My early wine education came working in the UK trade, attending serious tastings in wood-panelled halls with pin-striped Masters of Wine pontificating about European classics. And no wine was considered more classic than the claret of Bordeaux.
I learned about the great communes of Margaux, Pauillac, St-Estèphe, St-Julien and Graves, about the premiers crus châteaux and the 1855 classification, about the great vintages and the noble traditions. Most importantly, I learned that a good claret - usually a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc with perhaps a smidge of malbec and petit verdot thrown in for good measure - was the very best accompaniment to a classic Sunday roast with all the trimmings. The tannin of cabernet is softened by the succulent pink beef; the soft pillowy sweetness of the Yorkshire pud marries the roundness of the merlot; the herbs on the potatoes and peas chime with the other grapes in the blend. And when I moved to Australia, I learned that regions such as Margaret River, Coonawarra, the Clare Valley and the Yarra Valley produce blends of the cabernets and merlot (with perhaps a smidge of malbec and petit verdot thrown in for good measure) that are just as fabulous a match with a full-monty roast. Hurrah for Australian claret!
A Sunday roast was traditionally served with a French claret, but an Australian one is just as fabulous, writes Max Allen.