Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim is not alone in hankering after a turkey for Christmas. Last year the Brits ate some ten million turkeys as part of their festive meal! That’s 76% of families in the UK. Whilst some of the Vintage Roots team will be enjoying a vegetarian or vegan Christmas, a fair few of us will be tucking into a slice of the nation’s favourite with all of the trimmings. So, what wine to serve with Christmas dinner?
Which wines go best with Turkey?
Will we all be drinking the same? Unlikely! Turkey is pretty adaptable, given that it doesn’t have an especially strong flavour. It’s as possible to find a great white wine partner as it is a red. Champagne is also a delicious (if slightly more extravagant) choice.
In reality it is the trimmings that can be a trickier food hurdle for your wine partner to negotiate. Pigs in blankets, stuffing and roast potatoes (yummy!) have high levels of fat and that can alienate some wines. The sweetness of cranberry sauce and the fact that it is often made with Port wine or red wine can put some white wines in the shade, whilst the earthy, sometimes slightly sulphurous flavours of Brussel sprouts can be as much of a challenge to a fine bottle of wine, as they are to the kids round the table.
So, what’s the advice? Well, as we’ve already said, your choices are extensive and should be driven by personal preferences, rather than getting too hung up on the do’s and don’ts. Still, here are some ideas from the Vintage Roots team…
Vintage Roots Picks their wines for the Christmas Turkey
Anyone for sparkling?
- Unashamedly decadent, your bubbly aperitif could very well be an excellent partner to your festive turkey. The Rosé from Champagne Fleury is as pretty as holly berries with an impressive palate that is beautifully textured and flavoursome. Most importantly it has a lovely line of acidity that tames the fattier elements on the plate. A modestly priced alternative is the Luisa Merlot Spumante Extra Dry which is a generously fruity sparkling rosé that will please everyone from the chef to Aunty Edna and long-lost cousin Frank.
Delicious Clarets to Consider
- If you like to keep things traditional then the answer may lie in a red Bordeaux. An overly tannic red may have a foodie punch up with fat on the palate (though textured, fine tannins can absorb the fat), whilst a mature red might get pushed about by a sweet, fruity cranberry sauce. We suggest the Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur, which has a significant amount of the Merlot in the blend, giving it a plumy, juicy feel and lovely, supple tannins.
Will Pinot Noir make my Turkey sing?
- Fans of Pinot Noir can easily make a case for having their favourite grape well represented on the table. Try to avoid a wine that’s too light as it might get swamped by all of the flavours. One of our gutsier Pinots comes from Domaine de Brau – Pure in name and expression, it’s exceptionally good value. Domaine Bousquet is an Argentine estate that makes top-class wine and their Reserve Pinot Noir is worthy of consideration. If the budget allows, one of our top choices is Domaine’s Michel Magnien Gevry Chambertin Aux Echezeaux which will bring more than a splash of magic to the festivities.
Can I serve white wine with the Christmas Dinner?
- It isn’t all about red wine… There are plenty of white wines that will go down a treat with Christmas lunch. In fact, there will be many who would argue that the acidity that comes in white wine is an essential consideration when making your selection for the December 25th. They also tend to work very well with the obligatory bread sauce! We think the best choices are bolder whites with more texture and spice. A Chilean star that fits the bill is the Novas Chardonnay Gran Reserva from Emiliana, whilst the Walnut Block Nutcracker Chardonnay is a top-choice from New Zealand. Closer to home is the Spanish Symphony No Added Sulphur Garnacha Blanca which has the layers and complexity to tackle all that the Christmas feast has to offer.
A Turkey-free Zone this Christmas? – Some alternative Christmas meat ideas wine suggestions to pair them with
We know that 24% of you won’t be eating Turkey this year. Maybe it’s meat-free this year or perhaps you’re looking to explore some tasty meat alternatives… If so, good for you!
So, which wines pair with which meats? There are some very broad guidelines to pairing wines with meat that are worth keeping in mind:
- As with any food and wine pairing, the more robustly flavoured the meat, the fuller bodied the wine should ideally be.
- Acidity in wine is a great foil to the fat in meat and helps keep your palate refreshed.
- Tannins in red wines will be more evident with leaner meats like game birds and venison and turkey. When there’s a bit more fat in the offing, the tannins help prevent the palate feeling too heavy and the tannins, in turn, feel softer.
- Don’t just think about the meat, think about how it is to be cooked. Rare or well done? Pan-fried or slow roasted? In a spicy red wine sauce or maybe with fruit?
- You can serve white wine with red meat! It’s maybe not common but that doesn’t make it wrong! Aim for white wines with good structure and weight and if you can add some citrus to the dish (vinegars, lemon juice and grapefruit for instance), that’ll give your white wine something to latch on to and create a nice link between the dish and wine.
- There is absolutely no right or wrong! Put together a wine you love with a dish you adore and you will not go wrong!
Keeping some of these thoughts in mind, here are some ideas for alternative Christmas foods and wines to match.
What wine for game birds?
Birds like partridge and pheasant are never fatty and so the key to finding the right wine is to steer clear of heavily oaked wines or those that are tannic.
What wine for goose and duck?
Amazingly enough, there was a time when goose was the go-to bird for Christmas! Giving less meat per kg, it is less popular than turkey but a few of us still enjoy it on the big day. Like duck, it’s much richer and fattier than turkey and these qualities should be borne in mind when you’re making your wine choice.
White wines should have a good backbone of acidity and be broad in texture and flavour and reds too should have some crispness and crunch with plenty of character.
A great red wine pick would be Les Quarterons St Nicolas de Bourgueil. A Loire red that is 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Has lots of juicy red fruit with the freshness that you want to cut through the fat from the goose and duck.
Wine ideas for venison?
Venison is quite lean in comparison to beef and gamier in flavour too. We think an elegant Syrah (Shiraz is the answer here), so look no further than the Clos de Caveau Vacqueras ‘Fruit Sauvage’ or Domaine Belle’s Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles
You can taste the passion in this fabulously earthy Rhône red. ‘Proper wine‘ Jancis Robinson MW. 92 Points – RobertParker.com
What wines go with beef and lamb?
One of our favourite roast lamb recipes comes from the great Simon Hopkinson in his outstanding book, “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”. In essence, you flavour the leg with anchovies, butter and rosemary and pour plentiful volumes of white wine over the top with squeezes of lemon juice. It has to render one the best culinary smells, ever! Salty and gorgeous, it is yummy paired with a quality Grüner Veltliner. Try the Christoph Bauer.
If not exactly a classic in the turkey sense, a rib of beef is definitely a treat and special enough for Christmas Day. Purists will recommend different wines for different cuts and whilst that’s maybe a bit over the top for some, what is true is that where you are on the ‘rare to well-done’ spectrum is worth bearing in mind. The pinker you like it, the juicier the red should be, whereas a medium to well-done piece will show better with a grainy, earthy and altogether spicier wine.
This red trio will all make for a delicious drinking partner to your beef.
Domaine Bousquet Malbec (available in both full and half bottles!) is an elegant, full-bodied red, made for beef!
A good, fruit forward and very juicy option is the Cuvés Secrete Pinot Noir
If you like your beef either medium to well-done then this brilliantly vivid, spicy Spanish Tempranillo is a top choice
A few words on sustainable meat-eating
Where we can, we try and eat organic meat. If you are struggling to find organically certified, aim to find local, sustainably-reared produce. Local butchers (if you have one!) are a good place to start and these days there are plentiful online suppliers.
Remember you can balance out the meat consumption by having meat-free days over the festive holidays… Our Vegan Christmas Blog is coming very soon!