3D wine recommendations … to get you through the festive season
This is the time of year when diet goes out the window and we indulge in a wide variety of dishes, not just the usual seasonal ones, from all around the world. The same goes for wine. We might encounter new wines in a pub or restaurant, or simply diversify a little at home during the celebrations – and why not?
Here we recommend some of our most popular wines to pair with the wide array of meats, fish and cheeses you might be lucky enough to enjoy over the festive period.
A great favourite at Christmas and very traditional, it can make the most luxurious of starters, such as smoked salmon and avocado terrine or smoked salmon and beetroot blinis.
Lighter, crisper whites work well and I can think of no better match than our Gold Medal-winning Sancerre Cuvée Caillottes 2015 from Domaine du Carroir Perrin. The gorgeous, mouth-filling flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and tropical flavours act as the perfect foil to the oiliness of the fish.
Alternatively, try the thrilling, pea-pod fresh Heaphy Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Kahurangi Estate in New Zealand or our tender, mineral Chablis 2015 from Domaine Vrignaud.
Turkey – with all the trimmings
Turkey is a low fat meat and is not especially powerfully flavoured. It is usually the trimmings that provide all the flavour – bacon, chipolatas, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and so on. Feeling hungry yet?
A red or a white wine could work well. We recommend a Cru Beaujolais. Our three top Cru Beaujolais – Fleurie, Côte de Brouilly and Morgon will all provide a super match and are full flavoured enough to keep up with the trimmings. However, our exclusive Morgon La Roche Briday 2014 is sensationally good this year. Bernard and Thomas Collonge at Domaine de Colonat have produced a beautiful wine with fresh strawberry, raspberry and dark cherry fruit wrapped in soft, supple, creamy tannins.
If you are looking for something with a bit of age, then a mature claret would work very nicely as the tannins will have mellowed sufficiently. It’s a special occasion, so why not dazzle your friends and family with our exclusive Margaux from Château Mongravey. We recommend the 2007 or 2008 as they are both drinking very well – or perhaps even the 2009, which has lovely ripe, silky fruit flavours.
For a white wine, look no further than our medal-winning Côte de Nuits-Villages blanc 2014 from Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand in Burgundy. It has rich, buttery flavours that stand up to even the most powerful of flavours, but it has an impressively elegant, mineral side too.
Goose or duck
Our exclusive Riesling Les Prélats 2015 from Domaine Gruss has a lovely balance of fresh lime and stone-fruit flavours coupled with bright acidity. It’s a top choice for dealing with the rich goose and because 2015 was an excellent vintage, it has enough weight too. You might like to try André Gruss’s lightly off-dry Pinot Gris Ortel 2015 too, which offers attractively plump peach and pear fruit, slatey spice and fine minerality.
For the duck we would like to recommend one of the rather lovely, delicate and elegant Pinot Noirs from Jean-Michel Jacob at Domaine Lucien Jacob. His Savigny-lès-Beaune 2014, which won a Silver Medal at the International Wine Challenge this year, is the epitome of fine, refined, fragrant Pinot. It has fresh floral perfume leading to gentle, creamy, layered, raspberry and red berry fruit and juicy tannins.
If your duck is braised and served with a rich tomato and olive sauce, or perhaps a dark cherry and red wine sauce, then try Alessandro Gricciolli’s deliciously moreish Chianti Riserva ‘345 2013. It is supple and juicy, with dark cherry, plum, herbs, spice and liquorice flavours.
If your duck is served with quince or oranges, then try Pierre Baur’s amazing Gewürztraminer Herrenweg 2011. This unique Alsatian wine has an exotic, off-dry mix of lychee, honeysuckle and rose water flavours that really linger – but it also has the acidity to cut through the fattiness of the dish. You might receive a few sideways glances if you serve this style with duck … but you will almost certainly be rewarded for your inspired, slightly wacky choice!
Many people rather enjoy a luxurious joint of beef rather than turkey on Christmas day. Low fat cuts like fillet are best served with a low-tannin style of red wine like a Cru Beaujolais or mature claret. If it’s a rib of beef, then why not go for our soft, supple, Malbec-dominated Blaye Grande Réserve 2013 from the brilliant Baudets at Château Monconseil-Gazin. The fresh bramble and chocolate flavours should work nicely with the beef especially if served with a rich gravy.
Beef Wellington can be very special indeed. A special wine is needed, such as a silky-smooth red claret, to complement the succulent beef, pâté and pastry combo. Our exclusive St-Emilion Grand Cru Clos Villemaurine 2009 from Château Cardinal Villemaurine fits the bill perfectly with its opulent flavours of plum and damson fruit intermixed with exotic spices and toasty oak. An alternative to Bordeaux would be a stylish red burgundy. Vincent Désertaux makes just that and his Côte de Nuits-Villages rouge Les Perrières 2012 is wonderfully elegant with velvety red berry fruits and the earthy ‘underbrush’ flavours picking up nicely on the duxelles.
Lamb is one of the most wine-friendly of meats with its sweet, fatty flavour. You can opt for a mature Bordeaux or Rhône red or a young, fruitier New World red.
Roast lamb served with garlic and rosemary for example needs a robust style and you can be sure that our exclusive Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 from La Fagotière has the freshness to deal with the fatty lamb as well as enough dark black, jammy fruit sprinkled with herbs and spice.
In the depths of winter you might prefer a hearty lamb stew, hot pot or tagine. Here our exclusive Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2014 from Domaine des Grands Devers is sufficiently robust enough with its assortment of spice, herbs and pepper infused black fruits. Our unoaked, biodynamic Vacqueyras 2014 from Montirius, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, has stunning purity and depth of spicy flavour which will match most lamb dishes brilliantly well.
Venison & game
A lot depends on how it is cooked and what it is served with. It may also depend on how mature the meat is. In general, a mature red wine works best. You could choose from a Burgundy, Bordeaux or Rhône Valley red.
A classic match would be a nicely mature red burgundy from Domaine Ragot or Domaine Chevrot.
The layers of leafy, earthy flavour and texture from Nicolas Ragot’s Givry 1er Cru La Grande Berge 2009 or the Chevrot brothers’ Maranges Le Bois de Clementine 2010 are now at their zenith. If you have any in your cellar, then Christmas is a good moment to broach them.
Guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge or pigeon need to be hung for a while at least in order to encourage the gamey flavours and tenderise the meat. The more mature the flavour of the meat, then the more mature the wine to be served can be. A mature red burgundy such as our exclusive Gevrey-Chambertin En Songe from Domaine Lucien Jacob, or a mature claret such as our Margaux from Château Mongravey are classic matches.
For something different, try an old vintage of our Bourgueil Bretêche from Domaine de Chevalerie in the Loire Valley. As it reaches its tenth year it develops incredible savoury, ‘gamey’ aromas and flavours that will mirror the meat perfectly. Or you could hardly do better than our stylish Chianti Classico Riserva di Fizzano Gran Selezione from Rocca delle Macìe in Tuscany. The fresh, spicy plum and damson fruit and long, liquorice and herb infused finish should work nicely with feathered or furred game. If you are lucky enough to have wild boar with homemade pici pasta, then here’s your perfect match!
Sea bass, monkfish, turbot
For those preferring fish at Christmas, a fleshy, regal turbot needs a rich, dry white wine of some weight and class.
Try our smoky, mineral Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2015 from Domaine Vrignaud or our powerful yet elegantly juicy Pouilly-Fuisse En Châtenay 2014 from Domaine Drouin.
The sea bass is perhaps a touch more delicate, and although it very much depends on the sauce accompaniment, try our lovely brace of white burgundies – the fresh, mineral Hautes Côtes de Beaune Les Larrets blanc 2014 from Domaine Lucien Jacob or the buttery and biscuity Givry Champ Pourot 2014 from Domaine Ragot. If the sea bass is just grilled with olive oil, you could go simple with the wine and choose the lightly honeyed, apple-scented Saumur Blanc 2014 from Domaine de la Cune. Sometimes the simplest of wines make the most memorable of combinations!
And finally … the cheese
Often, a number of different cheeses are served on a cheese board at Christmas. This can present something of a challenge for the wine. A surprising ‘all-rounder’ that can cope with a range of different styles and flavours would be a lightly off-dry white such as a Riesling or Pinot Gris. Or perhaps a rich, full-bodied Chardonnay. More often than not, these will work better with a range of cheeses, especially the creamy ones.
However, here are some specific recommendations:
Coteaux du Layon Rochefort, Domaine de la Motte, Loire Valley
A match made in heaven with the sweetness of Gilles Sorin’s beautifully-crafted wine going so well with the saltiness of the cheese.
- Goat’s cheese
Sancerre Cuvée Caillottes, Domaine du Carroir Perrin, Loire Valley
A cheese and wine match from the region. What could be better? The Gold Medal-winning 2015 vintage would be a sublime match.
- Red Leicester
Margaux, Château Mongravey, Bordeaux
A full-bodied, mature red is best. Try the 2007 as it is drinking incredibly well now.
Beaune 1er Cru Les Avaux, Domaine Lucien Jacob, Burgundy
Soft, mouth coating cheeses can be a problem for reds. So choose one with light tannins, such as a red burgundy. Our exclusive Beaune from the Jacobs is delightfully smooth and elegant – we recommend the 2013 vintage.
Champagne Brut Origine, Champagne Fresne Ducret, Champagne
The freshness of champagne tends to go well with strong-flavoured, runny cheeses. Real richness here and bright lemon and honeyed fruit.
Côte de Bourg, Château Rousselle, Bordeaux
A gorgeous, Merlot-dominated wine that is sweet, juicy and lush but full-bodied enough to cope with strong flavoured cheddar. Hard cheeses generally do better with reds, than soft, creamy cheeses. Try the 2014 for a perfect match.
Champagne Vintage, Maison Lenique, Champagne
Another surprising, but really good match! Our elegant, balanced, mineral blend works brilliantly with quite a few cheeses. Perhaps it is due to the very high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend? We recommend the 2011 vintage.
Chianti Colli Senesi Ellera, Castel di Pugna, Tuscany
Tuscant meets Tuscany. Our fresh, jolly, sweet and sour cherry-flavoured 2015 vintage of Chianti is perfect with young Pecorino. Choose a more mature Chianti if the cheese is similarly mature.
- Smoked cheese
Gewürztraminer Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Gruss, Alsace
Normally quite tricky to match. You need big, bold flavours and Gewürz doesn’t come any bolder with its unique combination of exotic flavours, sweetness and acidity. We recommend the 2015 vintage.
Photo credits: Smoked salmon (rowcliff.co.uk), turkey (mirror.co.uk), goose (dishmaps.com), beef (barefeetinthekitchen.com), lamb (telegraph.co.uk), venison (deerfordinner), sea bass (greatbritishchefs.com), cheese (summerislesfoods.co.uk)