Bonfire Night – Wines to ignite your fire

Bonfire Night – a time to wrap up warm and gather with family and friends around a bonfire to watch the night’s sky light up with shimmering, colourful fireworks.  The joy of spending an evening with our loved ones warms the soul, and we have delved into the iDealwine cellar to find you the perfect wines and spirits to go with this evening. We should say that these suggestions are for the ones relaxing and simply enjoying themselves, not the people tending the bonfire or setting off fireworks – be sensible please everyone.

Bonfire Night – a brief history

If you’re not from the UK, you are probably wondering what Bonfire Night is. Well, to explain that, we need to go back in time to 1534 when Great Britain was a Catholic country. That year, Henry VIII changed that when he parted ways with the Catholic Church, creating a divided nation with some of the population converting to Protestantism, while others remained Catholic.

Fast-forward to 1605 and not all Catholics were content to have the protestant King James I on the throne. A group of 13 men formed a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London when the King would be present there for the State opening, an event which fell on 5 November that year. They gathered gunpowder and found a room to store it in that was underneath where the Members of Parliament and the King would meet. Around midnight on the morning of 5th November 1605, the king’s guards found Guy Fawkes, one of the members of the group, with the gunpowder and fuses. Understandably, he was arrested. Guy Fawkes was questioned and tortured for six days while the plans of the plot were extracted from him.

Guy Fawkes and the rest of the group were found guilty of treason and their sentence was to be hung, drawn and quartered. While not believed to be the ringleader, Guy Fawkes is the most famous member of the group, as he was the one caught red-handed. Parliament passed a law not long after that the anniversary of discovering the plot had to be marked with a Thanksgiving church service and not many years later, people celebrated the day with bonfires and fireworks. And this is the part of the tradition still continues today.

Shimmering red, violet and garnet

Given the chill that can be found in the air at this time of year, a full-bodied red that reflects the colours in the shimmering fireworks seems like the right choice. Château le Crock is a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel which gives us ripe almost jammy fruits and rounded tannins. This Bordeaux pairs well with hard cheeses, so if you happen to be hosting a little bonfire party, a cheese board would make a good centre-piece. Les Mémoires from Domaine des Roches Neuves is an excellent choice for Bonfire Night not only because of the warmth this ruby-red wine brings but also because of its name. We can translate the French world mémoires as ‘memory’ or ‘remembrance’ which, given the rhyme children learn in school – Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot – seems an apt choice for Guy Fawkes Night. The century-old vines growing in the Loire Valley produce grapes that give us a wine bursting with violets and red and black fruits flavours, reflecting the colours seen in the sky in this night. We couldn’t leave out the powerful, rich Hermitage La Chapelle by Domaine Paul Jaboulet Ainé whose origins come from an historic spot in the Rhone Valley from this article. The slightly woody wine will warm you from the inside with its dashes of spice that mingle with ripe wild fruits. What is more, its longevity matches that of the UK’s Bonfire Night traditions, even if the way the evening is marked had changed over the centuries.

Sparkling for your sparklers

Lighting a sparkler and creating images in the air is a lot of fun, no matter your age. These scintillating hand-held fireworks produce sparks that jump around in a similar way to bubbles in a glass of sparkling wine. Why not try Drappier’s Brut Nature made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes which give the golden Champagne notes of red fruits, citrus fruits, apples and pears? The lightly spiced finish will pair perfectly with the autumnal feel of the celebration. Charles Heidsieck’s Blanc des Millénaires contains notes of vanilla, hazelnut and almonds that seem to reflect the flavours of the season. On an evening where more about hotdogs than desserts, its aromas of nougat and candied fruits also add a hint of sweetness. Another sparkling possibility is Collection 243 from Louis Roederer which marks this historic Champagne producer’s 243rd blend since its creation. As the bubbles pop on your palate, they release bursts of ripe yellow fruits, citrus fruits and hints of something toasted.

Whiskies to warm you cockles

After standing around in the cold November air, you will want something to chase away the chill, so why not warm your core with a wee dram. The spices and warming finish in Talisker’s 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch could be just the ticket. After being aged in oak barrels, it has quite a powerful profile that will overpower any lingering chill you may feel. Can’t seem to get smoke off your mind since warming your hands on the bonfire? Well, the smokiness in the Kilmory Edition from Lagg will match the wood smoke that you can smell in your hair and on your clothes after spending any time close to a bonfire. Sipping this pale gold whisky will take you back to the crackles and warmth of the fire. Our final suggestion is the Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve. Its vanilla, cinnamon and citrus fruit flavours are reminiscent of an autumnal fruit cake. And if you want to enjoy it with a little treat to round off the evening, we’d recommend that you break open a bar of 70% dark chocolate.

Have a great Bonfire Night to all our readers in the UK!

For the rest of our readers, we hope that you enjoyed this exploration of what is nowadays a joyful evening which brings together family and friends despite its ghastly origins. 

Jessica Rees

Jessica is the English translator at iDealwine. Alongside her work translating the blog, website and emails, she also writes her own articles for the blog. Hailing from Wales, she lived in Germany before putting down roots in France.