One of the joys of working in the wine trade is that we get to practice what we preach, preferably as often as possible, but most certainly at Christmas time! The Holiday Season is a fabulous time for wine drinking, with friends, with family, with great food. Enjoy. Indulge. Sleep. Repeat.
However, what wines to serve at Christmas? We get inundated with umpteen offers at this time of year from wine merchants, super markets, online clubs, and yes even wine investment companies, pushing numerous wines on us. What does work well? The most frequent question we get asked at this time of year is, “what wine goes well with turkey?!”. Perhaps we can shed some light on this annual dilemma.
First of all, and most importantly, drink and share wine that you personally love. We always try to have a bottle of mature claret on the table, ideally something from the early 70’s. Not because it goes especially well with turkey (although it can do!), but because we love old Bordeaux, and like to share it, in a slightly miserly way, “a splash for you, half the decanter for me”. Christmas is the perfect excuse to open fun things. There are some standard combinations, however, which are ideal.
Turkey itself is typical of white poultry. You don’t want a big powerful red, or a too acidic white. A light Pinot Noir is regarded as the perfect complement to turkey. Red Burgundy is the classic choice, although if you want a little more opulence, a well made Californian, or one of the exquisite offerings from New Zealand, would be hard to beat. Equally, for your white wine, Chardonnay is ideal – it has some richness and texture to compliment the texture of the meat – while a bone dry Sauvignon Blanc might be too coarse. Again, a white Burgundy would be bang on, perhaps a steely Chablis if you do prefer a drier style of wine.
We don’t all eat turkey though! Goose is immensely traditional, and being fattier, can take more intense wines. A richer style of Champagne, or a sweet Sauternes or Barsac from a year with good acidity, would both make delightful, if more unusual accompaniments (‘dessert wine’ is a misnomer, it would be ruinous to serve Yquem with pudding!). A big spicy red, such as a good Rhone, perhaps Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a Cote-Rotie, and a juicy white Rhone alongside, would be lovely.
Ham can also be a challenge – a soft bold Malbec, from Argentina or Cahors, and a white with acidity and structure, perhaps a Pouilly Fume, or even Albarino from Galicia.
For those who enjoy darker meats at Christmas, such as game and venison, mores structured, tannic wines, such as great Bordeaux or even big Syrah (aka Shiraz) would be fabulous. Much here depends on the intensity of the meat, and the cooking.
What to have with Christmas pudding? Traditional Christmas or ‘plum’ pudding is so rich and intense, that it prefers red wine to white. A rich red, such as an Italian Ripasso, can add a new dimension. Or knock it out of the park with a dark Olorosso or Pedro Ximenez.
Which just leaves enough room for the Port and a slice or two of Stilton! Remember to gently decant if drinking vintage port.
Have a wonderful Christmas!