The latest updates from the UK's leading wine specialist

by Chris Wilson
Manager of Majestic Wine Covent Garden

We probably all over-indulged over the festive period. And why not? Nevertheless, now may be the time to give some thought to dishes that don’t stretch the waistline, together with wines that stretch the purse strings a little less.

Fortunately, great wine and food matches don’t stop at Beef Wellington and fine claret or huge turkeys paired with Premier Cru Burgundies. Indeed, living an epicurean life is by no means the same as living a debauched one, and there’s much to look forward to if you want to offset the obligatory gluttony of Christmas with some lighter dishes. Sitting in the sunshine last summer with a glass of Vinho Verde to accompany my sardines on toast was just as gastronomically invigorating as wading into a second helping of turkey and Pomerol this Christmas. Just remember that any meal can be turned into a hedonistic pleasure with the right glass of wine.

Duck, Mango & Watercress Salad

Marquis de Pennautier Rosé 2011, PGI Cité de Carcassonne, France
£7.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
A much-overlooked virtue of rosé is its versatility with food. Here’s a great example that delivers on all fronts, standing up to the duck while complementing the fruit and peppery watercress in the salad. Similar in style to a Provence rosé, it’s full-bodied with lovely soft summer fruits, peach flavours and a lick of spice to suit the salad perfectly.

Morgon 2010, Château de Pizay, France
£9.99 or £8.49 when you buy 2 bottles
I’ve always found Beaujolais a little tricky – too light to go with really meaty dishes and too red to be an apéritif. This Morgon has all the answers. It really comes into its own paired with this salad, its intense fruit flavours standing up to the duck but with no heavy tannin and texture to interfere with the fruit. A delightful combination.

Harissa Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

Kangarilla Road Chardonnay 2011, McLaren Vale, Australia
£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Kangarilla Road wines have long been stalwarts of the Majestic range and this splendid Chardonnay shows why. The focus is on fruit characters – mainly citrus with some tropical and stone fruits – rather than oak, although judicious oaking does lend texture and a streak of vanilla. The pronounced fruitiness goes very well with the spice in this dish, while the wine’s texture and body enhance the taste of the meat.

Domaine Sainte Rose ‘Le Vent du Nord’ Roussanne Chardonnay 2009, PGI Pays d’Oc, France
£6.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles
There’s something of a renaissance underway in southern France and Domaine Sainte Rose is in the vanguard. This is an unusual blend of Roussanne, traditionally used in white blends from the Rhône Valley, and Chardonnay. It has a light, creamy, buttery character lifted by honeysuckle and apricot flavours. Versatile enough to go with any chicken or fish dish, it’s perfect with this spicy rustic one.

Soy & Ginger Glazed Salmon

Santa Rita 120 Viognier 2011, Maipo Valley, Chile
£7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles
The oriental spice in the dish needs a wine with big, unctuous flavours. The intense apricot and honeysuckle notes in this Chilean white deliver in spades, tempering all that heat and ginger – and at an amazingly low price. It’s great to see the rising popularity of Viognier and even better to see one so affordable. If you have yet to be seduced by the opulence of this grape, this is a great place to start.

Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2008/09, France
£13.49
Gewürztraminer is the granddaddy of intense aromatic wines – the go-to bottle for any spicy food. This dry, full-bodied, truly moreish example is one of my all-time favourite wines. It’s all about the purity of the varietal characteristics. Bags of lychee fruit and rose petals, plus some more tropical fruit and a streak of gingery spice, match the dish perfectly.

Spring Vegetable Tagliatelle

Saint Michel Blanc Perlé 2010, PDO Gaillac, France
£7.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Creamy pasta dishes demand wines with a bit of zip and freshness to cut through the sauce. Sauvignon Blanc is an obvious choice but why not try something a little different from the southwest of France? Made from local varieties of Muscadelle and Mauzac, this has focused lemon, grapefruit and crunchy pear flavours. Perlé is the French term for lightly sparkling – little bubbles (or pearls) that, along with a backbone of crisp acidity, really lift this dish.

Prestige Parcels Sauvignon Blanc 2010/11, Marlborough, New Zealand
£11.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles
Then again, why not go for the obvious choice of a New Zealand Sauvignon? Pound for pound they don’t come much better than this stunner. Sourced from premium producers in the Wairau Valley and bottled under Majestic’s own label, its abundant grapefruit, gooseberries and mouth-watering acidity take the pasta to another level.

2 thoughts on “Lighter Bites

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