Christmas Wrapped Up
Naturally, we think Christmas is all about finding the right wine. At WineTrust we have given a lot of thought to helping you with this part of the organisation. We have carefully selected our favourite wines for the Christmas period – catering for all your festive needs in one place.
This week’s blog post covers the all important Christmas food matches. A time of year where we indulge in many different things at the same time (something we wholeheartedly support), matching all those ingredients and flavours can be quite a cumbersome task. From party drinks and nibbles, the main event, to pudding and after dinner treats, we have thought long and hard about our standout wines; of course everyone has their favourites, but if you are in need of a little inspiration consult our handy guide below.
Canapés and nibbles can mean a whole host of ingredients, so an easy drinking, crowd pleasing wine is often the way to go. Some of WineTrust’s most popular wines will certainly do the job, try our Borsao Selección and Calbuco Merlot for something red and the El Tesoro Verdejo, Percheron Chenin Blanc Viognier and Lawson’s Sauvignon Blanc for white. Alternatively, our new Brookland Valley Semillon Sauvignon Blanc from Western Australia makes for a lovely, versatile aperitif style.
Whilst canapés and nibbles often range dramatically in styles and flavours, one thing that should link them all together is that they are savoury. Candidates often include pastries, cured meats, smoked and cured fish, egg and dairy, tomato and green vegetable, flavoured with soft spice and mild curry, also saltiness … to name a few. A few pointers…
- We are thinking a light bodied red for a tasty selection of cured meats, especially our two Beaujolais – a Village and Fleurie from Manoir du Carra – which will also work nicely with vegetable crudités and quiche – to stay with the French theme. For a slightly bolder style, our new Loire red from Domaine de Rocheville will also work a treat.
- Generally speaking, anything from crisp, dry whites will work with light salads and/or vegetable accompaniments. If you serve richer sauce accompaniments, such as mayonnaise or aioli, then you can indulge in more medium bodied and even lightly oaked white wines.
- Personally, we think Christmas is incomplete without smoked salmon! Starting off with a classic fish partner, our Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Cristophe and Cedric Gobin is an obvious choice, although serve with lemon to cut nicely through the rich umami flavours. Alternatively, you can be really bold and go for a Rolly Gossman Pinot Gris. 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, with exotic fruit flavours and measured toasty, vanilla wood notes. Winter is a great time of year for seasonal seafood produce, so do feel free to serve other fish based canapés. Our Percheron Chenin Blanc Viognier works well with garlic chilli prawns, for instance.
- Last and certainly not least, sparkling wine is a must at Christmas! Not only are they classic partners to canapés they make for the perfect entertaining aperitif. WineTrust have a number of styles to suit different tastes and budgets. Our Prosecco from Vallete is an obvious customer favourite, whilst our Loire Sparkler from Langlois, a Bollinger owned estate, makes for a fantastic affordable alternative to Champagne. For those who want to go all out at Christmas, we offer a range of Champagnes from our delicious Lallier Grand Cru Réserve at £24 through to our indulgent Charles Heidsieck Rosé Brut Réserve at £44. Alternatively, our English Sparkling Wines are equally as tasty and make for a good talking point!
When it comes to Christmas and food what’s not to love, with so many options we choose to indulge in at this time of the year. However, all those different ingredients can make the perfect wine more elusive! WineTrust is at hand and we have made a few suggestions that will cover a range of Christmas meal plans, from the traditional turkey, to those of us who prefer roast beef or perhaps to cater for vegetarians and vegans. 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. 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.
Try the Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or from the Old World try our new Fraga do Corvo Godello from North West Spain or its Galacian counterpart, Turonia Albariño from Quinta de Couselo. Each have plenty of fruit, and a crisp, dry style that will complement any turkey dish. Alternatively, try the classic Chablis Domaine Collet from Burgundy; fantastic stone fruit and fresh apple flavours, this is a benchmark Chablis for the Christmas dining table.
We are thinking easy drinking Italian; our Valpolicella Allegrini will work a treat with its bright cherry fruit flavours. Alternatively, try our new Zweigelt from Austria, or for something more indulgent from the New World try the Lawson’s Dry Hills stunning Pinot Noir Reserve.
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 texture, whilst the soft fruity character of the wine is also elevated by the absorption of the tannins. A perfect marriage!
Suggestions: indulge in a classic red Bordeaux – Châteaux des Gravières Graves, or Vivens Margaux for a treat; or equally the Chianti Classico Fontodi and San Polo Brunello di Montalcino from Italy and the 2007 Rioja Gran Reserva from the estemed bodega, Marqués de Murrieta. For those with a budget in mind, try La Flor Argentinian Malbec or the ‘Talò’ Malvasia from San Marzano in Puglia.
Game can be approached in the same way to beef, although is often more fibrous. The general rule is the fattier and richer the meat, the more full bodied the wine should be.
New World reds can come into their own here, 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, although the Corte Giara Amarone from Valpolicella will also make a perfect match.
Also game works very well in slow roasted casseroles; soft spices can then play a role, e.g. cinnamon with duck, which requires a slightly less full bodied and sweeter wine. Good examples include the Chilean Syrah from Casas del Bosque or the more indulgent Beaune Bastion 1’er Cru from Chanson. On the lighter end of the scale with the likes of Guinea fowl (a good alternative to Turkey), we recommend the fantastic Samur-Champigny ‘Le Page’.
The WineTrust team are currently working with resident blogger and author of V is for Vegan, Kerstin Rodgers, to bring you some thoughtful and delicious vegetarian and vegan friendly alternatives. That said, one of the most popular dishes is a nut roast which ironically you want to match like a red meat dish, so fuller bodied red wines like the Renacer Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec Reserva or the Francois et Fils Côte Rôtie for something really special. These can also be enjoyed by other guests and meat based dishes so make for really versatile choices.
And now for something [a little] different
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, see above for suggestions.
Otherwise, recommendations are quite straightforward – always unoaked and crisp white wine for plainly cooked fish, richer, maybe oaked Chardonnay based wines with a buttery sauce (beurre blanc/noir, hollandaise). The classic partner to shellfish is the new Chablis Domaine Collet 2013, although do try the new Bergerie. For richer fish and sauces options include Burgundies Bourgogne Blanc Domaine Bachey-Legros, or for a treat Puligny-Montrachet Domaine Berthlemot and the fantastic New World Chardonnay from Newton Johnson.
Ham 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 equally from a good delicatessen source. Whites which work best should have plenty of acidity (this really cuts through the salt). Ideal partners include the Cotes de Gascogne Domaine St. Lannes and the Château Capmartin Bordeaux Blanc. A lighter red with vibrant acidity will also work well – such as the Fleurie from Manoir du Carra, or even a fuller bodied rosé such as the Cà dei Frati Rosa dei Frati from Italy.
As the Christmas meal comes to a close, finish off with the classic Christmas Pudding (what else!) and perhaps a delicious cheeseboard – before it is time to deservedly put your feet up!
Cheese is another must have for the festive season, don’t you find there’s nothing more appealing than a great spread of cheese on Christmas or Boxing Day? However, we could be here all day explaining the ins and outs of cheese and wine pairings!
The paradox of cheese is that for all its dairy richness the very product is itself very acidic. Red wines are not the safest match in general – especially with any salty cheeses like Roquefort, for which you really want the Laville Sauterenes – however there are some notable exceptions. Many hard cheeses, including British classics like Cheddar, Cheshire, Caerphilly, Lancashire and Wensleydale, can work well with red wines – particularly the Corte Giara Amarone from Valpolicella. If you want to go Spanish themed perhaps Manchego with a mature Rioja; or for Italy Pecorino with a Chianti?
Otherwise, a fuller bodied white is one of the more versatile options with cheese – especially with hard white, nutty cheeses like Comté. For example, an oaked Chardonnay such as the Maestro White from DeMorgenzon will work well with a mature cheese. Alternatively, trusted old favourites such as port and sweet wines work really well. For a good, rich port we would recommend the Fonseca Late Bottle Vintage 2008, it really works wonders with a slab of Colston Bassett Stilton; for the sweet the classic Laville Sauternes or the Santorini Vinsanto from Greece as an interesting alternative.
For the classic Christmas Pud, with all its richness and savoury character, the following wines would all go perfectly. The Australian classic Rutherglen Muscat from Chambers is Christmas in a bottle with notes of dried fig, caramelised orange and sweet caramel – made to have with the traditional dessert. We also recommend the Castaño Dulce with its beautiful savoury plum and mulled spice notes – also works well with cheese – or for a real treat the hedonistic Ben Ryé Muscat from the small island of Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily.
All of these sweet wines will also make a wonderful digestif, a deserved treat after a day of hosting! Otherwise, perhaps a festive glass of Port or to indulge yourself and guests the elegant Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia.
All that’s left to do now is to sit back and relax with glass in hand!