PERFECTLY PAIRED CHRISTMAS
Updated: Jan 14, 2019
Looking for the best tipples to tantalise your taste buds this festive season? Discover the wines that punch above their weight for taste and value - perfect for Christmas pairings.
Wine recommendation app Corkscrew has compiled a list of supermarket wines to cover all budgets to perfectly pair with your Christmas day dishes - with pairing notes from its expert sommelier Matt Day.
The rigours of Christmas day demand a sustaining breakfast that whets the appetite for the feast to come. Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon is a classic, but quite tricky to pair with wine. Eggs create a film over your taste buds and smoked salmon is oily (which clashes with certain wines) and very strongly flavoured – so a light, soft Prosecco would be destroyed. I find the best pairing for smoked fish is Fino sherry, but that may not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially in the morning. Sparkling wines will work as long as they are fresh (no mature vintage champagne), full-flavoured and high in acidity. I think this could be a case where a cheaper sparkling wine works better, but if you do insist on champagne go for a non-vintage rosé.
Good mulled wine is the cornerstone of any successful Christmas. Get it right and it has the power to transform the most miserable granny or irksome neighbour into the life and soul of the party. Contrary to popular belief, the quality of the wine does matter and warming, spicy wines are naturally suited to mulling. Southern France, Spain and southern Italy offer excellent value for money reds, oozing with bottled sunshine, which are soft and fruity and enjoyable mulled or straight from the bottle.
Recipe: For perfect mulled wine, heat (don’t boil) red wine in a large pan with sugar to taste (roughly 3 tbsp. per bottle). When the sugar has dissolved, squeeze in the juice of an orange, retaining the skins. Push cloves into the orange skins and add them to the pot with a couple of cinnamon sticks (or 2 tsp. powder) and a good grate of nutmeg. If you require a bit more kick (in case of especially difficult relatives) add a good slug of cognac, whisky or cherry brandy for extra richness. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve.
Once the guests are nicely fortified, we can turn our attentions to the main event. The clever cook will open a well-earned bottle of wine and bask in the relative tranquillity of the kitchen (not forgetting to make heated and vocal exclamations to keep out unwanted helpers) while the non-cooks struggle with offspring and elders.
The Main Event
Good with Turkey
Turkey (white meat and darker leg meat) with all the trimmings (chipolatas, sprouts, roast potatoes, parsnips, cranberry sauce, spiced red cabbage) is such a clash of strong flavours and multiple proteins and carbohydrates that a perfect wine match is virtually impossible. White wine is probably a slightly better match that red, but ripe Pinot Noir from New Zealand and California or juicy Gamay from Beaujolais are a good choice. Whites should be rich and full-bodied – think Semillon from the Hunter Valley (Australia) and Bordeaux or oaked Chardonnay from Margaret River (Australia) or Burgundy or white Rioja.
Good with Goose
Goose definitely needs a white wine rather than a red wine. Its richness can be countered beautifully by an off-dry white such as Riesling, a rich Pinot Gris from Alsace or a Chenin Blanc from the Loire.
Good with Beef
Roast beef has quite a subtle flavour that is all too easy to overpower. A medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Bordeaux is great and a wine with a little bit of age such as a Rioja Reserva is even better.
Good with Nut Roast
Nut roast is a rich and savoury dish that works well with savoury, earthy reds or full-bodied oaky whites. Grenache based wines from the Rhone are a great choice and nutty, oaky white Rioja works extremely well.
It is often a good idea to serve your best wines first. As the meal progresses and the wine flows, guests often become less discerning and it is a great pity if a great wine falls upon a tired palate or a sleeping relative. Really fine wine should be ‘checked’ before you pour it for your guests. Just taste a bit in the kitchen first (never a great hardship). By doing this you can ensure the wine isn’t corked and more importantly get far more than your fair share!
Christmas pudding is one of the most forgiving desserts and can be paired with many different styles of sweet wine. Nutty sweet Sherry or Madeira is a perfect match to the dried fruit and nuts of the pudding, but botrytised white wines like Sauternes or Tokaji are a classic and delicious choice.
The Last Lap
By this stage most people will have had their fill, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without Port and Stilton and the terrible headache that too much Port ensures. If you are serving a Vintage Port then it will be full of harmless sediment and will require decanting. This should be done a few hours before you intend to drink it. There are many convoluted ways to decant vintage Port, but unless you enjoy pantomime and bits of sediment then why not pass it through a fine sieve (a tea strainer is perfect). Tawny, Ruby and Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Ports don’t require decanting, though it is perfectly acceptable to pour them into your favourite cut glass decanter.