Christmas is simply the best excuse to push the boat out and try some wonderful wines. I’m excited now, just thinking of crunches of sweet parsnip, huddles of sprouts, my favourite lemon-dashed, herb-mottled stuffing … oh, and the turkey. All of those flavours will be demanding my attention and then wine will add another layer of complexity for my palate. Which wines for Christmas lunch?
My Christmas dilemma was eased when I was invited to a wine pairing Christmas lunch and it would be rude of me not to share some ideas with you.
Here’s seven wines for Christmas lunch
Our festive occasion began with the most wonderful champagne, Gosset Grande Reserve NV (RRP £45-£49, widely available including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols) from the oldest house in Champagne. It had a classic brioche nose, dappled with sweet spice, and shivers of fine, elegant bubbles delivered citrus flavours with an elegant biscuity backbone.
I carried my champagne to the table and it sipped seamlessly with our starter of marinated salmon, Dorset crab in pink pickled ginger and lemon dressing. It wasn’t meant to be the wine star of the show; I’ll now introduce you to a sauvignon blanc and an Australian white blend.
Seresin Estate Sauvignon 2015 (£14.99, winedirect.co.uk) This is a lovely sauvignon blanc and it isn’t one of those heady New Zealand wines which grapples with your senses. The reason is there is 11 per cent semillon in the blend, which calms everything down and brings a touch of Old World order to this New World wine. It has tropical and citrus aromas, with some classic gooseberry notes and a delicate creaminess.
McHenry Hohnen Amigos White 2012 (£15.99, winedirect.co.uk) This was a wow with the crab and salmon. It is a blend of chardonnay, marsanne and roussanne from the Margaret River region. Murray McHenry and David Hohnen are brothers-in-law, with Hohnen having a fantastic pedigree as founder of the iconic Cloudy Bay winery. This wine wants you to sit up and notice it … and I did. It has notes of peaches, nuts and waxy lemons with a heartbeat of minerality.
Over to the main event, the traditional turkey and trimmings. I always opt for a pinot noir with my Christmas lunch and so I was very much open to new ideas.
Viu Manent ViBo Vinedo Centenario 2013 (RRP £16.99, oddbins.com) A clue to this wine is in its name – the grapes are grown in vineyards planted over 100 years ago in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Old vines are the wise things of the vineyard. They don’t produce lots of grapes, but the ones which are harvested have a special concentrated quality. It is a blend of 51% cabernet sauvignon, with malbec and a dash of petit verdot. It is intense with blackcurrants but there is an element of mint, of freshness, of complexity, of subtlety, which didn’t overpower my plate.
Vidal-Fleury Cairanne 2012 (RRP £13.50, also Oddbins) Shiraz takes the blending lead in this Côtes du Rhône Villages red, with grenache and mourvèdre following along on the coat tails. It is bold with black and red berries, but earthy and herbal too, which contrasts nicely with the powerhouse fruit. Oh, there was spice (and all things nice) which gave a good bit of extra bite.
Finally, if you want some inspiration for cheeses, how about a Beaujolais wine, Henry Fessy Brouilly 2015 (RRP £12.99, Waitrose) Beaujolais is great with many cheeses because it is fruit-forward and light in body. It offers a raspberry medley with the cheese and doesn’t demand a palate battle.
For your pudding? Well one of my favourites is Madeira and Blandy’s 15 YO Bual (RRP £25, also Waitrose) I love the story behind Madeira, which is a fortified wine and aged under heat. Centuries ago it was discovered that wines were “cooked” when shipped across the heat of the equator and were much better for it, not just in flavour but in robustness. The underlying notes of nuts, raisin and caramel are perfect for your Christmas pudding and hard cheeses.
- First published in the November edition of The Messenger, a magazine for law professionals in the North West of England and Trinity Mirror regional newspapers