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   2012 En Primeur
En Primeur

Grape Varieties and food pairings

Matching wine with food:

Barbera | Cabernet Sauvignon | Gamay | Grenache | Malbec

These wines range from the eminently drinkable to the brooding and complex – a good all rounder of a grape.

This cultivar’s buoyant, red fruity flavours and low tannins mean it is approachable, while its firm acidity allows it to be enjoyed along even rich and fatty foods such as cheeses and salamis.

Barbera hails from Piedmont in north-west Italy. Bargains are to be found, but there is also a strict tier of wine producers who focus on procuring eminent, fine wines from this resourceful grape: Barbera d’Alba is rich and complex; Barbera d’Asti has some exceptional oak-aged wines.

Barbera is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of some – unsurprising then that Italian emigrants spirited away this variety away with them overseas. Argentina has some great offerings, bursting with flavours of black cherries and dark plums.

Red; light to medium garnet.
Medium bodied.
Aromas and flavours:
Black cherries, red fruits.
Low in tannin with plenty of natural acidity.
Piedmont and Lombardy, Argentina.
Ageing potential:
Fine, oaked examples can improve for 5-10 years. Most specimens, low in tannins as they are, are intended for drinking young.
Price range:

Try it alongside:
  • Fresh lasagne with pesto.
  • Chicken casserole with red wine, ham & peppers.
  • So-simple spaghetti Bolognese.

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Cabernet Sauvignon
An international superstar, with a presence in the premier cru vineyards of Bordeaux and a foothold in nearly every major wine region globally!

Cabernet’s prominent role in the leading Bordeaux blends has spurred winemakers worldwide to put this variety to use themselves. Whenever quality is the watchword, Cabernet Sauvignon is usually not far behind.

In its native Bordeaux it is blended in with the earlier-ripening Merlot, ensuring a degree of consistent quality during uneven years. Its suitability for blending means it ‘seasons’ well with other varieties. Today, its familiarity and ease of pronunciation has made it a firm favourite among wine consumers.

The tannins in the wine impart a weight, and so it is often difficult to find foods heavier than the wine itself. However, aged specimens are more mellow and smooth and so many possibilities open up.

Red; from light to very dark ruby.
Medium to full-bodied.
Aromas and flavours:
Aromas include mint and green pepper (especially when harvested underripe) to blackcurrant fruits, black peppers and jam.
High, firm tannic content.
Bordeaux (especially the Left Bank, where it dominates the blends), however it has achieved fame as a variety and a ‘seasoning’ ingredient across the globe.
Ageing potential:
Cheaper offerings should be drunk young, but more expensive and defined specimens can cellar for decades.
Price range:
£3.99 to £399.

Try it alongside
  • Pan-roast lamb with port & cranberry gravy.
  • Beef fillet with beetroot & horseradish.
  • Coq au van with plump prunes.
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Beaujolais’ fruity little number, ideal for summer drinking.

Gamay, a variety that dates back to the 1400s, has been much maligned throughout history. This high-yielding grape proved immensely popular in Burgundy following the ravages of the Black Death; compared to Pinot noir, it ripened two weeks earlier and was far less difficult to cultivate. Its light, fruity style also won it much praise. In July 1935 the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivar, dismissing it as the “disloyal Gaamez” that, in spite of its abundant yields, was “full of very great and horrible harshness”. The result was that Gamay was pushed out of Burgundy proper, and found permanent residence in southern Beaujolais.

Gamay’s reputation as a variety that produces inferior quality wine has not been much helped by the craze of Beaujolais Nouveau, where on the third Thursday of November wines that are only a few weeks old are raced to the shops. These fruity, quaffable wines have made up to 1/3 of Beaujolais’ production, and have resulted in a public backlash against Beaujolais as a whole – the region has been anathematised as the source of tacky wine.

For all this, Gamay’s approachable, silky style is capable of great distinction – look for ‘Beaujolais-Villages’ on the label for reliable quality. Drink these alongside barbequed meats and griddled vegetables – perfect for summer barbies!

Very light red, verging on purple.
Light to medium-bodied.
Aromas and flavours:
Rich cherry fruit, candy, jam.
Very smooth on the palate.
Beaujolais, France.
Ageing potential:
Some Nouveau vintages scarcely last 3-4 months before degenerating, while more reputable offerings can last a couple of years. Nevertheless, Gamay wines should be drunk young.
Price range:

Try it alongside:
  • Sizzled sausage pasta.
  • Sizzling spare ribs with BBQ sauce.
  • Griddled aubergines with yoghurt % mint.
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This sun-splashed grape is a summer favourite.

Grenache is a good choice for the summer. In France and Spain it makes juicy roses, ideal when served chilled. It also contributes towards the Rhone blends, with its notes of heather and herbs together with warming alcohol.

Grenache is a notoriously hardy variety, growing as a bush rather than on a trellis. As a result it proves increasingly popular in hotter climates (such as Spain) and those areas that are becoming increasingly affected by global warming.

Grenache perfectly compliments roast meats, barbequed meats, griddled vegetables and game.

Pale garnet.
Medium to full-bodied.
Aromas and flavours:
Strawberries, redcurrants and raspberries.
Low tannins but high alcohol content (often north of 15% ABV).
 - Table wines: France, especially the Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape; Spain, especially Priorato, Aragon,  Carinena, Rioja; Australia; California; South Africa.
 - Rosés: France: Tavel, Lirac, Cotes de Provence; Spain: Navarra.
 - Sweet fortified wines: France: Banylus, Maury.
Ageing potential:
Most Grenache wines should be drunk young, though some have the structure to keep.
Price range:
£3.99 to £39.99

Try it alongside:
  • Succulent braised venison.
  • Two-part pheasant.
  • Cassoulet.
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Having fallen out of favour in its native Bordeaux, Malbec is now making a come back.

Malbec is indigenous to Bordeaux, but became increasingly popular in its homeland. Instead, having been transported to Chile in the 19th century, it has since become the keynote Red in Argentina. The variety is famed for giving rise to wines with plum and violet aromas, together with intricate, supple tannin structures.

Malbec is ideally suited alongside fine cuts of steak, but is easily adaptable enough to stand up to spicy Mexican, Cajun, Indian or Italian fare (especially with tomato-based sauces).

Red; deep ruby to verging on black.
Aromas and flavours:
Exudes notes of damsons, black plums and violets.
Rich and sumptuous, smooth tannins ensure a velvet texture in the mouth.
One of the six varieties allowed in Bordeaux blends, but only small plantings are found in the region. Instead, French plantations of Malbec are found primarily in Cahors in the south-west of France. It is also steadily rising in popularity across the globe.
Ageing potential:
Drink young, but store the more serious contenders.
Price range:
£4.99 to £30.00

Try alongside:
  • Steak with chunky chips & horseradish cream.
  • A good steak & kidney pie.
  • Steak supper for two or more.


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