Welcome to February, the Roman name for which was "Februarius" after the Latin term februum, meaning purification, so named because of the purification ritual "Februa" held on February 15 in the old lunar Roman calendar. For those of you who enjoyed (or endured?) 'Dry January', will no doubt be feeling extremely purified and ready to enjoy some viniferous treats. Those of you born on February 29th will be able to celebrate a much deserved birthday. Reason enough then to enjoy February Wines of the Month.
This month's selection includes the Coteaux de l'Ardèche: Cépage Pinot Noir 2014. This is a youthful Ardèche Pinot Noir which has subtle strawberry scents and a core of soft, juicy redcurrant fruit with pleasant smoky undertones over gentle tannins, produced by the reliable Vignerons Ardéchois Cave Co-opérative.
A quick search on-line provided the suggestion of matching this light, bright Pinot Noir with charcuterie, duck à l'orange or turkey with chestnuts. A visit to the refrigerator, however, provided only a modest amount of charcuterie – Iberico ham to be precise – so undeterred we tucked into both and found it to be an excellent matching. The slight smokiness of the Pinot Noir stood up well to the richness of the ham which, alas, disappeared all too quickly.
At £9.50 per bottle one could consider this an everyday wine so I decided to match it with an 'every day' supper of herb crusted pork loin steaks, pommes vapeur and buttered green beans. The wine was served, (as recommended), at around 17 degrees Centigrade. The pork loin steaks were egg-coated and then covered in a crust of breadcrumbs, black pepper, mixed herbs and a modicum of very finely grated parmesan. I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in an oven-proof serving dish in a hot oven and then placed the loin steaks in the bubbling butter to return to the oven (approx 180 C) for 25 minutes, turning the meat half way through cooking. I like the unfussiness of pommes vapeur and simply place quartered potatoes (skins on) into a metal colander over a pan of boiling water, cover the colander and keep an eye on water levels until the potatoes are tender... buttered or not they are so much nicer than traditionally boiled potatoes.
After supper and with the arrival of unexpected guests, a second bottle was opened. This time it was served slightly more chilled – and very much enjoyed by one of our guests who is not usually a red wine drinker but who appreciated its lightness and red fruit flavours, and with its refreshing strawberry scents it reminded us that longer, warmer days aren't too far off.