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  • All things Cheesy

    As with wine, the world of cheese is bursting with esoteric characters, each with their own unique flair. From complex and creamy blue and luxurious triple cream, to tangy goat’s cheese and sharp cheddar, navigating the world of cheese can be overwhelming – not least when you bring wine into the picture.

    We’re strong advocates that all Christmas celebrations should feature a cheese of some description. Once you’ve selected which cheeses will make the cut, it’s time think about the best wines to match that will bring out the very best in the dairy delights. It’s no mean feat finding the perfect partners, which is why we’ve enlisted the help from the experts at Pong Cheese, who’ve found six cheese and wine matches for the jolly season.

     

    Peller Vidal Icewine and Blue Monday

    Blue Monday is a rich, pasteurised, sophisticated blue cow’s milk cheese created by Alex James – former band member of Blur, turned cheesemaker – and Judy Bell from Shepherds Purse Cheeses. Matured for up to eight weeks, it develops a wonderful soft, mellow, creamy texture – faintly sweet, intensely savoury, spicy and rich, with a thin natural rind. Alex Jamnes named this cheese after his favourite New Order song, but there is absolutely nothing that will make you unhappy about this masterpiece. Blue Monday is complex and creamy with bold cracks and streaks of blue-spicy, steely and sweet.

    The match: Together, Peller Vidal Icewine and Blue Monday create an amazing taste sensation. Neither overpowers the other and the rich honey notes from the wine marries well with the cheese. The wine allows the cheese to mellow and the creaminess comes through delicately.

     

     

    Quinta do Crasto LBV Port and Crozier Blue

    Crozier Blue is the sister cheese of Cashel Blue and is made in the same production facility at the Grubb family farm in County Tipperary, Ireland. This blue ewe’s milk cheese is much paler than the cow’s milk Cashel Blue, and also has a longer maturing period. The Crozier blue is characterised by its creaminess, which can be traced directly to the limestone-rich pastures where the ewes graze, and which in turn contribute to a particularly lush, full and sweet milk. A crozier refers to the hooked staff carried by either a bishop or a shepherd. Crozier Blue has a rich, full and well-rounded flavour.

    The match: With gentle salty notes and a distinctly rich creamy texture, offset by a touch of spice, this cheese is the ideal partner for Quinta do Crasto’s lusicous LBV Port. The sweetness of the port offsets the saltiness of the cheese making this paring a truly great match.

     

     

    Domaine Cuilleron Condrieu La Petite Côte and Finn

    Finn is an unpasteurised, soft, white cheese produced by Charlie Westhead of Neal's Yard Creamery and is the only triple cream cheese made in England. Firm with a rich, creamy texture, this mild cheese is fresh and lactic when young, taking on a mushroomy, salty and nutty taste as it matures. Local unpasteurised cows milk is combined with double cream before a long gentle set, making a rich delectable cheese. Double/triple cream cheeses like Finn are difficult to make because the cream settles out whilst the curd is setting. Hence Charlie has to ‘top-stir’ the setting curd several times to ensure the cream is all trapped in the cheese.

    The match: The paring works well as the saltiness of the cheese comes through and enhances the wine’s floral, juicy notes. The wine has rich mineral complexity and the cheese combines well to create a sensational matching.

     

     

    Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personelle and Driftwood Goat

    Made near the Glastonbury festival site, Driftwood Goat is made in a log shape and is a semi-soft unpasteurised, vegetarian goat’s milk cheese. This British goat’s cheese contains a fresh, clean, slightly lactic aroma with a citrusy tang. You can taste slight notes of salt but the cheese is not bitter. Made by Peter Humphries at Whitelake Cheeses, Driftwood Goat takes its name from the geotrichum ash rind, which gives an earthy finish on the palate. The cheese has a lovely smooth texture with a grey blue ash rind giving the resemblance of a piece of driftwood.

    The match: A match made in heaven! With distinct minerality, the wine offsets the fresh, clean, citrus Driftwood Goat cheese, resulting in a delicate yet intense matching.

     

     

    Bertani Amarone Classico DOC and Gorgonzola Dolce DOP

    The Gorgonzola Dolce is one of the creamiest and most spreadable cheeses in our range. The cheese is much softer and milder than its picante stronger counterpart, which is not surprising, given its name derives from the Italian word for sweet.

    The match: The sweetness of both the wine and the cheese makes for a truly sublime paring. With rich, dry, complexity on the palate the wine has an amazing depth of flavour that combines so well with the divinely soft and sweet Gorgonzola Dolce.

     

     

    Ramón Bilbao Rioja Edicion Limitada and Godminster Organic Cheddar

    Godminster Vintage Organic Cheddar has a distinctive purple wax, which encases the beautiful, moist and creamy cheddar. The Godminster is made in Bruton, Somerset, using organic soil association certified cow’s milk.

    The match: This is a clash of the titans! Rich, powerful cheddar, versus rich, powerful Rioja! A heavy weight contest like no other, which results in complete harmony. The cheese brings out the smokiness of the full-bodied wine, and the wine brings out the salty crystals, and rich creamy flavour of the cheese. 

     

    Pong Cheese

    Pong was created by two friends from Bath, the capital of the ‘Napa Valley’ of cheese: Somerset. One of the founders has been in Internet marketing for the last 12 years running several digital marketing agencies in London, helping brands such as Waitrose, Jamie Oliver and Oli launch into the online space; the other founder was a chef and cheese expert for over 10 years including serving the great and good in the Houses of Parliament.

    Pong was created to bring customers some of the very best cheeses produced by the leading independent and artisan producers in the UK, complemented with some classics from Europe. Each cheese is a little masterpiece of taste and texture and in most cases has a unique and highly skilled process behind its production.

  • Christmas cocktails

    Get your guests warmed up and let the good times flow with these festive concoctions. Whether you want to wow guests with some mixology magic or need something festive and fast, our favourite Christmasy cocktails and mocktails will provide much liquid merriment.

    Rogue Mule

    • 50ml Regal Rogue Bold Red
    • Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
    • 1 Large Orange Wedge
    • Ginger Slice

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Build in a highball glass over ice. Served with a large orange wedge and a slice of ginger. The ideal Christmas Apéritif or over ice with cheese, bringing aromatic spice and rich dried fruit to life. 

    Christmas Classic Champagne Cocktail

    • 1 Brown Sugar Cube
    • 3 Dashes of Bob’s Chocolate Bitters
    • 15ml Cherry Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)
    • Champagne

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Soak sugar cube in Chocolate bitters, drop into Champagne flute, pour in Cherry Gin then top slowly with Champagne.

     

    The King’s Mulled Cider

    • 50ml The King's Ginger
    • 150ml Cider
    • 150ml Apple juice

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Serve in a handled glass, hot or over ice. Garnish with lemon, cinnamon stick & fresh blackberries if you have them.

     

    Cinnamon Spiced Old Fashioned

    • 50ml Sonoma County Rye
    • 15ml Monin Cinnamon Sirop 70cl
    • 2 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Pour the whiskey & the cinnamon syrup into an Old Fashioned glass. Now add two dashes of bitters & ice. Stir until combined. Zest orange peel over the drink & drop it in with a cinnamon stick for garnish.

     

    Spiced Hot Buttered Rum

    • 50ml Bumbu Spiced
    • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
    • 2 tbs Butter
    • ¼ tsp All Spice
    • Pinch of Nutmeg
    • 150ml Hot Water
    • 1 Cinnamon Stick

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Heat butter, sugar, all spice and nutmeg in a pan and mix together. Allow to cool until batter is firm.  Add batter & rum into a heat-proof glass, top with hot water & stir well. Drop in a cinnamon stick to serve.

     

     

    Brandy Alexander

    • 50ml Hennessy Fine de Cognac
    • 25ml Briottet Crème de Cacao Ambré
    • 25ml Single Cream
    • Dusting of chocolate powder

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Add all ingredients except chocolate powder into a cocktail tin and fill with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass & garnish with a dusting of chocolate powder.

     

     

     

    French Vanilla Café

    • 25ml Cîroc French Vanilla Vodka
    • 150ml Freshly Brewed Filter Coffee
    • 20ml Single Cream
    • 2 Sugar Cubes
    • 1 Vanilla Pod

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Add chilled cream and Cîroc to a cocktail shaker with no ice and shake well. Put hot coffee into a heat-proof glass and pour cream and Cîroc mix slowly over the coffee, so it floats on top. Serve with a cut vanilla pod and sugar cubes.

     

     

    Hot Toddy

    • 2 tsp Honey
    • 50ml Boiling Water
    • 50ml Shackleton Whisky
    • 3 Whole Cloves
    • 1 Cinnamon Stick
    • 1 Sliced Lemon
    • 1 Pinch Ground Nutmeg

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Pour the honey, boiling water & whisky into a mug. Spice it with the cloves and cinnamon and add the slice of lemon. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flavours can mingle, then sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg before serving.

     

     

    Sloe Gin Fizz

    • 50ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin
    • 25ml Lemon Juice
    • An Egg White
    • 15ml Simple Syrup
    • Sparkling Wine (yours for the choosing)

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Combine Sipsmith sloe gin, lemon juice, an egg white & simple syrup in a shaker. Shake well. Add ice & shake again. Strain into a sherry glass or small highball. Top with sparkling wine enough so that the height of the froth is roughly equal to half of the drink.

     

     

     

    Festive Martinez

    • 50ml Pink Pepper Gin
    • 25ml Sweet Vermouth (Regal Rouge Bold Red)
    • 10ml Luxardo Maraschino
    • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
    • Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
    • 4 Cloves

     

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Stir all ingredients over lots of ice for about 30 seconds & strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry & and lemon twist pierced with cloves.

     

     

    Night in the Białowieża Forest

    • 50ml Konik’s Tail
    • 15ml Conkers Cold Brew
    • 10 ml Monin Gingerbread Sirop
    • 25ml Single Cream

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Shake all ingredients with ice & fine strain into chilled glass.

     

     

    Atholl Brosé

    • 50ml Talisker
    • 2 Barspoons of Runny Honey
    • 1 Barspoon Drambuie
    • 1 Barspoon Disaronno Amaretto
    • 15ml Single Cream
    • 30ml Oatmeal Water
    • Nutmeg
    • Champagne

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Prepare oatmeal water by soaking three heaped table spoons of oatmeal in half a mug of warm water for 15 minutes. Pour off liquid (oatmeal water) and discard the remainder. Add whisky and honey in a Boston tin and stir well until honey is dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, top with ice and shake well. Fine strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of nutmeg.

    Add all ingredients in to a Boston tin except champagne, shake hard without ice then shake with ice. Pour into a highball then top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist and something Christmassy.

  • Party Time

    Like it or not, the festive season is well and truly upon us. While you mightn’t have started thinking ahead to what you’ll be pouring on the big day, we’re sure your diaries will have already started filling up with Christmas parties – because who doesn’t want to celebrate at this time of year?

     

    Unlike wines you would serve for a sit-down Christmas lunch, you’ll need a different set of criteria when selecting those to crack open for a party.

     

    Fizz

    It wouldn’t be a party without bubbly. Make sure you’ve got all your bases covered and have a selection of Champagne and sparkling ready to go. If you’re a traditionalist, Champagne Jacquart’s Brut Mosaïque is a delicious drop – incredibly soft, and elegant bubbles are brought to life with notes of grapefruit, rich orchard fruit and just a touch of minerality. Closer to home, Hattingley Valley’s Classic Reserve – a blend of vintage wines – is a prime example of great English fizz, and is a flawless accompaniment to any party. For something different, why not try a drop from one of Italy’s finest prosecco producers, Ruggeri – the Quartese Valdobbiadene is a surprisingly intense and bright bubbly.

     

    mountain glasses of champagne, a bottle of stream

    Crowd-pleasing wines

    A great rule for pleasing your guests is to avoid wines that stray too far either side of the ‘middle’ – look for wines that are pleasant and quaffable without being too weird and wonderful (guaranteed to alienate people), too tannic, rich, acidic, light or alcoholic. Remember, the wines here are the supporting act, not the star of the show, and need to match the lively, sparkly festive mood as well as the style of food being served. Some of our go-to crowd pleasers include Ramón Bilbao Lalomba Rosado or Umani Ronchi Centiove Organic Pecorino.

     

     

    crowd pleasers

    Large format

    Embrace the spirit of Christmas and sharing, and make sure you’ve got some large format wines on offer. Nothing quite makes a statement like a magnum of Malbec or Jeroboam of fizz, and with these voluptuous bottles on show, you’ll ensure no glass is left empty at the party. To help you navigate the world of super-sized wines, here are 10 of our favourites:

     

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    Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve

    Ruggeri Quartese Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

    Chivite Family Estates Las Fincas Rosado

    Domaine Louis Michel Chablis 1er Cru, Montée de Tonnerre

    Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon

    El Esteco Don David Malbec

    Ramón Bilbao Rioja Reserva

    d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz

    Château Bertinat Lartigue St-Emilion

    Planeta Santa Cecilia Noto DOC

     

    Festive punch

    Now you’ve got the wine sorted, it’s time to turn your attention to spirits. One of the earliest forms of the cocktail, a great punch is always a crowd pleaser. Here are three of our favourite recipes that will have customers coming back for more.

     

    Pink Poinsettia Punch - serves 6

    A refreshing party punch with a sneaky pepper kick.

    • 150ml Pink Pepper Gin
    • 300ml Rubicon Pomegranate Juice
    • 200ml Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
    • 100ml Lemon juice
    • 75ml Cointreau
    • Top with Ginger Ale
    • Sliced Orange / Lemon & Cranberries if available

    Pour all ingredients into a punch bowl stir with ice and garnishes, ladle into punch cups and it’s party time!

     

     

     

    Hot Rum Punch -  serves 4

    Word on the street is that this was one of Mozart’s favourite drinks.

    • 100ml Plantation Original Dark Rum
    • 100ml H by Hine VSOP Cognac
    • 50ml Fino, Bella Luna
    • 30ml Sugar Syrup
    • 75ml Lime Juice
    • Hot Water
    • Cloves pierced through an orange slice

    Pour all ingredients into a heat-proof punch bowl and stir well. Ladle into heat-proof mugs and serve with the orange slice and cloves.

     

    Eggnog Punch - serves 4

    Ditch that store-bought stuff. Roll your sleeves up and get your nog on. Your classic holiday staple.

    • 100ml Konik’s Tail
    • 75ml Giffard Madagascan Vanilla
    • 25ml Monin Cinnamon Syrup
    • 400ml Milk
    • Grenadine Syrup
    • Cocktail Cherries
    • Grated Nutmeg

    Pour Konik’s Tail, Madagascan Vanilla, cinnamon syrup and milk into a punch bowl and stir well. Allow to chill in a refrigerator. Ladle over an iced-filled glass then drizzle grenadine and serve with a cocktail cherry and a dusting of nutmeg.

  • What we’re drinking this Christmas

    Here at Enotria&Coe we live and breathe wine. So who better to ask for Christmas drinks recommendations than us? We put it to the people and have gathered a pretty enviable line-up of wines our team will be enjoying over the festive period. Cin Cin!

     

    Serge Sergio De Luca, Director of Buying, Italy //  Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG

    Christmas lunch gives me the chance to enjoy a few large glasses of wines. I like the opulent, raisiny approach of this stunning wine from Bertani. It is quite different from their very traditional and somewhat austere Classico, a bit more modern and quite easy to drink. It goes extremely well with turkey, but seeing as it's Christmas I'm very happy to drink it on its own while watching/sleeping/snoring in front of the television.

     

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    Harriet Kininmonth, Head of Buying // Chivite Colección 125 Chardonnay

    Christmas is a time for treats and, being the hispanophile that I am, I cannot think of anything I’d rather impress my family with more than Spain’s number one premium white. Elegant and leesy like a top Beaune Chardonnay but with a dense, nutty, tropical edge that might place it somewhere further afield. See if your Dad can guess where it’s from!

     

    DaveFinalDave Allen, Area Manager // Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada

    Christmas is a time for coming together as a family, spending time with each other and being grateful for those around you. The Eguren family have considered themselves grape growers above all else for five generations. Coleccion Privada was created using a deep understanding of the land that only 150 years of family ownership can bring.  It is an example of the best that Rioja can produce, from a family that quietly re-invests all their time, energy and profits back into their estate and produce.  As a parent, I want no more than to give my children better than I myself had; the Egurens clearly also ascribe to this notion. Christmas is the perfect time and this the perfect wine to stop, reflect on the year passed, and re-double my efforts to provide that better future.

     

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    Kathrine Larsen, Channel Expert // Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

    I am looking forward to drinking one of my all-time favourites for Christmas – Trimbach's Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling – especially in the beautifully precise and energetic 2008 vintage. I think we will drink it with a range of starters – think oysters, smoked salmon and foie gras. The wine’s zesty and mineral side will complement the oysters and salmon, while it’s more generous nuances will go very well with the foie gras.

     

     

     

    ChrisFinalChris Quin, Director of Sales, Off Trade // Kooyong Haven Pinot Noir

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Kooyong’s riper yet supremely elegant and balanced styles of Pinot Noir and this release must rank as one of the best in recent memory. With single-vineyard Domaine-level Burgundies reaching stratospheric prices over the last few years, we’re increasingly having to turn to buzzy, up-and-coming New World areas like Mornington Peninsula for top-notch examples without the £xxx price tag. This wine displays an abundance of purple fruits, classic spice and forest floor notes, silky tannins and great depth and structure from 14 months in 25% new French oak. Aussie critics are giving this wine scores in the 95+ bracket and it is easy to see why. A treat for sure, but hey it’s Xmas, so treat yourself and see your turkey lunch transformed into something ethereal. 

     

     

     

     

  • Christmas with...

    We all have our own long-standing Christmas traditions, and here in the UK the festive season seems to be hallmarked by mince pies, smile-inducing woolen Christmas knits and cockle-warming reds enjoyed in front of a crackling fire at the local pub. But how is the season enjoyed by other communities and cultures around the world?

    We caught up with some of our producers celebrating in places near such as Portugal and Spain and some more far-flung locations like Australia and Chile, to find out what makes their Christmas season special.

     

    Quinta do Crasto

    Our wine pick: Quinta do Crasto Tinta Roriz

    Vinhas Velhas

    Christmas traditions in Portugal and Douro are above all about family!

    For most Catholics Advent, the period of preparation for Christmas, begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a family dinner known as the night of the ‘Consoada’ is celebrated. The word Consoada refers to a small meal that is taken at the end of a day’s fasting and derives from the Latin word consolare, meaning “to comfort”. Traditionally, this meal will be of Bacalhau (salted cod), but other regions eat Polvo (octopus).

    Following the meal, families attend Missa do Galo (Midnight Mass), and then head back home to exchange gifts. Midnight Mass was first included in Christmas celebrations during the 5th Century. It is celebrated at midnight, which is the time referred to as being “galli cantu” (at cock crow). During the Missa do Galo, people admire the crib, which has been specially prepared for the occasion, and, after communion, everyone moves up to the altar to kiss the Baby Jesus, an act that is sometimes accompanied by songs of worship.

    On the 25th, families will gather again for lunch, with turkey typically being served up. Beautiful Douro wines are always on the table, as well as port to toast. Some of the traditional pastries and desserts served at Christmas include Sonhos (Choux Pastry Puffs), Rabanadas (French Toast), Pasteis de Nata (Custard Cups) and Aletria (Sweet Angle Hair Dessert).

     

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    Marcos Eguren, Sierra Cantabria

    Our wine pick: Sierra Cantabria San Vicente

    Since we were children, we have celebrated Christmas in the dining room at the Sierra Cantabria winery where we also have the family house. We decorate the house and the winery with Christmas decorations and we have a big family reunion, with our parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins. We enjoy a delicious homemade meal together with a selection of old vintages of our wines. It’s a truly remarkable experience, and one that we treasure.

     

    sierra cantabria

    Viviana Navarrete, Viña Leyda Winemaker

    Our wine pick: Viña Leyda Las Brisas Pinot Noir

    Christmas is the most important celebration in the year for winemaker Viviana, where she gathers with her family, looks back to evaluate the year that was, and pray for those who in need. For Viviana, it’s really important to have a modest celebration – without too many gifts – so as to enjoy each other’s company and think about the true meaning of Christmas.

    Viviana’s family likes to enjoy a special dinner on Christmas – they love salmon, and Viviana always brings Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Garuma to match.

    One of the most memorable Christmas celebrations for Leyda’s winemaker was a few years ago when she travelled with her husband and his family to Matanzas, a small coastal town in Chile. Here she spent a quiet time with them and had the opportunity to chat about their projects and other important things in their lives at that time. Vivianna always remembers this year and the importance of taking a break during Christmas, looking inside yourself and those around you.

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    Justine Henschke, sixth-generation

    Our wine pick: Henschke Rose Grower Nebbiolo

    In line with our German heritage, we celebrate Christmas Eve as much as Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is always spent at the Gnadenberg Lutheran Church, which overlooks the Hill of Grace vineyard (Gnadenberg translates to ‘Graceful Hill’). Christmas Day is all about enjoying food and wine with family. In our little corner of the Barossa’s Eden Valley in South Australia, Christmas falls in the midst of summer and our celebrations revolve around shucking Coffin Bay oysters and serving them natural with our Johanne Ida Selma Blanc de Noir MD and Julius Riesling. Crayfish and Moreton Bay Bug Tails follow with our Louis Semillon and Croft Chardonnay and then it’s into the more traditional part of the feas; turkey or duck with a special museum release bottle of Hill of Grace Shiraz and some carefully chosen European counterparts! Christmas pudding and fresh summer berries are always of course served with our botrytis Noble Rot Semillon. The Christmas and New Year period is usually the last chance to spend quality time with family and friends before harvest, so we try to squeeze in as much swimming and sailing as we possibly can.

     

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    Julian Chivite, President Chivite Group

    Our wine pick: Chivite Family Estates Coleccion 125 Vendimia Tardia

    At home, Christmas season is related to family and friends. We look forward to gathering and sharing unforgettable moments together. This time of the year, wine has a very special place. Wine is celebration, emotion, joy, sensations. Moreover, I can’t imagine a celebration without wine as an essential part of it.

    When it comes to choosing wines for Christmas season you have to think of the people who will share this very special time with you. If you already know what they like you can always go for the same, or try to amaze them.

    ChivitePersonally, I like to offer at home, not only the greatest of the Chivite wines, but also some others internationally famous. This is something that my father used to share with us and I want to carry on with this family tradition. In fact, I got to know Bordeaux premier grand clu classé wines because my dad used to uncork them every Christmas.

    When I was a child, Christmas season was a very happy time of the year. Even though I didn’t like most of the dishes served on Christmas Eve, except the nougat. However, I loved their Christmas Day meal. I still very much enjoy that part of the menu, consisting of migas, cardo, Cantabrian Sea Bream and Chilindron-style lamb. And of course, nougat.

    Of course, being a child Christmas means present time. I recall the thrill I felt when I got my first air shotgun, which shot corks and pellets.

    Nowadays, I love to celebrate Christmas with my wife and sons. For me, it’s the best of the plans. We really enjoy Christmas together and dinner always starts with a memory to the ones that aren’t with us anymore. And of course, we never forget to toast to health and happiness.

    On behalf of my family and all the people at Chivite Group I would like to wish you health and happiness.

     

    Alejandro Pepa, El Esteco Chief Winemaker

    Our wine pick: El Esteco Chanar Punco

    Christmas is a special occasion regardless of where it finds you. You generally get together with family, but since the town of Cafayate, in the province of Salta, is so far away from everything, every time I spend Christmas here I make sure to meet with my ‘second family’: the friends this beautiful town has given me.

    I'm a very traditional person, so I thoroughly enjoy this wonderful day of getting together, wishing everyone well, toasting, sharing a meal with friends and family, exchanging small gifts – I think it's marvelous.

    Every year we throw a great party where the entire staff from both wineries, El Esteco and Chañar Punco, are welcome. We merge Christmas and New Year's Eve into a single event: a festive and happy occasion to spend a moment together and wish the best for each other for the upcoming year.

    It is truly the perfect moment for a toast and best wishes.

    Cheers! Merry Christmas!

     

    Francisco Xavier Tellechea, El Esteco Chief Viticulturist

    I celebrated my first Christmas in the town of Cafayate last year. Until then, I had always celebrated it in the city of Salta.

    Christmas in Cafayate is regarded as a very meaningful day from a religious perspective. Since the town population is largely Catholic, on 8th December they set up a large Nativity scene in the main square, where cedar trees are decorated with lights and gift-wrapped boxes passing off as presents.

    Typically, the locals who live in the hills nearby will travel down town in order to sell their baby goats and pigs – these will then be either roasted or cooked in a mud oven, and will be served on Christmas Eve.

    On 24th December people will attend the service at their local church and then gather to enjoy the region’s traditional dishes, paired of course with a good wine from the Calchaquí Valley.

    Ever since I was a child (and this is a tradition I've kept with my own children) when the clock strikes midnight everybody will go outside to let off some fireworks, and this will buy you enough time to sneak a few presents under the tree and have children think Santa Claus or Baby Jesus left them there as a reward for their good behaviour throughout the year.

    Every year, my family will set up a sweet table display after dinner where you will always find some white-coated Jordan almonds. They are ever present sweets, but so hard that only few will dare to eat them!

  • An alternative Christmas

    We've shared our tips for a very traditional Christmas, but what if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous? If you’re sticking to the old favourites in the kitchen, why not try something quirky from the cellar? They mightn’t be your first picks, but try these pairings and we promise you won’t be disappointed.

    Starter

    El Esteco Old Vine Torrontes Hailing from Argentina’s unique Calchaqui Valley, this New World Torrontes is a refreshing partner for a festive seafood starter. A vibrant wine with fresh tropical fruits and delicate aromas of roses and orange peel, brought to life by an uplifting acidity. But don’t just take it from us – one of Britain’s leading wine writers, Tim Atkin MW, included this El Esteco drop in his 2017 round-up of Argentina’s Top 100 Wines.

    Ottella Lugana Riserva DIC Molceo An utterly modern wine that possesses freshness, flavour and crispness. If you’d prefer to keep reds for the main event, then Ottella’s Lugana Riserva is a great option – particularly, if you’re wanting to break away somewhat from tradition. Our Italian Buyer Sergio loves nothing more than a splash of Lugana alongside the catch of the day from his local fishmonger. With an intense nose of ripe lemon and spice, it’s incredibly textured with excellent oak integration. 

     

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    Main

    Not your usual suspects, this trifecta of quirky Christmas reds is light and versatile, meaning they’ll find their feet amongst the traditional smorgasbord of culinary treats to be dished up for the main course. Fontanafredda’s Raimonda is made from 100% Barbera – the most planted variety in Piedmont, and it’s what you’ll often find the locals drinking. Plus, compared to some of the heavy hitting Bordeaux, Raimonda has a much more attractive price tag.

    While they tend to fly under the radar, especially at this time of the year with all the established stalwarts floating around, New World wines are fabulous alternatives to Burgundy and Bordeaux. Humberto Canale’s Seleccion de Familia Pinot Noir represents the best of the varietal in Argentina, and shows the terroir characteristics of the region. Meanwhile, Heartland has taken a modern approach to Old World wine with The Foreign Correspondent made from Dolcetto and Lagrein. In the words of winemaker Ben Glatzer: “It is a serious red that doesn’t ask to be taken seriously.”

     

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    Pudding

    It’s hard to beat a sticky or fortified to finish off the meal, but we’ve found a very strong contender in Valveran’s Ice Cider – it sounds weird, but stay with us. Crafted from frozen apples, indigenous to the Asturias region in Spain, this cider offers the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. On the palate it is sweet and moreish, reminiscent of honey, full and persistent with a very intense and complex bouquet. The finish is elegant and refined with a crisp acidity which awards zest and leaves a long, unforgettable aftertaste.

    Alternatively, because you’ve opted for lighter reds during the main affair, it might be nice to mix things up and move onto some heavier reds for your Christmas pud and cheese platter. A cross-section of a few of our top picks from around the world include d’Arenberg’s The Athazagoraphobic Cat, El Esteco’s Tannat and Planeta’s Santa Cecilia.

     

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    Spirits

    While we’re thinking outside the box, why not move away from wine completely and entertain the endless options available in the world of spirits? Our resident spirits enthusiast, Ben Gibbins, has put together an Audemus cocktail flight, using a selection of gins from for our French friends at Pink Pepper Gin. Interesting fact for you: while they’re located in Cognac, Pink Pepper Gin is actually crafted from Spanish peppercorns.

     

    Starter // Umami Martini  

    The umami flavour will excite your tastebuds and play well with strongly flavoured fish dishes.

    50ml Pink Pepper and 25ml Umami stirred to chill and strained into a chilled coupe glass, garnished with a lemon twist.

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    Main // Cranberry Snapper                          

     

    A twist on the gin classic, matching with the turkey dinner flavours.

    50ml Pink Pepper mixed in an ice-filled highball glass with 100ml Cranberry Juice, 3 drops Tabasco sauce, 3 drops Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters and garnished with a twist of lemon and a thyme sprig.

    cranberry snapper

     

    Dessert // Old Ma’groni               

                    

    Another classic twisted drink utilising the port flavours from Old Ma’s with the light herbal notes of Regal Rogue.

    35ml Old Ma’s Gin stirred down to chill with 25ml Regal Rogue Bold Red and 15ml Campari, served in an ice-filled rocks glass with an orange twist.

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