Wine of the month – December

‘Turkey, trimmings with an extra serving of sprouts’

Only 10 days to go until Christmas… Are you ready?

There’s a feeling of Christmas panic in the air. The shops are getting busier and busier, there’s still presents to buy and don’t even get me started on the turkey with its trimmings.

Just keep calm… Breath…

I think it’s time to relax, so sit back and pour yourself a glass of wine. Afterall 10 days is still a lot of time. You’ve got this.

One question many people ask me around this festive time of year is: What wine would you pair with a traditional Christmas dinner?

In my opinion, it’s really hard to match a wine with a classic Turkey dinner. Most people serve about 20 different side dishes with it, so in the end, the plate turns into a right mishmash of flavours. However, if we’re talking just Turkey and my favourite thing of all (not) sprouts, then I’d definitely go for a medium bodied red wine, one with a little bit of age behind it so you will get the secondary earthy ‘cabbagy’ flavours.

The festivities bring out the generosity in me (I know it doesn’t come out often in this Yorkshire lass, just ask my friends) but at this time of year, you’ve got to push the boat out a bit. Look out for a wine, to accompany your festive feast, with something a little unique, perhaps from a country you haven’t explored before, maybe something too that’s a little on the expensive side. It will be well worth it I promise.

A wine we have on our list here at The Angel at Hetton, which I would perhaps consider for my table, would be the Chateau Musar 2000 from Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

Chateau Musar was the first producer in Lebanon to achieve organic certification for its vineyards in 2006, the winery founded by Gaston Hochar.

Seven years in the making, the grapes taken from the Bekaa Valley villages of Aana and Kefraya on gravelly soils over limestone. Planted from the 1930s onwards, where yields are low from these mature bush-vines (the ripe average age of 40)

The varietal components in Chateau Musar Red undergo lengthy fermentations in cement vats at temperatures below 30°C. 6 months after the harvest they are transferred into French barrels (oak from the forest of Nevers) for one year.

Then they are brought together two years after the harvest; the resulting blend is, placed back in cement tanks, before being bottled 12 months later. Each wine is blended to reflect the character of the vintage. After 4 years’ bottle maturation in the deep stone cellars, the finished wines are released a full seven years after the initial harvest.

In their youth, Chateau Musar Reds are dense and richly-textured, with intense ‘baked fruit’ characters: plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Bordeaux grape Cabernet Sauvignon lends black fruit flavours; Rhône grapes Cinsault and Carignan contribute fragrance (violets; pepper) and supple spiciness. Either set of qualities might dominate a particular vintage, but the style is always emphatically Lebanese: enticingly aromatic, with persistent fruit flavours. Over decades the wines acquire tawny hues and mellow notes.

A wine at Christmas needs to be one that you’ll remember for years to come and the Musar, here at The Angel, is certainly unforgettable (I mean it is nearly 20 years old afterall).  A special wine for a truly special occasion, a wine to be enjoyed with family and friends


Merry Christmas, Kaye