhaps, by a nap on the sofa is much better achieved in the confines of your own establishment.
2012 Chateau Gazin Pomerol £76 per bottle
One of the few Gazin vintages to be made from 100% Merlot, the 2012 surpassed expectations for most. Concentrated and dark, this wine has needed age to allow the many layers of Pomerol character to come through and some will argue that this is still a little young. It is beginning to open up and air will help but you could certainly keep this for another decade.
2006 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac Premier Cru £510 per bottle
I’m not sure that we need to describe Mouton Rothschild but finding the right vintage at the right price is worth spending a little time on. 2006 was a slightly difficult year in Bordeaux thanks to late summer rains but Mouton worked hard to produce a wine with good concentration and balance. Coming off the back of the splendid 2005 vintage the 2006 has been overshadowed and therefore undervalued. Which works out well for those of us wanting to drink it.