This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the Easter 2014 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by both The Independent and Which? Magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?
Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.
I have never understood why so many people prefer the breast meat of a domestic fowl, tame in every respect and redeemed, for me, by the dark, succulent leg. Yet, ‘taking drumsticks’ was traditionally very much the Christian duty of someone well down the, er, pecking order: I’m reminded of Amy, the youngest of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, who is commended for doing so by her saintly Papa and ‘Marmee’. One assumes that the parson’s nose was reserved for Hannah the Help.
At a very chic three-starred establishment in southern Burgundy, I was once even offered ‘breast or thigh’ of my poulet de Bresse by a supercilious waiter. As the price amounted to several weeks’ wages, I was expecting the full monte and nearly caused an international incident by demanding both. The rest of the story doesn’t bear repeating, but we’ve never been (allowed) back.
The difference in texture between the two is, of course, one of the challenges of cooking turkey. The choice of dry breast or still-raw leg is no choice at all, and, increasingly daunted by interminable brining, obsessive basting, triple foil-wrapping and all the other techniques designed to even the score a bit, I now deem any big fowl a game of two halves. Thighs are slowly braised in wine and herbs, while a crown can either be boned and stuffed or, as below, roasted on the bone with a generous dollop of well-flavoured butter tucked under the skin.
This festive Easter recipe, is straightforward to prepare, easy to carve and vinously versatile. Simply vary your basting butter to match your chosen tipple: garlic and Provence herbs for robust Mediterranean whites and reds, a dash of chilli or smoked paprika and fresh coriander if you’re in Spanish mode or – a Rolls Royce moment, this – white truffle butter for a creamy chardonnay or pinot noir.
Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager
EASTER CROWN OF TURKEY
1 premium turkey breast on the bone, about 2.5kg
2 large carrots, chunked
2-3 very large onions, quartered
4 sticks of celery, cut into halves or thirds if very long
a head of garlic, halved
200ml white wine
a handful of thyme sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
120g flavoured butter of your choice, softened
200ml chicken or game stock
1 tablespoon or two of double cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4
Put the onions, carrots, celery and garlic into a roasting tin that comes with a rack or trivet. Add the thyme sprigs and moisten with the wine. This will be the rhythm section for your gravy. If you’ve lucked into unexpected giblets, wash these carefully and tuck them in too.
Put the trivet over the vegetables and the turkey on top of that, skin-side up. Pat the skin thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.
Now carefully lift the skin from the flesh taking great care not to tear it. Provided you don’t have killer talons, fingers are best for this. Otherwise use the end of a wooden spoon or similarly blunt instrument. Navigate your way along the length of the breast, separating skin from flesh until you have made a large pocket to hold the butter.
Now take half the butter and push it gently into the space created, pressing down on the skin to spread it evenly across both halves of the breast. Pull the skin back over the exposed flesh and pat into place. Smear with the rest of the butter, and season well with salt and pepper.
Transfer the tin to the oven and roast for about 1¾ hours. Check after an hour to ensure that the skin is not getting too brown: if it is, cover it with aluminium foil. Continue cooking for another 30-45 minutes. Test readiness by pushing a skewer into the thickest part of the breast. If the juices run completely clear, it’s done.
Lift the joint from the trivet onto a serving platter and rest it in a warm place for at least 20 minutes while you make the sauce. Remove the vegetables from the base of the pan with a slotted spoon. If you like, squeeze the soft, sweet garlic pulp from the spent heads and whisk in for a big flavour boost. Put the pan over a brisk heat and add the stock. Simmer to reduce, tasting as you go. A dash of cream at this stage can’t hurt. When it tastes right, check the seasoning and pour into a warmed sauce-boat.
Note: If you prefer a more traditional gravy, thicken the sauce by whisking in, over the heat, either a little cornflour, dissolved in some cold water, or a spoonful of beurre manié (a paste of equal parts of butter and flour).
Carve into thick slices and serve with the sauce and an assortment of vegetables or wild rice.
We’ve been absolutely delighted with members’ response to the Blind Spot wines so far, and heartened to see several critics praise them too. ‘Blind Spot’ is an exclusive range of Australian wines that aims to provide genuine expressions of authentic Australian regional styles at affordable prices.
Jancis Robinson called them ‘outstanding value by any measure’, and we’ve just seen a review of the new range (published yesterday) by Sarah Ahmed, aka thewinedetective which may be of interest to members. (Please note: the Rutherglen Muscat mentioned in this piece will be available very soon).
‘Hats off to Mac Forbes, chief sourcer, or is that sorcerer?’ – Sarah Ahmed
Mac Forbes, one of Australia’s most talented winemakers, acts as our man on the ground for the Blind Spot range, utilising both his impeccable contacts and regional knowledge to source cuvées from throughout Australia.
Blind Spot in Mac Forbes’ own words
You can find out a little more about the range in this interview with Mac:
Society Buyer for Australia
At last! After the wettest of starts, spring seems finally to be springing in the UK. Here at The Society we are in full swing planning a number of offerings for that elusive warmer weather.The highlight, as ever, is the annual unveiling of our Wine Champions.
The Champions are gleaned from a series of blind tastings by the buying team. All labels are concealed, allowing no room for potential bias and enabling the tasters to focus entirely on what’s in the bottle rather than on it. Hundreds of wines are tasted and whittled down to best-of-the-best selection of ‘Champions’: wines that are giving of their delicious best, at the top of their game and guaranteed to please Society members over the summer and beyond.
I have been fortunate enough to take part in these fascinating, enjoyable and admittedly rather exhausting tasting sessions for three years now, and each campaign throws up its own trends, conundrums, excitements and surprises.
What made 2014’s Championship?
I am, of course, sworn to secrecy as to the identities of the winning wines themselves. However, to whet members’ appetites, I have been permitted to divulge the following:
Two of our buyers’ tweets from the tasting should tell you who one of the star countries was this year:
amazing blind tasting this am in Stevenage. 51 wines most from Italy. Some real gems here for members to savour this summer @TheWineSociety
— Marcel O-Williams (@owmarcel) February 12, 2014
— Pierre Mansour (@pierremansour) February 13, 2014
This is perhaps unsurprising given the diversity of Italian wine, with its thousands of native varieties and disparate styles. However, I cannot recall such a buzz about Italian wines in previous ‘Champs’ tastings I have been here for. Do look out for the wines from The Boot in this year’s offer.
Sweet spots: Portuguese white and Argentine red
Also particularly striking in 2014 were these two heartening ‘sweet spots’. The quality of Portugal’s red and white wines has been on a glorious upward curve for some time now, and their white wines showed this year that, for style, flavour and value, they can compete with anyone.
Able to satisfy and stimulate across a range of price points, Argentine malbec’s irresistibly moreish, food-friendly flavour has long been a favourite of UK wine drinkers. Rich pickings indeed – but these wines are not just about richness. We found some remarkable examples, benefiting from creative blending, old vines, an emphasis on finesse rather than power and some recent successful vintages. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
A quick peek inside the tasting room during this year’s Bordeaux round.
Tasting hundreds of wines all day sounds like a dream come true (and it is, of course), but those who have not had the pleasure of tasting a large number of tank samples may not appreciate how difficult it can be after a while! The buyers are very experienced at tasting and assessing tank samples, but a late 2013 vintage across so many regions meant that several of the infant wines’ samples that reached us were particularly embryonic. Healthy and sometimes impassioned debate is as mandatory as the quality of the final shortlist, for one begets the other, and meticulous retasting and deliberation ensures each wine gets the fairest chance it can in its category and line-up. This was especially necessary for many of the 2013 tank samples, as the team expertly sifted through the sulphur aromas and primary fruit to form consensus.
A final mention must go to South Africa: we may not have chosen a vast number of Cape Champs this year, but I can’t remember the wines showing better. In only three years of my attendance at these tastings, the progression in quality has been noticeable, something I find quite breathtaking. It would be difficult to refute the assertion that, of all the countries making wine today, the Cape has the biggest spring in its step right now.
Fine Wine Champions
The fun doesn’t stop once the initial list of Champions is unveiled: the Fine Wine Champions will follow shortly afterwards in the August Fine Wine List. I could write at least as much again about the exceptional wines and happy surprises that went into the premium line-up. Perhaps I will nearer the time…
The 2014 Wine Champions will be unveiled in June.
Have you ever thought about coming to one of The Society’s tastings? We hold over 100 annually, ranging from informal, walk-around tastings to gala dinners via tutored tastings, workshops and more.
You can see a full calendar on our website, but the Tastings Team has also put together this short video to give a flavour of what members coming to a Society tasting might expect. We hope you enjoy it!
Drouhin-Laroze have one of the best cellars in Burgundy. In fact they don’t just have one – they have two like this, one above the other.
This is effectively the first year cellar where the new wine is racked. It normally stays here for about six months until the malolactic fermentation in spring the following year.
Underneath is an identical cellar, where the wine normally ages a year, before bottling in spring.
Clos de Tart also have a similar arrangement but this is rare in Burgundy.
Society Buyer For Burgundy
What’s it like being a wine buyer here at The Wine Society?
Jo Locke MW tells us in this short video.
Bonhomme make modestly priced Mâcon which keeps very well.
To prove the point, Aurelien Palthey kindly opened this 1969 for Tim Sykes and me in November.
It is very mature but still very much alive. Lovely flavours of hazelnuts, butter and crème brûlée.
We are selling the 2012 Cuvée Spéciale in our opening offer at the end of February.
Society Buyer For Burgundy
Edit (17/2/2014): This offer is now available.
With many distinguished wine producers converting to biodynamic viticulture, there has to be something to this form of farming, doesn’t there?
Master of Wine Caroline Gilby who has a PhD in plant science finds it all a bit hard to believe. ‘Where’s the science bit?’ she asks in a recent article written for The Society:
Supercharged organics with a hint of spirituality?
‘Biodynamics sounds quite lovely in principle – often billed as a kind of supercharged organic approach to grape growing, complete with more than a hint of spirituality. Demeter, the largest certifying organisation for this system defines biodynamics as ‘a holistic approach to agriculture in which vitality is the highest priority,’ while French group Biodyvin states ‘a wine producing property, like any other agricultural property, is considered to be a living organism.’ The wine trade today seems to hold biodynamics in great, and unquestioning, reverence, partly because of some of the renowned producers who have converted.’
Wine journalists have been accused of giving too many column inches over to the promotion of this form of winemaking by some in the wine trade (read our blog post on the debate on this matter), so we thought it right to air the sceptic’s viewpoint.
Do read Caroline’s article and let us know what you think.
Tollot-Beaut have very attractive cellars, although quite recent.
Still, the black alcohol-loving fungus has colonised the pillars and wine bins.
We will be selling their lovely 2012s in our opening offer.
Society Buyer for Burgundy
The Society’s opening offer of 2012 red and white Burgundy will be available from 17th February.
Edit (17/2/2014): This offer is now available.