Throughout the year, as the seasons change, I am always asked about which wines to drink with different food. As well as pairing the normal summer BBQ and that date-night steak, this year I’ve also been asked to match wine with Israeli food, Catalonian fare and even with a Sri Lankan feast – my tummy rumbles with just the thought.
Christmas time is of course no exception, and I know it’s only mid-November, but I’ve been asked what would be a good bet to pair with a traditional Christmas Lunch since the beginning of October.
Here in the PFW household, we alternate who we impose on for Christmas Day each year across 3 sets of family, and although the wine drinking requirements differ at each home, the feast before us is always glorious and never just stops at the Turkey, as I hope is the same in most homes.
Because of this, it’s not just the turkey that you need to think of when pairing the Christmas lunch with wine. Think of the cranberry sauce, the pigs in blankets, herby stuffing, the sprouts (yuck) and array of roasted root vegetables.
Let’s start with the white. You need something with a bit of cojones or the wine will be lost against all those rich flavours. Look for a wine with a bit of body, a zing of acidity that isn’t overly fruity or herbaceous. A Pinot Grigio is going to fall flat here and the boldness of ‘that’ grass in a NZ Sauvignon will clash.
Making a comeback, I’d recommend finding something with a little oak and here at PFW, I’ve done the work for you. No, no, I’m not suggesting an over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay, don’t worry, we’ll leave that back in the nineties, but a wine that’s developed some lovely buttery and creamy roundness yet still has that lifted finish that will cut through the heaviness of the meal:
Casa Silva Viognier Reserva 2013 (Colchagua Valley, Chile) 10% of this wine has sat in an oak barrel for 3 months giving an ever-so-subtle smokiness and lively roundness to the palate. Dry with nectarine, honeysuckle and a perky acidity that you’ll welcome against the gungiest of bread sauce. Fabulous value.
Domaine Sallet Macon-Villages Uchizy ‘Clos des Ravieres’ 2011 (Macon, Burgundy, France). Elegant and luxurious with subtle vanilla and citrus, this is bright and creamy, as you’d expect from a lightly oaked white Burgundy. Such a treat, but if I still can’t convince you of the benefits of oak, the unoaked Chateau Vitallis Macon-Villages Fuisse (from declassified Pouilly Fuisse grapes) makes a fabulous alternative – think Chablis with a shade more body.
And on to the reds. What we’re looking for here is something not too tannic or overly woody, with a medium body and acidity. Anything too heavy is going to overpower, anything too light will be blown away, so I’d suggest a juicy and glorious Grenache.
Grenache’s most famous home is undoubtedly the Southern Rhone Valley, where there are various tiers of wine quality, from your cheap and cheerful ‘Cotes du Rhone’, all the way up to the ‘Cru Villages’, Chateauneuf-du-Pape being perhaps the most reknowned. Despite there being allowed 13 different grape varieties in Chateauneuf, the most classic Southern Rhone blend is predominantly Grenache, with Syrah and Mourvedre. Look a little way to the West, and we see a throng of Grenache vines also in Languedoc-Roussillon, producing some stonking wines blended mainly with Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvedre.
Again, I’ve already sought out the perfect match – make sure you avoid anything too Mourvedre heavy, so in this instance try my trusty Calmel and Joseph St Chinian 2011 with its subtle smokiness and red berries, it’s perfectly balanced for Christmas Lunch, just 30% Grenache, the harmonious blend with Carignan and Syrah provides the right structure, flavour and body to work with the plethora of flavours and textures on that overloaded plate.
Domaine Pradas Gigondas 2011. If I got you excited at the mere mention of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, look no further than one of its fellow and lesser known Cru Villages for wines that are just as exceptional, but with a kinder price tag. Around 12km to the north east of its famous cousin, Gigondas sits in a more elevated position is becoming better known this side of the channel, along with Vacqueyras, Rasteau to name just 3 of the 18 Crus villages. A classic Grenache (appellation rules state a minimum of 50%), Syrah, Mourvedre blend, this wine has juicy blackberry and grippy tannins to match the richness and complexity of the Christmas feast in hand and although drinking well now, will age further for a couple more years yet.
Wines are available to taste every Saturday between now and Christmas at the pop-up wine stall. Order your Christmas wines now for local delivery or collection from Emmett’s Farm on Saturday 13th or 20th December. Keep an eye on Facebook for festive offers and giveaways and see my CHRISTMAS page for suggested mixed cases and gifts.