Festive Drinking: A Red and White Christmas by Matt Walls
I wonder what Scrooge’s idea of the perfect Christmas lunch would be? Roast pauper with all the trimmings I suspect, washed down with a few bottles of claret. Well if you can’t treat yourself on Christmas Day, when can you?
If you’re opting for a more traditional roast this year, different types of meat taste their best with different types of wine. The general rule of thumb is the more intense the flavour, the more intense the wine to go with it. Matt Walls, author of 'Drink Me! How To Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine', gives us his recommendations for festive drinking.
Ham is pretty versatile when it comes to wine, but whites that have freshness and richness in tandem often work a treat – like an Alsace Pinot Gris, or an Australian Semillon Sauvignon. For something a bit different, you could try a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley – their autumnal apple and quince flavours backed up with a zingy bite can work well, particularly if the ham is served with a fruit sauce or honey glaze.
Good: Château de la Roulerie ‘Les Grandes Brosses’ Chenin Blanc 2011, Loire, France (£8.75; Oddbins)
Goose, eh? Get you. There’s something wonderfully decadent about roasting a goose though I must admit: partly how it starts out plump then gradually shrinks as you spoon off ladles of fat from the roasting pan below. The meat is richer and darker than turkey, so whether you go white or red, you need something with plenty of flavour and natural acidity to stand up to the richness of the meat. If you want white, try a dry Riesling from the Pfalz or Mosel in Germany (it will be dry if it says trocken on the label). If you’re going red, try something medium-bodied with a bit of spice – maybe a Syrah from the Rhône or New Zealand, or a Cabernet Franc from the Loire.
Good: Sainsburys ‘Taste the Difference’ Crozes-Hermitage 2010, Rhône, France (£9.79, Sainsburys)
Turkey with all the trimmings
I suspect there’ll be a fair few more of us eating turkey than goose this year. They may both be birds, but the meat is very different and calls for a different approach. Turkey is relatively mild in flavour, sometimes with a slightly earthy side, so opt for a medium intensity white wine like a lightly oaked Chardonnay. Red wine can also work well if you prefer, but try and veer towards the less full-bodied end of the scale – so avoid powerful Shirazes or Cabernet Sauvignons and go for a lighter style like a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir.
Good: La Grille Pinot Noir 2010, St-Pourçain, France (£6.99; Majestic Wines)
Very good: Jean Foillard Morgon 2010, Beaujolais, France (£23.00; Green & Blue Wines)
Rib of beef
Roast beef loves a big chunky rich red wine. You’re safe with pretty much anything full-bodied and red. If it’s from a hot country, chances are it will be more powerfully flavoured. If it’s too light, like a Valpolicella, you won’t be able to taste the wine very much and it might taste a bit sour. This is the only time where you really need a red wine for the match to work; if you do want a white on the table too, go for something rich, flavoursome and maybe a bit oaky. Definitely not Sauvignon Blanc, it never works very well with red meat. Choices like an Aussie Shiraz, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon or an Argentinean Malbec would all fit the bill, or powerful reds from Spain and Portugal.
Good: Tesco ‘Finest*’ Stellenbosch Red Blend 2010, South Africa (£9.99; Tesco)
Very good: Palacios ‘Camins del Priorat’ 2009, Priorat, Spain (£17.95; Green & Blue Wines)
Stuffed or not, there’s nothing more pleasing at the end of the meal than digging your spoon into a steaming chunk of Christmas pud and inhaling the boozy vapours. Sweet foods call for sweet wines, but instead of going for the traditional golden Sauternes from France, consider one of the darker, browner wines that contain more dried fruit and nut notes rather than fresh fruit flavours. That way you are marrying the flavour of the pud with the flavour of the wine. Try a fortified wine. If you haven’t drank one for a while, you’ll wonder why not on revisiting them, good ones are utterly delicious, great value and work really well with food. Try a sweet Oloroso sherry, a Malmsey madeira or a tawny port. They’d all go well with a mince pie, too.
Good: Tesco Finest* Late Bottled Vintage Port 2006, Portugal (£10.00; Tesco)
Very good: Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny, Australia (£19.75; Slurp.co.uk)
To find out more about Matt’s forthcoming sampling sessions or to read his blog, go to www.mattwalls.co.uk
First published in The Transmitter Magazine (November 2012)