Hands up – how many of you will have turkey for Christmas dinner? A good few methinks. And what wine will you serve with it? Not sure? Let me give you a few hints as to what might go well with turkey – and a host of other Christmas food.
By the way, all the wines I mention are available from The Wine Shed.
But before we get on to turkey et. al. here’s something I’ll just put out there. One of the main things to remember when you’re choosing wine – any wine, for any occasion – is, do you actually like the type of wine you’ve chosen? This may sound an odd question but bear with me. Have you ever chosen a wine to go with beef, say, simply because you’ve been told that you must have a red wine with red meat? And you’ve dutifully bought a stonking great tannin-heavy Cabernet Sauvignon even though you don’t really like it? Yes, I thought so.
Well, it’s true that certain types of food call out for particular styles of wine, but at Christmas, with all its tasteful – and not so tasteful – decorations, family traditions juxtaposed with spontaneous whims, it’s the time, more than any other, when the wine should match the mood of festivity and celebration. So, if you fancy Sauvignon Blanc with your roast beef, or the afore-mentioned Cabernet Sauvignon with your turkey, then why not? Go for it.
However, if you would like a little bit of structure when it comes to choosing your Christmas wines read on.
There’s no getting around it, you just have to have some fizz on Christmas Day. But which? I just love any of the Champagne-style sparkling wines from the English Black Chalk stable – their Black Chalk Wild Rosé or Classic, either (or both) will do for me!
If you insist on ‘proper’ Champagne though, you must try this organic one: A. Levasseur Rue du Sorbier Brut Nature Organic Champagne.
If Prosecco is your preference, then you’ll love Giol Organic Prosecco Spumante. Fancy a fizzy rosé? Then check out Astoria Fashion Victim Rosé – it’s fresh, fruity, and elegant.
All of these will go well with canapés (especially smoked salmon) or, better still, have them on their own.
But let’s turn our attention to the main course and start with turkey. On its own, it’s fairly easy to find a wine to go with it, but when you consider the rich stuffing, pigs in blankets, veggies, gravy and all the other accompaniments like cranberry or bread sauce, then it’s not quite so straightforward.
You need a white that will stand up to the melange of flavours or a red that won’t overpower them. So, for whites, how about this New Zealand Chardonnay, Auntsfield Single Vineyard Chardonnay or a classic French Viognier, La Belle Etoile Viognier Lumiere.
And for reds why not this Pinot Noir, Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy Terre de Maimbray Sancerre Rouge from the Loire Valley, or for something a little more off the beaten track, this bio-dynamic wine from Austria, Heinrich Blaufränkisch.
If turkey isn’t your dish of the day and you’re thinking of having beef, then you really need something gutsy to cope with the richness of the meat. I said earlier that you should have whatever you fancy, but you might be hard pushed to find a white brave enough to stand up to the richness of
beef. However, The Wine Shed has just such a wine – in fact it’s been described as, “a white wine that thinks it’s a red”. It’s Château Musar Blanc, an unusual and distinguished wine from Lebanon made from the grape varieties Obaideh and Merwah which are thought to be genetically similar to Chardonnay and Semillon.
When it comes to red wine with beef, the world is your oyster. Anything from a classic French red to an Aussie Shiraz and all stops in between will do very nicely. If you want to push the boat out and indulge in a truly superb French red from right-bank Bordeaux, then Château Lecuyer Pomerol would be hard to beat. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to a Bordeaux, then this award-winning Bordeaux-style blend from South Africa could be just the ticket: Reyneke Cornerstone Organic.
I mentioned Aussie Shiraz, so I have to recommend one now! Wild & Wilder ‘The Opportunist’ Shiraz from Langhorne Creek in South Australia is one to savour.
And a stop in-between? Give Trastullo Organic Primitivo from Puglia in Italy a go, – you won’t be disappointed.
Goose and Duck
Some of you my eschew turkey or beef and opt for an even more traditional centrepiece: goose. When it comes to goose – or duck for that matter – you have to bear in mind that it can be very fatty and has a much gamier flavour than turkey. And there will probably be a whole host of accompaniments to go with it too. Fundamentally, however, you need something with fairly high acidity to cope with the extra fat, but that also has some fruitiness to cope with the stronger flavour.
So, when it comes to white wine, there’s one in particular that sprang to mind: The Ahrens Family Bendewijn Riesling is a rare wine from Elgin in South Africa – The Wine Shed is one of only a handful of merchants to stock it. Or there is Dreissigacker Organic Estate Riesling from Germany – spot on.
Before we get on to the reds, may I recommend something a little different? An orange wine from New Zealand: Craft Farm Home Vineyard Rosehip, which is made from neither oranges nor rose hips! Actually, it’s a wonderfully balanced combination of Albarino, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Petit Grain and Pinot Gris grapes, the combination of which will go very nicely with either goose or duck.
As far as reds go, I’d go for either of the wines recommended for turkey, or less full-bodied Rioja from Spain such as Laventura Rioja Tinto – they’re all light enough not to overpower the flavours of the meat but strong enough not to be lost in the crowd.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Let’s look at vegetarian and vegan Christmas dinners. From nut roast to filo pastry tarts, vegetarian and vegan dishes have burgeoned over the last few years. And the good news is that there are lots of vegetarian and vegan wines available too. The Wine Shed has a vast range to choose from, so how do you pair a wine with a vegetarian or vegan dish?
It’s actually a little more difficult for me to recommend a wine without knowing what the actual dish is. So here are a few pointers to look for.
Anything roasted – like Mediterranean vegetables – will undoubtedly have a smokiness and slight oiliness to it, so go for something with a bit of structure, like the wine(s) that you might choose for turkey.
Lots of vegetarian and vegan dishes also smack of umami, a concentrated savouriness, which cry out for something equally savoury but not too full-bodied, so try an orange wine since this will have a smattering of tannins to balance the flavours (see the entry for goose, above). Or perhaps a not-too-heavy Valpolicella like this one: Monte Dall’Ora Valpolicella Classico.
A nut roast is often a mainstay for both vegetarians and vegans. Packed with flavour and texture I would again recommend the choices to go with turkey, or try a red from the Languedoc like Thierry Navarre Saint Chinian ‘Le Laouzil’.
And for any mushroom-based dish look to the white Savagnin grape from Jura, exemplified by this wine, Domaine Berthet-Bondet Savagnier. Or if you fancy a red, then this earthy Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Gem Pinot Noir, will fit the bill.
Now it’s dessert time and the ubiquitous Christmas pudding. For me, the wine to go with it just has to be a Rutherglen Muscat from Australia, like this one: Stanton and Killeen Rutherglen Classic 12 year Muscat. It’s luscious and unctuous – just right for the pud. Another strong contender is this sweet wine from Argentina, Domaine Bousquet Malbec Dulce – unusual, yes, but absolutely delicious. Both of these wines will be perfect with just about any other dessert too.
And there we have it: wines to make your Christmas dinner even yummier.
By Maureen Little