Crisp White and Big Red is something of a modern staple for Wines to Have with A Meal; something fresh to start with, followed by a full-bodied red to match with a hearty main course.
Plenty of wines will meet this brief and a more-special occasion often demands no more than trading up to a Chablis Cru or a Sancerre for the white followed by a slightly older Rioja / Bordeaux / Rhône for the main.
If, however, you want to go in a different direction, consider a pink fizz and a classy Spanish red - Henriot Rosé NV and Familia Torres Purgatori.
If you want to quietly impress someone - your boss, new neighbours, the in-laws - with your sophistication, knowledge and generosity, you could do much worse than to serve these two wines over a simple but exquisite supper of smoked salmon followed by venison casserole.
Both these wines have back-stories worth telling once you've moved on to brandy and cigars, but what matters most is what's in the glass.
Henriot Rosé NV, Champagne (around £55 from Liquorice, North & South Wines (by the case), Loki Wines, Amazon)
One of Champagne's oldest family-run houses, Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims is vinified as a red wine and is added to Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs with some Pinot Meunier.
Aromatic yeasty brioche, red berries with florality, white pepper and cloves; redcurrant, red cherry and wild strawberry with freshly squeezed lemon, pink grapefruit, mandarin and candied fruit; linear and textured with a persistent minerality. Intense yet elegant and balanced; linear yet rounded, precise yet generous, very sophisticated.
Match with marinated salmon, crab and pea shoots, chicken Caesar salad or smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar.
Familia Torres Purgatori, 2017, Costers del Segre, Spain (around £20, independents)
A blend of Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah, aged in French oak (40% new) for up to 18 months.
Red and black cherries with spice, damp soil, oaky spice and violets; plum, dark-berry fruits and sour cherries, scrubby garrigue herbs and grilled flavours with pencil shavings; assertive, very fine and well-integrated tannins; full and supple yet fresh. Concentrated, intense and complex.
Drinks nicely on first opening; can also be cellared.
Match with roasted, grilled or barbecued red meats or a plate of cheese and cold cuts, especially Ibérico ham.
Notes from the producers:
Champagne Henriot, established in 1808, has remained in the same family-ownership for over 200 years and is now run by 8th generation family, Gilles de Larouzière Henriot.
The Champagne comes from one of the oldest family-owned houses in Champagne, enjoying seven generations of uninterrupted ownership since the late 1700s. Champagne Henriot's Rosé Brut is obtained by adding Pinot Noir vinified as a red wine to the assemblage.
Rosé Brut is made up of a majority of Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. More than 15 crus are blended, including the following vilage crus: Avize, Chouilly, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Verzy, Verzenay, Avenay, Vertus, Trépail and Epernay. A small percentage of Pinot Meunier adds a delicate fruit note to the wine.
As with all their Champagnes, Henriot select grapes from the very best vineyards in Champagne’s Grands Crus and Premier Crus. Each parcel of grapes is fermented separately to capture the individual characteristics of its terroir and village, allowing Henriot’s cellar master, Alice Tétienne, to reproduce the Henriot’s ‘house style’ blend each year.
Henriot Rosé is a blend that showcases the very best Pinot Noir grapes (50%) from the Montagne de Reims, whilst retaining the freshness of Chardonnay (40%) and a small percentage of Pinot Meunier (10%) adding a delicate fruity note.
Henriot Rosé also contains a proportion of precious reserve wines which make up 35% of the blend. Every bottle is left to rest in the cool, calm surrounds of Henriot’s cellars in the centre of Reims, for three years.
Familia Torres Purgatori was the first ever Torres’ single vineyard wine from the DO Costers del Segre, an area in the Penedès known for its arid lands, extreme climate and harsh conditions. The name of the wine pays homage to the wayward monks of Montserrat Abbey, who as far back as 1770, were sent here, to the Desterrats estate, to carry out their penance and provide food for the Diocese. They soon discovered this inhospitable place was perfect for growing grapes and making wine. Legend has it that enormous barrels of the wine they produced mysteriously disappeared, with some saying that ‘the angels have taken them away to heaven’.
The actual explanation is probably more earth-bound. As it was good enough for the monks to make wine, it posed an attractive proposition for Familia Torres, who acquired the historic 870-hectare L’Aranyó estate in 1999. Torres began the recovery of its wine-producing past, planting the vineyard with Cariñena, Garnacha and Syrah and preserving the centuries-old olive trees.
Thanks to the harshness of these conditions, these typically Mediterranean varieties adapted well to the terroir, contributing to the uniqueness and elegance of Purgatori. Familia Torres
Stored under the right conditions, Purgatori will keep for 10 years. Patience really does have its rewards. Today there are 200 hectares of organic vineyards, distributed from 330m to 550m altitude at its highest point, of which 50 hectares are used to make Purgatori.
The intense summer heat, lack of water and limestone soils favour slow ripening of the grapes giving rise to wines of great aromatic intensity. The vines produce some of the lowest yields in Catalonia and are hand harvested at perfect ripeness, often in lots two weeks apart. The grapes are manually processed into separate batches to preserve the integrity of the fruit, each of which adds a different profile and character to the wine.
This is one of Miguel Torres Maczassek’s personal favourite projects as the estate is also an excellent testing ground for ancestral grape varieties that the family has recovered in the last thirty years, not only for winemaking potential, but also to see if they are also resistant to climate change. Among them Querol and Gonfaus have adapted to the extreme climate of the area. A new winery was built in 2018 linking the old farmhouse built by the Benedictine monks, seamlessly blending the modern and old architecture. Stainless steel and custom-built concrete vats, using rocks from the vineyards themselves, are used for vinification. Familia Torres Purgatori 2017 – bringing the past to the present. Heaven can wait.