Wedding Worthy Wines

Thursday, September 21, 2017 1
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I’m interested to know where people buy wine? Do you add a bottle or two to your weekly supermarket shop? Are you signed up to a monthly wine club where you get a mystery mixed case delivered to your door? Or, like me, do you have a cellar plan at a traditional wine merchant and top up at independent wine shops when you read about a new wine you just have to have right now? I’ve been a customer at two London wine merchants for a number of years and I love the personal service and broad range of wines they stock. Until recently, I hadn’t considered buying their house wines, which are wines a merchant develops in close collaboration with a producer and markets under their own label. I’ve discovered that Corney & Barrow, a merchant from whom I’ve bought wine since 2009, have a classic range of 15 house wines that are beautifully crafted boutique examples of some of the world’s most highly regarded wine styles. The range includes a Sparkling Wine made in the traditional method of Champagne and a Sloe Gin that, when combined with these bubbles, makes for a snazzy winter cocktail. 
After tasting Corney & Barrow’s delicious range of house wines earlier this year, I was thrilled when they asked me to run a tutored tasting at the Condé Nast Brides Live show in London next weekend. I’ve picked 6 of my favourite of their house wines to present, so if you’re planning a wedding, I hope you’ll join us at the Sommelier’s Table for a fun hour of wine tasting and recommendations from me on how to pair them with your wedding grub. House wines are an excellent option for your wedding, when you want high caliber wines that will fit within your budget.
Corney & Barrow have been around for over 200 years, so they know a thing or two about bottling the good stuff. In addition to their comprehensive offering of some of the best producer led wines in the world, their house wines range from basic Blanc and Rouge to fine examples of iconic Red Bordeaux, White Burgundy and a decadent example of  Sauternes for lovers of sweet wines and you’d be hard pressed to find better examples for the money. You can see the full list on their website but here are my favourites…
Wedding Worthy Wines
Corney & Barrow Blanc de Blancs Méthode Traditionelle NV £12.75

What better way to welcome your friends and family than with a glass of proper bubbles? I say proper, because this wine has been meticulously made in the style of Champagne, with the wine undergoing a secondary fermentation in the bottle which gives those fine, persistent bubbles and a gorgeous toasty twang that Prosecco just can’t deliver. This fizz is smooth, almost too easy to drink possessing the slightest hint of sweetness although it’s a perfectly dry wine. It tastes expensive so I was surprised to find it’s only £12.75 a bottle. Essentially, that’s what house wines deliver – outstanding value for money.

A fun twist to wow your guests would be to add a dash of Sloe Gin to the bubbles either as an Aperitif or a cocktail once the dancing starts. This so called Sloe Fizz is a very British take on a classic Kir Royale and a fabulous way to express the plum and cherry notes of Sloe Gin. Simply dose each Champagne glass with 2 cap-fulls (about 25mls) of Sloe Gin and top with Sparkling wine.

Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bush and taste a like a combination of black plums and cherries. The key to making a good Sloe Gin is to give the sloes a long bath in freshly distilled dry Gin. This maceration process continues for several months until the sloes have imparted their plummy, cherry flavour into the Gin. It’s good neat too, but brilliant as a mixer. Corney & Barrow Sloe Gin is £26 a bottle . 
Corney & Barrow White Burgundy Domaine Dominique Cornin 2016 £14.95
This is my favourite of the Corney & Barrow house wines, and an impressive wine to serve at your wedding. If you do, just be sure to keep a few bottles back for you and your partner to enjoy while reminiscing over the photographs as once your guests taste this it will be gone in a flash. Seriously, gone, practically inhaled by your guests who’ll surely be thinking yours is the wedding of the century with this wine in hand. But don’t just take my word for it. Olly Smith said “it’s the best value White Burgundy in the world for the money”. It’s 100% Chardonnay, and, if you haven’t tried White Burgundy yet, I couldn’t think of a better introduction to the style.

In procuring their house wines, Corney & Barrow have focused on small, often family run estates with meticulous attention to detail. The Cornin family, who make this wine, operate according to biodynamic principles, with respect for maintaining the integrity of the land for future generations at the forefront of their endeavors. The wine is made in stainless steel tanks and sees no oak, which results in a fresh and pure wine that is a versatile match for dishes ranging from creamy chicken or pork, to something spicy. It is, in fact, impossible to find White Burgundy of this quality for under $15 a bottle but Corney & Barrow have delivered.

Corney & Barrow Rioja Crianza 2014 £9.95
Rioja is easy to love, and this one is 100% Tempranillo showcasing the grape of the moment. Ever popular, this thick-skinned red grape variety makes for wines that are dark in colour and dense in flavour. This is a crowd pleasing wine that connoisseurs and casual drinkers will both appreciate. Who doesn’t love a bit of strawberry and leather for under a tenner? 
Now onto some serious red Bordeaux. 
Corney & Barrow St-Emillion GFA Clemenceau 2012 £16.95
This classic red Bordeaux comes from a tiny parcel of land in the commune of Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens owned by the Clemenceau family. It’s a typical right bank blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet France, and at an average age of 50, these older vines ensure low grape yields and therefore concentrated flavours in the wine. The blend is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and the wine is juicy, refreshing and elegantly laced with subtle vanilla spice from the 12 months ageing in oak barrels. At $16.95 a bottle, it’s very reasonable in terms of quality Bordeaux and something special for your wedding day. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to share this with your guests, in which case, you could add a cheeky case or too to your gift registry.  
Although I’m not presenting the Margaux, I wanted to mention my favourite of all red Bordeaux appellations here. Our daughter and son were born in 2014 and 2015, and I’ve bought wine of these vintages from the Margaux region in Bordeaux which they’ll get when they turn 18 and hopefully share with their parents! Although the Corney & Barrow Margaux is not intended to last for decades, the Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend has been made to give immediate drinking pleasure. Presenting your guests with this elegant wine from Margaux would seriously impress. If you do, remember to keep a bottle or two back to enjoy with your partner on your first wedding anniversary! 
And so, to Sauternes with Corney & Barrow’s Sauternes 2012 £13.25
On a buying trip to Bordeaux, the Corney & Barrow team had no intention of bottling a Sauternes under their own label. But after being offered a glass of this liquid gold after a grueling blending session, they had to have it and now you can too. Hurry though, there are only 100 cases left of the current vintage. More on the way hopefully soon.
Sauternes is a late harvest dessert wine made from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (80% and 20% respectively in this wine) grown in the Bordeaux region of France. It pairs exceptionally well with both cheese and a traditional wedding fruit cake. Given the right humidity and early morning mist in the vineyard, a benevolent fungus called botrytis cinerea (affectionately known among wine lovers as Noble Rot) settles on the grapes and punctures the skins. As a result, the grapes shrivel on the vine and fruit flavours and acidity are concentrated in the grape enabling the producer to create lusciously sweet wines with great acidic drive and the tell-tale funky flavours of noble rot. 
If sweet wines are not your thing, Corney & Barrow have Port too. I’m a fan of their Ruby Port which pairs well with cheese and dancing late into the night. 
If you’re in the London area, I do hope you’ll join us at the Sommeliers Table at Brides Live, and if not take a look at Corney & Barrow’s online wedding hub where you can browse all they have to offer drinks-wise for your wedding and beyond. They ship country wide and would be happy to assist you in choosing, let’s be honest, the most vital component of the wedding day – the wine!
*All prices are accurate at the time of writing.

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