What exactly to serve your wine with can be a lively topic of conversation, the key to getting a meal just right and a wonderful way to enrich your experience around the table. Yet even though pairings are rarely a question of right and wrong – prescriptive rules don’t sit well with something as subjective as the senses – it’s understandable to find all this talk of pairings quite complex and even intimidating. The word ‘gastronomic’ will have some people running for the hills! So, here’s an idea that might feel a bit more approachable: mood and wine pairings.
Here, we’re talking about setting a scene and making a moment. And we think that ‘hygge’, the famously ‘untranslatable’ Danish/Norwegian idea of cosiness and togetherness, is a good word to keep in mind. You might think all things hyggelig are a bit passé. Haven’t lifestyle trends moved on since 2016? Whilst it’s true that the concept of hygge whipped up a frenzy in the publishing industry and pinterest circles a while ago now, the moment we’re currently living in invites us to revisit this with a new perspective in mind…and a glass of wine in hand!
Get outside first
Getting cosy for the winter often involves settling in with aesthetically placed scented candles and a big, knitted blanket…But the Danes love to get outside, too! Enjoy the natural world (or at least some fresh air!), then savour the joy of returning. For that, you’ll want a wine to warm you up. The Rhône Valley is a great region for concentrated cuvées with intense, spicy notes. Guigal is one of our favourites, a domain with vineyards across the region’s most prestigious appellations. Clusel-Roch produces Côte-Rôtie cuvées that bring out all the heartiness of the Syrah grape, and Maison Chapoutier is renowned for crafting opulent wines. All of these will set you up nicely for an evening by the fire.
Alternatively, a mature vintage from Burgundy would suit the setting perfectly. Experience the deep and complex notes of this 1995 Corton Grand Cru by Louis Latour, the intensity of a 2000 Bonne-Mares Grand Cru from Comte Georges de Vogüé, or perhaps the richness of a 1997 Meursault from Arnaud Ente for a real treat.
Sharing is caring
Whilst the wine itself often takes centre-stage when tasting, we shouldn’t forget the meaningful role played by the people we’re with. Enjoying a convivial time with others is often cited as a driving passion for wine lovers, and sharing is central to creating a hygge moment. This is a chance to give your undivided attention to the people around you, so here are some lighter options to uncork in close company. Producers like Laurent Roumier (Burgundy), Yves Cuilleron (Rhône), Bott-Geyl (Alsace), and La Grange Tiphaine (Loire) all make lovely, easy-drinking cuvées that will go down well with good company.
For an aperitif with fizz, a sparkling wine can add a touch of luxury to your cosy gathering. You can’t go wrong with a classic cuvée from Bollinger, the oldest Champagne house and one of the recent allocations to be placed under our spotlight. Ruinart, Roederer, Jacquesson, Selosse…all of these brilliant names are great for getting festive without needing a whole crowd to please.
A mindful moment
How often do you sit and really savour your wine? Be intentional about your tasting by appreciating the colour, aromas, texture, flavour, and lasting impression of the nectar in your glass. Such a meditative moment calls for something rich and complex. VDNs (vins doux naturels) are lightly fortified wines with a natural level of sweetness, many of which are now decades old and more than ready to be enjoyed in all their sumptuous splendour. Many Rivesaltes cuvées are mature enough to take you on a trip back in time, as is the case for these superbly aged Maury wines. Mas Amiel is a legendary Maury producer in Roussillon, a pioneer in the renaissance of this intense and delectable drink.
Spirits are also perfect for sipping thoughtfully. Whether it’s whisky, rum, cognac, armagnac, or chartreuses that takes your fancy, these often long-aged bottles are sensational in their depth and complexity. You’ll find a vast and varied selection at FineSpirits.Auction, a new site dedicated to spirits from all across the globe. Why not savour something new?
Since we just can’t help ourselves…
For the foodies among you who’d like to try a traditional, Scandinavian dish, here are some ideas:
This Nordic dish is salmon traditionally cured with salt, sugar, and dill. It’s really simple to prepare, though you do need to plan in advance and be patient. The fat from the fish and its marinade calls for a wine with a pronounced minerality, such as a Muscadet, a Sancerre, or a dry Riesling. Domaine de l’Ecu, Claude Riffault, and Agathe Bursin all make cuvées characterised by their freshness and citrus notes, and this is a classic pairing for a seafood dish.
Frikadeller (Danish meatballs)
There are variations of this dish across Northern Europe, but the Danish iteration of meatballs involves veal and pork. Often served with boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and a traditional gravy, there are quite a lot of flavours on the plate to contend with. The rich and creamy sauce would pair really nicely with a full-bodied white wine such as a Chardonnay from Burgundy. A light and vibrant red would also be an option; explore the wines of Beaujolais to complement the meatballs.
Kanelsnegle/kanelbulle (cinnamon buns)
To finish off with a sweet treat, we couldn’t leave out the pure comfort of fresh baking. Your house will smell divine with a batch of soft, spicy buns warming in the oven, and to make this moment a truly indulgent one, the addition of a dessert wine wouldn’t be amiss. Golden cuvées from the likes of Château Suduiraut (premier grand cru classé), Zind-Humbrecht (Pinot gris), and the Hungarian domain Disznoko (Tokay wines) all have the magical, honey-like profile to balance the cinnamon kick.
Winter is always a time for embracing warmth where you can find it, yet this is no usual winter. With the world in various states of lockdown and much to reflect on as the year draws to a close, serenity might not be your first feeling. But with a little thought and a nod to the hyggelig ambiance, you can create that moment for yourself.