December 6, 2021

Christmas is in the air … but what is for dinner?

Christmas

Food friendly wineswhat is for Christmas!

Often there is difficulty in matching a wine to the many yuletide flavours. The traditional dishes of glazed ham on the bone, roast turkey with all the trimmings followed by rich rich pudding with brandy butter. Or the traditional Australian twist of sumptuous seafood. Or an Eastern European Christmas with a traditional Carp. Also, there is the added complication of catering to so many guests tastes. For instance, Aunty Madge only drinks Marlborough Savvy. While Dad will never drink anything but powerful Barossa Shiraz. And your sister’s new flame insists on Rioja! Sigh!!!

Perhaps it is better to simply pour wines that you enjoy & maybe use it as an opportunity to experiment a bit, introducing the sticklers to something a little more alternative & food friendly.  Not that Marlborough Savvy & big reds aren’t delightful drinking. Just that they tend to overpower the flavours of food. Even the rich dishes of Christmas.

Here are some tips to start with:

Seafood

Freshly cooked prawns & smoked salmon are often a staple on my family’s table.  A sparkling wine/Champagne is always a good accompaniment for prawns & smoked salmon as it is for oysters & sushi. The fresh acid cuts through the oils of the seafood while keeping the flavours light.  I love the gorgeously velvety Henschke Non-Vintage Blanc de Noir ($45) with its berry brioche richness. If you want to go French, well you could not do better than the Ayala NV Brut Majeur (or the Zero Dosage version) with its pretty floral nose with a hint of smokiness along its power & length. Or, try an English sparkling wine, Pommery England is also an excellent recommendation.

Oysters ‘au naturel’ is a classic match with a neutral wine such as a young Hunter Valley Semillon, something like McWilliams Lovedale Semillon or why not try an incredibly delicate Muscadet sur lie. A Clare Valley Riesling or an Australian or Italian Vermentino is great with seared scallops & lightly grilled white fleshed fish. Want something a little rounder, then something like Yalumba Viognier (AU$20 | £10) or Santa Julia Torrontes (£9.5) might be your style.  Those stylish French on the Riviera knew that rosé will suit pink fleshed fish, such as Salmon or Trout, considering how well the two go together for Salade Nicoise.  The silky French styled Kylie Minogue Rose (AU$25 | £8) or the Charles Melton Rose of Virginia (AU$30 | £21) would work well.

Hedonist Shiraz

Turkey

Turkey is a richly textured dish but alone, without the sauce & stuffing, is not powerfully flavoured. You need something equally as rich but high in refreshing acid & this is where the modern Chardonnays come into their own.  The luxurious Tolpuddle Chardonnay (AU$85 | £48 | US$49) is well worth pushing the boat out for, Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay (AU$29 | £13) is a fresh one too. The freshness of the CVNE Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanca (£10) is good for turkey with a lighter soul. That is, Turkey without the rich trimmings.

If it just has to be a turkey with all the rich treats then a red will be a good match. It will be best to have something that is lighter in texture like an elegant Pinot Noir such as Jane Eyre Mornington Pinot (AU$65 | £40) or a Bordeaux. Or a more medium bodied Shiraz such as the Hedonist Shiraz (AU$25 | £12). Big powerful wines are best left for conversation afterwards.

Sweet….

Pudding is a tough act to match. Usually it calls for a well fortified wine and we are very lucky here in Australia to have these wines ingrained into our culture.  A Liqueur Tokay or Muscat is a must. Stanton & Killeen, Morris or Pfeiffer are good choices from the Rutherglen & they all have a range that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Not in Australia, why not look for a liqueur Zinfandel, or a chocolatey PX Sherry like Gonzalez Byass Noe or a toffee fig version such as Lustau PX San Emilio.  Basically, my philosophy is that if you can drizzle it over ice-cream, you can have it with pudding!!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

For more information about Bordeaux wines, visit Vins de Bordeaux.

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