Matching New Year’s eve party canapés and wine
Easy to drink, mainstream and non-obtrusive
Bubbles – English Sparkling
Unoaked Whites – Chablis or White Bordeaux
Softer Reds – Sangiovese or Pinot Noir
The end of the year is always the greatest excuse for a big send-off celebration, but what can you open to celebrate the New Year in style? This is usually a pretty informal business and there is nothing better than indulging in canapés and special nectar.
Lets face it, on this occasion there is a great chance that you will end up drinking more than you eat, so the beverage will have to be chosen as much for its palate cleansing properties as for its food compatibility. Usually it will need to be easy to drink, and quite mainstream and non-obtrusive. This may not be the right time to share that bottle of orange wine that you bought on your last holiday in the Loire valley! Mind you, it would be perfect as an alternative to red wine to accompany your Partridge!
When organising my wedding a few years ago, I was told off by my French caterer for using the name canapé as apparently in french it means a toast with something on it. Thankfully, in the wider world, it corresponds to every type of finger or bite-sized food. There is usually a massive variety and they can be cold, warm, light, heavy, spicy, or very salty. As it is after all a celebration, you can expect most of the base ingredients to be relatively refined such as foie gras, smoked salmon, cured meat (duck, ham…), caviar, scallops, king prawns, Aberdeen Angus beef tartar, truffles, oysters, sushi, savoury choux, mini pasties…to name but a few!
New Years eve is the perfect occasion for drinking sparkling wine all the way through. If you are looking for something concentrated lean and minerally with a lot of complexity, don’t look any further than the English Sparkling Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2012 vintage, which our Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Managemnet students had the pleasure of tasting when we visited a winery over the summer. Despite the bad reputation of the vintage, the grapes manage to ripen successfully and the wine is perfectly balanced. It is pure, biscuity, with appealing barley sugar on the nose, and a lovely juicy, citrusy fruit on the palate, with added texture coming from the 36 months of ageing on the lees. This will be perfect to cut through the texture and the fat of foie gras or choux for example. Thanks to its high acidity, it should also handle the saltiness of smoked salmon and cured meat effortlessly. The unnoticeable high dosage (11g/l of sugar), will help to coat the palate and therefore calm down any heat coming from spices, if there are any.
A noble white wine alternative would need to remain unoaked as wood could impair with saltiness, and frankly it might be a bit too obtrusive for a lot of people’s palates on this occasion. Something like a Chablis 1er or Grand cru with 4 or 5 years in bottle, when the wine starts to become silky and honeyed with candied citrus, would be ideal. The Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons Domaine Moreau-Naudet 2012 is just like that and should not raise too many eyebrows. A slightly quirkier alternative would be a white Sauvignon Blanc Semillon based Pessac Leognan over 5 years that, although probably oaky, would have enough freshness to keep the palate alive.
For those who cannot spend the evening without drinking red wine, again here a descent bottle ageing with softer tannins are the key factors. One might want to stay away from extracted wine and instead go back to a classic style of Sangiovese from Tuscany with a refreshing core of acidity. The Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Ama 2008 should be perfect, as it has the textbook, fragrant cherry and violet aromas of Sangiovese and a savoury almost umami quality. It should not overwhelm most of the small bites and is eminently drinkable. Another worthy contender would be anything made out of Pinot Noir over 5 years old.
So now you should be all set for toasting the 12 strikes of midnight in style, and singing along to the sound of the bagpipes and Auld Lang Syne! Le Cordon Bleu London wishes you all a very Happy New Year, which should now be filled with canapés and the perfect accompanying wine!
About Matthieu Longuère MS
Sommelier in the UK since 1994, he has won numerous awards and accolades for wine lists in the establishments for which he has worked: Lucknam Park Country House Hotel, Hotel du Vin Bristol and La Trompette.
Since joining Le Cordon Bleu in 2013, he has developed the school’s comprehensive Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management; a unique programme which combines the theory of wine with a strong emphasis on practical learning.
Alongside the full Diploma, he also teaches an array of evening classes which are relaxed, yet studious, making them perfect for beginners as well as the more knowledgeable.
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