"Match the weight of the wine to the food".
Christmas is a special time of the year. It is a time for family, friends and celebrations. It is a time for good food and good wines and a time to forget about our worries and to enjoy the more sensual pleasures in our lives. Enjoy our tips for choosing the best wine....
To plan your Christmas wines, consider the event itself. Is this a showcase for your culinary skills? Or is this a gathering for friends where the conversation is more important than the wines? The first event might call for vintage Champagne whilst Prosecco would suffice for the second. Remember the effect you are trying to create and plan your budget accordingly.
The second thing to remember is to match the weight of the wine to the food. Rich, heavy foods call for big, bold wines. But these big wines will overshadow light, delicate foods. Remember too that the sauce and accompaniments can be heavier than the main ingredient. For example, beef can be used in a rich stew or as a simple fillet. Think of the overall balance and weight of the dish when planning for the wines to be served.
For the office party choose four light-bodied wines - with one dry and one fruity for each of red and white. Pick interesting grape varieties. For red, try a dry Benegas-Lynch Cabernet Franc from Argentina and a fruitier, South African Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir. For white, pick a fruity Chardonnay from Cullen in Western Australia and a crisp, delicious Grand Cru Chablis – a Bougros from Colombier. Expect to pay £30.00 – £40.00 a bottle.
I always start Christmas morning with a nice Champagne – either Deutz’ Cuvee William (rich and powerful) or Taittinger’s Comte de Champagne (Blanc de Blancs, all Grand Cru, and stunning). Expect to pay £110.00 to £155.00 a bottle.
Christmas dinner in my native Canada is turkey with all the trimmings. The meal is flavour-packed with little pork sausages, fruity cranberry jelly, well-seasoned stuffing and creamy, buttery vegetables. So I choose a wine which balances well with these flavours without overpowering them. Try Flowers’ Sonoma Chardonnay for a white or their Sonoma Pinot Noir (£49.00 each). If you want to move away from California and increase the “Wow Factor”, choose a magnum of Olvena’s Syrah/Garnacha from Somontano in Spain (£60.00). All three wines match the food and are real crowd-pleasers. Don’t forget a nice glass of Viognier with the Boxing Day turkey sandwiches. I appreciate Chapoutier’s Invitare Condrieu (£42.00) or, if tired of Viognier, you could try Chapoutier’s beautiful white Chateauneuf-du-Pape at £30.00.
Other Christmas dinner choices include goose, ham and beef. These are always more straightforward in wine-matching. To match the richness of goose, serve a light Burgundian Pinot Noir or an Alsace Grand Cru Riesling (£35.00 and up). To go with the slightly dense and slightly salty taste of a juicy ham, opt for a (white) Chenin Blanc from the Loire in France or a nice juicy Merlot from Frog’s Leap in the Napa Valley (£20.00 to £29.00). For a splendid roast beef, choose the amazing Torres Mas La Plana, an intense aroma showing all the classic characteristics of the native land of Mas La Plana, together with notes of truffle, toast and wild red berry conserve. Great body and breadth on the palate, with juicy tannins that become balanced and elegant.. You and your fellow-diners will remember this dish!
And now we are on the home stretch – the dessert followed by cheese . Dessert wines have to be slightly sweeter than the dessert itself or they will taste thin and acidic. I prefer a simple soufflé with a fruit compote accompanied by Taittinger Nocturnes Sec Champagne at £47.00. If you have traditional Christmas Pudding, accompany it with the long and rich Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Sherry from Gonzalez Byass (£18.00 / half bottle). With a fine gorgonzola nothing can beat Fumanelli’s 2005 Amarone (£40.00) And then a game of charades accompanied by a glass of Port. For a truly sensational end to the day, decant the Taylor’s 1985 Vintage Port (£85.00) and relax.
Remember that Christmas comes but once a year. With a little forward thinking and planning, and a short consultation with your wine merchant, this year can be an extra-special celebration. A time to be remembered fondly through the long, cold winter months ahead. A time when food and wine came together in a truly epicurean feast.