There are a variety of menu options we love to indulge in at this time of the year. Here, WineTrust shares with you the wines we think will work best with your Christmas meal plans. From traditional turkey to vegetarian alternatives, we have wines for all tastes and preferences. Impress your guests, treat your family and make your Christmas that little bit more special.
Good quality, free range turkey can be mildly gamey (like Guinea fowl) and depending on how it has been cooked it can work surprisingly well with a light bodied red or fuller bodied rosé, as with a (more obvious choice) dry white wine.
And don’t forget that the “trimmings” often come with a salty and tangy edge to them (eg sausage, bacon, stuffing). Also if you are doing traditional bread sauce (with clove studded onion as its base) you are adding dairy and soft spice notes.
In general for white avoid anything that is heavily oaked as this will conflict with these flavours. Equally you want a white which has some weight, punch and fruit. For reds, opt for lighter bodied wines, which are fruity but not too tannic – and serve cool (10 minutes in the fridge) as this lifts the whole profile of the wine with the food.
White and Rose Matches
For just £10.95, try the Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 or from the Old World Mara Martin Godello 2012 from North West Spain. Both have plenty of fruit, and a crisp, dry style that will complement any turkey dish. Alternatively, try the classic Chablis Domaine Collet 2013 from Burgundy, which for £16 represents great value for money and the very best of Village Chablis. Fantastic stone fruit and fresh apple flavours, this is a benchmark Chablis for the Christmas dining table.
Alternatively – for the same price – try our fuller bodied 2014 Rosé from Cà dei Frati for something of the pink variety. This is a juicy Italian wine, bursting with fruit flavours while remaining perfectly balanced and refreshing. Another good rosé option is the excellent 2014 Château Moutète from the south of France, retailing at just £10.95.
Worth considering is a new addition to the WineTrust selection this year, the Cavalchina Bardolino 2014 at £10.95. A lighter cousin than a neighbouring Valpolicella, this wine is glug-able with characteristic peppery and spicy notes. Our Valpolicella Allegrini 2014 will also work a treat with its bright cherry fruit flavours.
If you are after a New World wine, Lawson’s Dry Hills also offer a stunning Pinot Noir Reserve 2012; with juicy forest fruit flavours and a touch of cinnamon spice, this wine is delicate, lighter bodied and very refreshing.
Many people opt for this British classic and it is also great cold in sandwiches, or on Boxing Day with salad and roast potatoes. With its savoury richness, fibrous texture and infused fat it will come as no surprise that a dry, fuller bodied, more tannic red is a strong recommendation. And please don’t worry if you are not usually a fan of this style, because the dry tannins merge perfectly with the fatty richness and protein texture, to elevate the pure savoury character of the beef – whilst the soft fruity character of the wine is also elevated by the absorption of the tannins: result – a perfect marriage!
Suggestions: indulge in a classic red Bordeaux – Châteaux des Gravières Graves, or Vivens Margaux for a treat; or these Italians will do a good job: the Chianti Classico Fontodi or Barolo Le Albe from Vajra. From the New World the Renacer Reserva Malbec is spot on along with the Eben Sadie Sequillo South African red Rhône blend.
Game can be approached in the same way to beef, although is often more fibrous. Although often fatty to start with this rapidly drains away and does not necessarily infuse into the meat as with beef and lamb for example – result, quite and dry and even more textural. Therefore go with a full bodied and rich red.
All those mentioned in the beef section above will work, but New World reds can come into their own here as well, such as the sumptuously bold John Duval Barossa Shiraz, or the Argentinean Pulenta Estate Cabernet Franc.
All game needs to be served with a sauce/jus/gravy/bread sauce, so the contents of these need to be borne in mind as much as anything – e.g. the classic venison and chocolate sauce really calls for New World red. Also game works very well in slow roasted casseroles – and also components such as juniper come into play. Soft spices can then play a role – e.g. cinnamon with duck, which requires a slightly less full bodied and sweeter wine – such as a Pinot Noir, either classic Burgundy or New World (good examples include Tabali Pinot Noir from Chile or the Beaune Bastion 1’er Cru from Chanson. Likewise this would be the recommendation for more delicate game birds such as guinea fowl, quail and partridge.
This is an old and often forgotten classic – if you have a local butcher who cures and sells on the bone, it’s a real seasonal treat, or buy from a good delicatessen source. There will always be an element of salt but it should not be “salty”. Good cured ham should be moist and (maybe surprisingly) taste of pork.
It is one of those dishes which can be served with a white or red wine, but the red must be light bodied and have good acidity (and again serve cool as mentioned before). Whites which work best are unoaked, with plenty of acidity (this really cuts through the salt). Any white wine with a “tangy” note to it works well – again probably no surprise to you.
Unorthodox, but it is easy to forget that a number of fish and shellfish are in plentiful supply and at their best in the winter! What is definitely not amiss at any Christmas dinner is smoked salmon.
Starting off with a classic fish partner, our 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Cristophe and Cedric Gobin is an obvious choice at only £9.50. Alternatively, this is where you can be really bold and go for a Rolly Gossman Pinot Gris 2010. The more heavily smoked the salmon, the bolder the wine can be – including being oaked. For something richer also try the Domaine de Vedilhan Serica Viognier 2014, with exotic fruit flavours and measured toasty, vanilla wood notes. It is just £9.25, and this wine is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
If you are looking for something more upmarket (it is Christmas after all) then sparkling wine is also a perfect match for salmon. The Langlois Brut Crémant NV is drinking very well at the moment, a stunning sparkler for just £13.50. A fraction of the price of many Champagnes, this Loire alternative delivers just as well, with crisp, zesty flavour and fine bubbles. A bit closer to home, WineTrust is also showcasing the best of Britain – try our fantastic Nyetimber Rosé Brut 2009 for a real treat. Currently on offer for £29 this will go down well with friends and family, and will also make a wonderful aperitif – maybe accompanied with smoked salmon canapés.
I think the recommendations are quite straightforward – always white wine and unoaked and crisp for plainly cooked fish, richer, maybe oaked Chardonnay based wines with fish with butter based sauce (beurre blanc/noir, hollandaise). The classic partner to many shellfish is Chablis Domaine Collet 2013, for richer fish and sauces options include Burgundies Bourgogne Blanc Domaine Bachey-Legros or for a treat Puligny-Montrachet Domaine Berthlemot.
And a good Muscadet – Sur Lie Domaine Gobin really does work well with mussels (and please do steam the molluscs in the wine itself). If you are using fish in a Thai/spicy manner then aromatic whites are the section for you – and please give Riesling a chance, such as the Sybille Kuntz Mosel Trocken, or from Australia the classic Grosset’s Polish Hills – especially if coriander, lime, lemon grass, green chilli are involved in any way. And this is where you can be really bold and go for a Gewürztraminer (Rolly Gassmann), which interestingly might also work with that old seasonal favourite, Scottish smoked salmon.
If you really char grill vegetables then you can be bolder with the wine due to their “toasty” character – including rosés such as the Cà dei Frati Rosa dei Frati from Italy. A lot also depends if you are using pastry and/or eggs – in a tart, for example – as this means you can serve a richer and fuller bodied white – maybe even gently oaked. This is especially so if you have a gratin (cheese) element such as with an onion and cheese flan. The stronger the cheese element the bolder the wine choice can be. In general, though, I would avoid really dry and tannic red wines – they tend to sit aside from many vegetarian dishes.
Another excellent combination is Viognier with asparagus (such as the Viognier Tibalí from Chile Limari Valley, or the Percheron Chenin|Viognier blend from South Africa) with asparagus – at this time of the year probably from Peru (but still very good) – and by that served hot or cold, with or without a butter/hollandaise sauce.
With salads (and crudités) a lot depends on the intensity of the leaves and vegetables, and the dressing combination. At the blander end of the scale, for example, is iceberg lettuce, at the other endives such as radicchio, or frissé. Then there is onion – the minute this enters the fray the whole salad “warms” up. Add water cress, or rocket, and the peppery levels increases; just a few coriander leaves add citric notes. I think it very difficult to be at all definitive here other than to say that white wines invariably work better – and again unoaked. Frankly, any wines from our “crisp, dry white” section will work. Nothing beats a mixed plate of blanched, crunchy vegetables – and I think especially when served with mayonnaise, or even better aioli. If you use these richer sauce accompaniments then you can indulge in more medium bodied and even lightly oaked white wines – a good example being the South African The Foundry Viognier.
A final note on the ever popular beetroot. With its firm earthy notes and fleshy texture it is difficult, but not impossible. The star accompaniment would be the Domaine Villargeau Giennois Pinot Noir Rosé from the Loire Valley