Winter Tipple

The Taster loves to order wine and other drinks online, direct from British microbreweries and vineyards. Here, some of those in the know volunteer their personal favourites, matched up to seasonal ingredients.


The Taster offers its own suggestion for a winter cocktail. Take a glass of something sparkling, add a glug of sloe gin, and (optional) another of cranberry juice. (If you’ve bought a load of cranberries, try pressing them yourself for really fresh juice.) This recipe transforms the most dubious, left-over-from-last-week’s-party, fizz into a delicious treat.

Seafood + Sparkling Rosé
Fish + Sparkling White

A bottle of fizz from Daws Hill Vineyard (see Pork + Apple Champagne, below). Photograph © Vidya Crawley
A bottle of fizz from Daws Hill Vineyard (see Pork + Apple Champagne, below). Photograph © Vidya Crawley

Nigel Morgan, owner-director of Daws Hill Vineyard, says: ‘My favourite combinations are a seafood risotto with our Sparkling Rosé, and a Dover sole & beurre blanc with our sparkling white. The acidity cuts well through the richness of the sauce and, together with the proteins, enhances the mouthfeel; but it’s not so overly acidic as to ruin the cream.’
Sparkling British wines and Apple Champagne —

Pork + Apple Champagne

Nigel also recommends: ‘Our Apple Champagne is ideal with pork — it’s a classic apple and pork combination. It tastes even better when the pork has been marinated in Apple Champagne the night before.’

Game + Claret

George Davies, owner of Wild Game Direct, discovered his favourite game-wine match when he was given it as a gift. He says, ‘Berry Bros & Rudd’s claret has fruited flavours (bramble and blackcurrant, with warm woody notes), rounded, but with not too many tannins. It matches all our products currently in season: pheasants, partridges and venison.’
Seasonal game —
Good Ordinary Claret —

Roast Turkey + Pinot Noir

Carl Dalwood, a historical cookery demonstration chef with a speciality catering firm, recommends a Pinot Noir to go with the slightly gamey, musky savoury flavour of turkey. ‘A fruity, lighter red like Pinot Noir will balance its blackcurrant lower tannin level and, not being the highest oaked of reds, will compliment the food.’
Celebration, themed or historical catering —

Christmas Pud + Port

Carl suggests Port or a medium Sherry with Christmas pudding. ‘Port has the body to cope with the weight, flavours and  sweetness of the ingredients of the pudding, and can stand up to the density of the starch and richness. Port can fight its own battles!’

It doesn’t have to be wine with every meal. Microbreweries increasingly offer high-quality beers that can be paired with food, in the same way wine has long been paired, with excellent results. As head brewer Tom Jenkinson says, ‘Beer is a natural partner for food.’

Fish + Ale 

Tom Jenkinson, head brewer & director at the Chiltern Brewery, suggests pairing lighter foods to lighter beer: ‘Our John Hampdens Ale is smooth and floral, and matches well with salads, chicken and fish.’
John Hampdens Ale

Beef Joint + Beer 

For roast beef, Tim Coombes, owner of Rebellion Beer, recommends his winter warmer, Roasted Nuts. Only available from November to February, this beer is a deep ruby, complex and flavoursome drink, packed with intense and distinctive malt & hop character. Tim says, ‘I personally like a nice powerful meat like a beef joint to match this nice powerful beer.’
Roasted Nuts Winter Warmer

Additional reporting by Dr. C. of mYum Ltd Consultancy

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