Wine and food are a match made in heaven, and there’s no better time to learn the art of wine pairing than Christmas, when we carefully curate a festive feast full of flavour. Sadie Wilkins has put together some top tips to help your tipples tantalise the tastebuds around your table.
Pop. Fizz. Clink.
Let’s begin with bubbles and get things started with a sparkle. Although a very welcoming aperitif, a glass (or two) of fizz can absolutely sing with a smoked salmon starter – opt for a bottle with a little more flavour, so it can handle the cured character of the fish. A blancs de blancs Champagne is a favourite, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, its high acidity handles the saltiness of the smoked salmon perfectly – same goes for oysters!
Of course, fizz does not need to finish at the beginning of proceedings, and there’s a very special reservation for a glass of Prosecco with a slice of traditional Panettone – it’s the merrier version of a cuppa and cake, with the fruitier notes from the Italian sparkling pairing beautifully with the dried fruits tucked inside the sweet cake.
Catch of Christmas Day
In amongst the rich indulgence of the holiday, it’s nice to serve up a lighter fish dish for a refreshing respite. The classic pairing for a lightly grilled or baked fish would be a crisp Chablis, but if you look to other French whites, you’ll find a couple of pairings that will last you a lifetime. One being the magnificent Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, a wine made from the lesser-known Melon de Bourgogne grape in the west side of the Loire – it’s light, crisp and has delicious, zippy notes of citrus that work in harmony with the salinity of the fish. Saltiness in food really sings alongside a wine with real acidity. Alternatively, pour a Picpoul de Pinet for your guests, one of the oldest grapes of the Languedoc. With its alluring, delicate notes of acacia, citrus, pear and honey blossom, it charms fish dishes with its well-structured acidity that is freshly balanced on the palate.
The Main Event
A traditional turkey is more gamey than its feathery friend, the humble chicken, and needs a wine that has some real structure to it. A classic choice would be Rhône red such as a rustic Chateauneuf du Pape, but if you are looking to make a more interesting white wine choice that isn’t a buttery, oak aged Chardonnay from either Burgundy or the new world, then a barrel-aged Hungarian Dry Furmint from Tokaji makes for a stunning selection. It’s fruity yet robust, has a lively acidity yet a round body, with luscious, silky – almost creamy – notes from its time spent in oak. In short, gamey birds do well with complex layers in the glass – also bearing in mind that your turkey will most likely have other robust flavours beside it on the plate such as cranberry sauce or chestnut stuffing.
All things are wonderful in moderation, and we all enjoy the odd ‘high fat’ rich dish. Indulgent meals cry out for big and bold wines to meet them head on – it’s good to remember this when the Boxing Day curries, or various goose fat potatoes make an appearance over the festive period.
Pudding wines are still underrated even though they are one of life’s greatest pleasures. When dealing with the sweeter end of the spectrum, there is one key principle: ensure that the wine is sweeter than the dessert. Otherwise, it will all be a bit flabby.
Though, when it comes to the timeless tradition of a Christmas pud, with its dense, winter spiced dried fruit and sticky consistency, we find that a marriage made in heaven is found with a Sherry – of the PX (Pedro Ximenez) variety to be precise. A good PX mirrors the flavours on the palate, in the glass – it’s almost a pudding in itself! If you want a lighter dessert with all the flavours of Christmas, a good glug of PX Sherry over some vanilla ice cream is fantastic, and a great alternative to the usual affogato, which uses coffee instead.
A well-deserved toast!
All that’s left to do is raise a glass to each other and the year that we’ve just come through.
It seems like it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for everyone – we managed to scoop the Harpers Wine ‘Best Indie Wine Merchant of the South West 2021’ award and overall ‘No.5 in the whole of the UK’ in the midst of it whilst moving premises in Sherborne too! We’d love to see you in our new digs (9 Old Yarn Mills, Sherborne DT9 3RQ) – and if you make it to us this side of Christmas we can help you source some of the delicious wines in this month’s article. Sadie.
by Sadie Wilkins, Indie Wine Merchant