After a brief Indian summer it looks as though things are on the turn in the UK. A change in temperature and government-enforced house arrest mean we have only one thing to look forward to this weekend: the mega roast.
One of the many tragedies of the pandemic has been its impact on some of Britain’s great producers, with many relying on restaurants as their route to market. One such producer I have worked with over the years is Richard Vaughn at Huntsham Farm in Gloucestershire. He lovingly rears middle white pigs, longhorn cows and Ryeland lamb. With such world-class produce available direct to our doors, in this week’s column I explore my top four wines for our top four roasts.
One of my favourite roasting meats, pork is also a joy to pair with wine. Different joints have different requirements, be it a slow roast pork belly or a stuffed porchetta. You can either find a delicate red, such as a Valpolicella from Italy or a Pinot noir, or you can go with a green and zesty white to cut through the fat of a joint. I love this combination: think apple sauce with pork and you can understand why it can work so well.
Dr Loosen Riesling is a great option. As one of the most revered winemakers in the Mosel Valley, his Ürziger Würzgarten blend delivers enough character to stand up to the meat as well the vivacious green apple flavours that make this a match made in heaven.
I used this exact combination with one of Richard’s pigs at my wedding this year. Due to the low natural sugars present in the wine, once fermented it only achieves an 8% alcohol volume, which means you can reach for that extra glass (or bottle).
Being such a subtle meat, you have essentially the same choice as with pork. Light reds work well, but white wines with a touch of oak can be better. Chardonnay is often considered the perfect partner for roast chicken but I like something a little more exciting.
The Rhône valley is better known for its rich and full-bodied Grenache and Syrah red wines where the intensity of that southern French sun almost leaps out of glass. Their white wines however are less well known, including the often-overlooked Chateauneuf du Pape blanc.
The thumping red wines of that area are much better known, making up 93 per cent of the production but the whites, mainly crafted using Clairette and Rousanne are something to behold.
With small productions, they are not cheap, but they are worth it and can stand up to a bit of spice if you want to go off piste with your roast. This wine from Chante Cigale is a real triumph, intoxicating for the price.
Roast lamb is a tricky one to pair wine with as it really depends on the time of year. Young lamb, found earlier in the year, is likely to be much lighter in colour and flavour, having been predominantly milk fed and can be quite delicate, which should be reflected in the wine.
As they get older, their flavour matures and can become almost gamey, with more mature fats. Given the time of year, any British lamb will fit into the latter category and can take a bit more oomph.
I find Tempranillo is a wonderful partner. It has the acidity and fruit to cut through the fat and can itself display gamey characteristics. Rioja is the natural home of Tempranillo, with three different age statements available, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. The latter is the oldest, with a minimum of two years in oak and two years in bottle.
The better quality Rioja tends to come from close to the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria which flank the North of the region where limestone is more prevalent in the soil and the altitude mean the grapes ripen later, allowing better acidity and ageing potential.
My favourite producer from this area is Sierra Cantabria. They produce stunning and elegant wines which show great class and restraint. The wine seen as the best fit for roast lamb though is their Collección Privada. The tannins are backed up with tobacco and generous fruit offering a masterclass in what Rioja can be.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the best friend of roast beef. I always feel there’s a sense of occasion with a beef roast, especially with prime cuts. The grandeur of a prime cut of beef also deserves grand wine, so it’s easy to have fun in either Bordeaux or Tuscany.
The key to a good wine for beef is the tannins. The mouth-feel we enjoy with tannins help to enhance the whole experience, binding to the proteins in the beef and creating a match made in heaven.
When choosing my perfect wine to pair with a roast beef, consistency leads me to Tuscany over Bordeaux where vintages and quality can vary greatly. Ornellaia is one of the top producers in Bolgheri, which is situated in the west of Tuscany making Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends.
Their wines are amongst the most revered Supertuscans. The entry level wine ‘La Votte’ is very drinkable but lacks a bit of depth and I feel you pay a premium for the name. The opposite is true of their second wine ‘La Serre Nuove’.
Made using younger vines, it matures a little faster than the Bolgheri Superior, but don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t age; I recently enjoyed a magnum from 2008 and it was sublime. Look out for the 2016s and buy a few bottles to hold, too – it’s considered the ultimate vintage. This is a worthy partner for any prime cut and certainly one to aid another day under house arrest!