The First Roast Beef of Winter and a ‘Little’ Claret

As the first snow of winter fell, exceptionally early, we turned to the most traditional British roast.
What goes with roast beef? Red wine. Practically any good red wine: Claret, Burgundy, Rhone, lots of Languedoc reds and probably lots of Italians too. What matters is that it is a good wine; beef good enough to roast deserves nothing less. In the end it will come down to exactly how you like your beef, which includes what you serve it with – horseradish sauce? Mustard? and which wine works for you.
For most people that wine won’t be at the lightest or fruitiest end of the taste spectrum. Yes to fruit, but also to a good tannic backbone. A good wine will probably have been raised in oak anyway. It may also be a mistake to stray too far into the other end of the spectrum – the biggest ‘winter warmers’ like Chateauneuf de Pape, or tannic monsters like Madiran – because you want to be able to distinguish the subtle taste of the pinkest meat. That still leaves an awful lot of choice.
My choice was Chateau Hauchat, Fronsac, 2005, a little claret, 100% Merlot and 13% alcohol. Tasted on its own, quite tough tannins and oak. But with the meal these slipped into the background leaving a robust but well-defined wine, not the velvety/furry or jammy variety and with the tannins well integrated. An interesting success for £7.57 vs the £14 Ch. L’Enclos we tried 48 hours ago, but the difference was that I brought it up from the cellar 36 hours ahead of time, giving time for the finest sediment to settle. I don’t think my hand was any steadier when I decanted, but the wine certainly tasted cleaner and better defined than the L’Enclos.
Interestingly this little wine even stands up to horseradish sauce.

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