With the focus on festive entertaining this month, our thoughts turn to the big day and the main Christmas meal. Choosing wines to complement the range of savoury and sweet flavours on the table as well as please all guests can be a challenge so aim for a well-structured menu partnered by wines with broad appeal. There will be plenty of scope to slip in personal favourites!
Fizz is fundamental to proceedings and sets the party mood. Gilles Dumangin’s celebrated Pinot-Noir dominated Brut Cuvée champagnes have exceptional finesse and a cleansing purity of fruit – delicious with or without canapés. The weightier, toasty Grande Réserve works beautifully with lightly smoked salmon and the superb ultra-dry Extra-Brut is an ideal partner for oysters or other shellfish. If you prefer a still white wine, classic, minerally Loire Sauvignons with their abundant gooseberry fruit and nettley tang such as André Vatan’s Sancerre, Dominique Guyot’s Pouilly-Fumé and the Teillers’ Menetou-Salon offer the perfect foil for smoked salmon and are irresistibly refreshing.
A well-chosen red or white wine for the main meal will take turkey and all the traditional trimmings in its stride. Steer clear of heavily oaked wines in favour of lively, full-flavoured, fruit-driven examples to complement the subtle gamey flavours of the bird. You are spoilt for choice! The Boissons’ Grenache dominated Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Père Caboche is juicy, voluptuous and bursting with ripe, red fruit as is Lucien Michel’s Châteauneuf: Le Vieux Donjon. These lively, elegant wines have a complexity and tannic structure to handle the sweet and spicy flavours in any stuffing or accompanying sauces with ease. Pinot Noir with turkey is a heavenly festive match and a Burgundian Pinot Noir from Nuits-Saint-Georges: Domaine Paul Misset hits the spot perfectly: packed with red berry fruit and sous-bois aromas and a lick of sweet spice and smoke to boot, it retains an uplifting freshness on the palate. From Bordeaux, Château Peychaud has a soft, ripe fruitiness, is a real crowd-pleaser and offers excellent value.
Medium to full-bodied, dry and fruity white wines with balanced, refreshing acidity and minerality are excellent turkey partners and include, from the northern Rhône , Alain Graillot’s Crozes Hermitage or the equally oak-free white Père Caboche, an appealing wine to complement the flavoursome, dense meat. Burgundy also offers a ripe and complex Chardonnay: Meursault: Closerie des Alisières with a wonderful purity of fruit, backed by nuances of oak, clean acidity and a long, dry finish.
A fore-rib of mature beef will be a spectacular Christmas roast and demands a big wine: Syrah, with its weight, texture and ripe fruit, is a great option. The dark, spiced, damson plum fruit in Alain Graillot’s Crozes-Hermitage will naturally knit with the sweet earthiness of the meat and has plenty of supple tannins and palate-cleansing acidity. Equally expressive and complex, a Jasper Hill Shiraz would be an excellent choice for beef: try the Occam’s Razor Shiraz with its rich concentration of dark sweet fruit and ripe tannins.
Chill down a bottle of the luscious and fragrant Muscat du Cap Corse from Domaine Pieretti in Corsica, ready for the Christmas pudding finale. The refreshing sweetness of the Muscat grape contrasts with the rich vine fruits and nuts in the festive pud and makes for a delectable treat.
A ‘digestif’ will soothe both stomach and soul after such a feast. A superb aged Bas Armagnac from the Dèche family with its intensely fruity aroma and warming spice and spirit on the palate is the perfect fireside companion as is Julian Temperley’s famed Cider Brandy: Alchemy. Wonderfully mellow and complex, this 15 year old, golden elixir from Somerset is Christmas magic indeed.
Joyeux Noël à tous!