PEAS ON EARTH AND GOOD WINE TO ALL...
It's that time of year again, personally I have always entered the festive season with some trepidation. But this year is very different for a number of reasons.
Previous vocational incarnations for Rhod, Alex and myself have involved peak trading on the frontline of the hospitality sector, which can be highly rewarding and fulfilling OR incredibly challenging, with as many lows as highs. But one thing that is for sure it was hard graft.
One of the best parts of it was providing people with wine that would help their merriment and this year we still have the pleasure of doing that with Chilled & Tannin. But obviously this year will present something slightly different for everyone...
One other reason for my trepidation is the simple fact of being a vegetarian. Yes I'm unashamedly a life long veggie – I've never eaten meat or fish knowingly. (Well there is one time Rhod took me out for a pizza and unwittingly got served anchovies, which for a brief moment he tried to convince me they were gone off mushrooms). Anyway, I digress, but it sets the tone well for the rollercoaster of culinary experiences you have as a vegetarian in December.
I will say things ARE getting better, the recent boom in veganism is certainly helping and it is uncommon now that you will go out to a restaurant without finding at least one palatable option.
But I don't think there's a vegetarian in Britain who hasn't been served cremated mushroom-six-ways at the staff Christmas do. When this happens there is only one real option, divert to the liquid dinner and hope there is exceptional wine or at least quaffable wine on offer.
And in times gone by when you were actually allowed into other peoples homes, it was another real gamble on what you might be served.
Could anything be drier than the Sahara classic 'Nut Roast'? Or a Linda McArtney sausage that had been cooked so long, that when you try and cut through it it pings across the table? Suddenly this lifeless chunk of soya protein has suddenly become alive (true story on several occasions!)
The other pitfall you might be facing with is being served a delightful meal, but secretly someone has decided to cook the potatoes in goose fat and everyone is having a good old chuckle at the token vegetarian's expense again - which someone then delights in telling you several years later.
The one thing that remains incredibly important in all the scenarios - THE WINE. So what is the wine I would pair with the perfect Vegetarian Christmas dinner, which incidentally for me will be a succulent vegetable wellington served with all the vegetarian trimmings.
I always make sure we have a special bottle on the day at home. Last year being a bottle of The 2011 Rabelais from the Thelma vineyard in Stellenbosch. My wife and I had visited and brought this back so it was perfect for a special occasion. If you know this wine, you'll know I like a full bodied bottle. See the latest vintage details - https://www.thelema.co.za/wines/thelema-rabelais-2018
This year I have the immense pleasure of being a partner in crime with Rhod and Alex, at a Vintners - HUZZAH - so I've picked out some perfect veggie and vegan friendly bottles to pair with a meat free feast this Xmas;
The first bottle is one that is in our very own Christmas box... Chateau Rocher Calon (£15). Having visited Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion almost every year for some time it will help us reminisce about of those warm French evenings sampling the local vin. You get real bang for your buck from Saint-Emillion Montagne - very similar Terrior to its famous neighbours but at a far more approachable price. This beautiful blend of Merlot and Cab Franc has a touch of tertiary to it and some umami vibes making it an ideal pairing for the mushroom wellington.
An equally opulent Crimbo tipple from the Chilled & Tannin range would be our fabulous Domaine Bousquet Malbec Reserve (£14) which punches farther upwards quality wise than Diego Maradona in 1986. Super elegant and silky yet brazen enough to triumph over the unctuous flavours on your festive plate.
Or why not spice Christmas up up with some Sicilian Sunshine? The Vigneti Zabù 'Il Passo Verde' Organic Nero d'Avola (£12) has loads of ripe fruit plus clove and spicy notes which pair perfectly with roasted vegetable delights.
And no Christmas table should be without a bottle of white! I recommend something rich and textured That can endure the culinary marathon, like our super complex Framingham Sauvignon Blanc (£12) or even bigger still our barrel fermented Valserrano Rioja Blanco (£14).
Finally, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without something sweet and fortified and it can be tricky finding something that fits the bill and is vegetarian friendly too. But we found just the bottle with Domaine Bousquet's Malbec Dulce (£14), an Argentinian organic dazzler similar to a port but with more tropical punch. Great with sweets, cheeses or even the queen's speech!
Joyeux Noël fellow Vin lovers