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Time for some clever food matching! Happily, there are plenty of Navarra reds to match with myriad dishes. The use of Spanish grapes, especially garnacha (usually on its own or in blends), tempranillo and graciano, plus the international grapes cabernet sauvignon and merlot, mean there is a lot to choose from in this region. Some wines are unoaked while others spend time in barrel, which gives us even more options in food pairings. There are no hard and fast rules in food-matching but I generally prefer a light to medium-bodied, unoaked red with roast poultry, tomato-based pasta sauce and vegetables like bean based chillis, ratatouille and grilled red peppers. Save the more robust reds for roast red meats, hard, full-flavoured cheeses and long slow, savoury braises as their tannins stand up well to rich protein. Rather more adventurously, pair up Navarra’s reds with spicy curries, dark chocolate and more. Here are my selections for this Christmas and on into the rest of the winter… Sada Alta Garnacha 2020, Navarra (Avery’s, Direct Wines, £20) & Unsi Terrazas Garnacha 2019, Navarra (Laithwaites, £12.99) Both these single varietal garnachas are juicy and smooth, the unoaked Sada Alta reflecting its relatively cool climate, high altitude vines in a wine bursting with blackberry and cassis, with a little tannin on the finish. Match this wine with goose or roast turkey and all the trimmings or dark chocolate/chocolate cake (yes, really). The Sada Alta’s bright tangy fruit works nicely with tomato-based vegetarian pasta sauces, while the Unsi Terrazas has six months’ oak ageing and is medium-bodied, fresh and rounded, a great match for roast pork, peppery sausages and baked ham. Alconde Optimo Tinto 2019, Navarra (WinebyChill, £11.99) Inurrieta Cuatrocientos Crianza 2019, Navarra (Ultracomida, £12.99) Some spicier notes come into play with both these wines. The Alconde is an oaked blend of cabernet and merlot and has hints of woodspice and smoke, while the Inurrieta, a blend of 50% cabernet, 20% merlot, 12% syrah and 9% Graciano with a tiny amount of other grapes, is ripe with savoury notes and sweet spices. Both have the right flavours and enough tannin to make brilliant matches for steak (especially peppered steak) or a festive feast of rib of beef. Fortius Reserva 2016, Navarra (Ocado, £10) This blend of 90% tempranillo with 10% cabernet, aged in barrel for 18 months, delivers just the sort of red I love to pair with lamb. It’s got ripe strawberry and mulberry fruit, and a good twist of pepper. Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic will love it! Ochoa Mil Gracias Graciano 2017, Navarra (Davys Wine Merchant, Amathus Drinks, £15) A rare single variety graciano, inky purple in colour with intense flavours of plum and cassis, vanilla, pepper and spice. This will stand up to spices so match it with meaty Indian curries like lamb rogan josh or a glorious homemade chilli con carne. I love it with a lamb tagine too, especially on a cold night in winter. 1864 Castillo de Olite Crianza 2018, Manzanos Campanas, Navarra Beautifully mellow crianza, a blend of 90% garnacha with 10% tempranillo, aged in cask for 18 months and displaying rich but very smooth qualities, with almost port-like cherry fruitcake and plum. It’s the wine for long-braised meats like brisket of beef, slow cooked pork cheeks or venison and chestnut casserole, and it‘s also my choice for fine Christmas cheeseboard that includes mature Cheddar, Manchego and a chunk of parmesan. Happy Christmas and here’s to fine feasting! Susy


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