Vine Times Spring Collection – Napoleon’s favourite

by Food, Wine

Pinot Noir – Napoleon’s favourite

Fresh leafy salads, succulent lamb, juicy strawberries, dazzling smell of blossom, herbs, flowers… this is what spring season is about when talking food. Of course the wines have to match that glorious spirit of vibrancy, playfulness and preparation for the New. I am coming from Orthodox Christian family in Eastern Europe, where Easter time is about celebration of togetherness, exactly like Christmas. My family would spend Easter holiday at our big holiday home in the Bulgarian mountains. Now we get together in various locations, but my childhood memories are very much about cooking fresh organic spring lamb in a hole in the floor for 6-8 hours, while sipping homemade wine or grappa until the lamb is ready. There will be friends from all over the country coming to this almost masonic ceremony, helping with the big preparations around digging the hole, collecting branches of wood, setting the fire, covering the meat and of course taking part if the overall supervision of the cooking process and sharing the tasting of this Easter chedeuvre.

Back to what happens this Easter in my family home is the same as my childhood, it is about sharing, about the family togetherness and about reflecting upon our personal pilgrimage to the Golgotha hill.  There are very minor deviations of the old days. We do prepare slow cooked lamb in the oven, we buy fresh salad from the expensive city farmers markets and we fuss about the wine to go with it. Although we have my dad’s amazing organic wine delivered this year, I bought some French wine to go with the big dinner Easter Sunday lunch. This year my guests will enjoy my VineTimes Spring collection. The days are warmer, but the evenings still cold, every spring hour is full of great intentions, social events and new encounters.  We crave for lighter reds and not very crisp whites. Wines which can hold our hands and take us into the summer season. something in between, something to match the variety of this colourful part of the year, gentle and at the same time pronounced. We are looking for an innocent affair, for a new adventure, for a romance.

My Spring specials will be a colourful long list of great lighter and funky wines and I will start with Pinot Noir. The French bard – thoughtful and a little eccentric or the French musketeer, adventures and a bit naughty. Pinot Noir is a variety coming from the Mecca of the fine sensual wines- Burgundy. This was Napoleon’s favourite and during his rule, he has encouraged planting it largely across France. Now you can find fantastic Pinot from California, Oregon and Central Otago. Pinot Noir could be very controversial because of its “relatives”- Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Aligote and its wine –wine counterpart Chardonnay. Undeniably the one coming from the Continent does have different taste and qualities than the wines from the New World.  Big advantage of this variety is its price, which never goes too high, around £12-£15 and it is always a type of wine which would work with most of the food.   Pinot Noir works excellent with fish and red meats. It gives a chance for a delicate food to show off and perfect to balance with red meats or cheese boards. Pinot is a wonderful charcuterie companion for a lazy spring afternoons with friends.

If Napoleon Bonaparte was a wine blogger today he was going to write about one of my favourite Pinot Noir from Pommard, Burgundy. The aromas are very much dancing with the freshness of the spring season –  strawberries and stewed cherries, more complex types also exhibit notes of leather and violets. This grape variety is very complicated to look after and even more challenging to make the wine in order to achieve the perfection of luxurious silky taste, typical for the Burgundy whites, but with red wine. You need to have a ruler’s pallet to be able to recognise and connect to this almost aristocratic variety. The colour is calming and pure, not deep and not heavy and the finish can vary, but again will gently blend with fine dining. Pinot Noir is a sensitive wine, doesn’t like to be rushed and to be served alongside strong and heavy reds. This wine gives different tannic structure and presence. If fermentation is longer, the tannins will be high, as opposed to the cooler temperature fermentation process.

Pinot Noir gives way to its other partner in crime the Burgundy Chardonnay, this combination is my number one Spring favourite. Start with Burgundy white and then just indulge with energetic and flavoursome Pinot Noir. Pinot conquers many ruler’s pallets by getting into an unbeatable alliance with the Chardonnay, where winemakers have come up with an excellent sparkling blends.

Treat this wine with a French attentiveness and it will pay off with great memories!

Spring Collection wine stories continues next week with one of the best varieties for all times Chardonnay!


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