Red wines from Europe for the festive period: Richard Esling, December 9

The perennial question of which wine to pair with which food is never more relevant than at Christmas time.

Red wines from Europe for the festive period
Red wines from Europe for the festive period

While there is definitely no right or wrong – drink what you like with what you like to eat – there are certain matches which just seem to work better than others.

A sweet white wine such as Sauternes, paired with rare roast rib of beef, is not a recommendation I personally would make, but if such is your taste, then do go ahead.

Regarding red wines, there is often a tendency to ‘stay traditional’, choosing either a fine burgundy or perhaps a mature claret from Bordeaux. Sometimes though it is good to ring the changes, while still staying within Europe, just not necessarily in France.

Below is a selection of five red wines, three from Spain and two from Italy, which are a little less common than some, all of which will be perfect drinking during the festivities and won’t break the bank.

First of the three Spanish reds is Entre Lunas Tempranillo 2019 from Finca Constancia. Issue of a single vineyard on the central plain of Castilla, it is a gold medal winner in the International Organic Wine Competition, being both organic and biodynamic. In an area teeming with wildlife, the producers are actively protecting the delicate ecosystems and encouraging biodiversity, subjects very close to my heart as an erstwhile biologist. Mellow, ripe rich fruit with soft tannins, a touch of spice and hints of vanilla from subtle oak ageing. Good with roast turkey or chicken. A steal at £10 from Sainsbury’s.

The second of my Spanish three is Finca Moncloa 2017 from Cadiz in the far south of Spain. A rich, full-bodied wine with silky tannins from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah varieties, with a little Merlot and Tempranillo. A chunky wine at 14 per cent, it has great structure and length from ageing in French and American oak. Intense blackberry and cassis flavours with hints of coffee, wild herbs and a touch of balsamic. £16.99 from Ocado. Pair with beef wellington.

The third red pushes the boat out a little, though not too far. A Ribera del Duero Reserva 2014 from Dominio Fournier, it is available online from Master of Malt at £32.95. A classy wine with depth and elegance. It was matured in new French Oak barrels for 18 months, with further maturation in bottle. Cherry jam with bramble jelly fruit, cigar box aromas with balsamic, vanilla and dark chocolate. First class, mature Tempranillo. Here comes the roast rib of beef!

My two Italian reds come from The Wine Society, whose selection as always is highly commendable.

The first of these is Langhe Bricco del Drago 2016 from Piedmont in North-west Italy, neighbouring the more well-known Barolo region. Made by Poderi Colla mainly with Dolcetto grapes and some Nebbiolo, it has a wonderful balance of ripe fruit, black cherry aromas with underlying body and structure. Subtle oak treatment adds complexity and Italian charm. £19 a bottle. Pair with poultry and cranberry sauce, with dried apricot stuffing.

My second Italian comes from Tuscany – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Contucci 2016. A superb, ripe vintage now five years on, this is full-bodied, with subdued power, sweet aromas of wild strawberry and old leather armchairs. The Contucci family has made wine here for around 1,000 years, perfecting their handling of the noble Sangiovese grape. £18.50. Roast duck or goose will pair a treat.

Richard Esling is a wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. He runs agency and consultancy WineWyse, is founder and principal of Sussex Wine Academy and is chairman of Arundel Wine Society