Christmas Food & Wine Pairings with AFJ

By
mentzy
1 December, 2018

Anthony was born in the worst vintage of the eighties, but that has only made him more determined to taste the great wines of the world. Like many in the trade he honed his passion on the shop floors of Majestic, eventually working for their on-trade and fine wine departments. From there he moved on to a stint at Bordeaux Index before joining fine wine importers, Mentzendorff at the end of 2015. Outside of work Anthony is a keen sailor, loves cooking and enjoys watching all sports, particularly football (Southampton) and cricket. His bank manager thinks he enjoys wine too much.

The traditionalists: Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, Brussel sprouts

It would not be Christmas without turkey but you must be careful, turkey is not a powerful white meat and has little amounts of fat – hence why it dries out if overcooked – so the traditionalists amongst us might not like that fact that I would recommend a full-bodied white wine or a medium-bodied red wine to go with. Good Chardonnay in general is often found in the same areas as good Pinot Noir so I would look towards the Côte de Beaune. The greatest white wines of Burgundy and some very fine reds are grown on this stretch.

White: Domaine Chanson’s 2013 Meursault. Alternatively the Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet from the 2014 vintage.

Red: The 2011 Savigny-Dominode 1er Cru also from Chanson

The turkey-haters:  Beef Wellington

This is more like it for Generation X – Beef Wellington is one of the few opportunities where you can drink a big, powerful red. The chewy meat will wash away the tannins so why not enjoy that bottle you’ve been hiding away under the stairs?

Red: From Tapanappa and the Adelaide Hills the 2013 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc

The beachcombers: BBQ Lobster

First of all, let’s answer the question that is most asked.  No, you cannot serve red wine with lobster. The tannin in red wine will overpower the delicate flavours of the lobster, therefore no red wine, not even Beaujolais or any other for that matter should be served. Ok now we’ve cleared that up, it would be tempting to let your imagination drift towards the golden slopes of the Côte d’Or, however if you are having BBQ Lobster for Christmas lunch I’m guessing you are somewhere hot, the sun is shining and if you are not on the beach, the sea is very close by. You were right with Chardonnay but why not keep it local.

White: The outstanding 2017 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay from the Hemel-en-Aarde in South African or The Tapanappa 2016 Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay would be excellent choices.

The skiers: Fondue or raclette

A Swiss wine may seem leftfield but many white wines from the countries that surround the Alps produce some great wines to pair with raclette or cheese fondue and there is no better than a fine, dry Riesling. ‘Reece-ling’ must be the World’s most misunderstood, and mispronounced, grape variety and to me it is great not just because it, like Pinot Noir for example, is so exceptionally good at expressing terroir, but also because it makes white wines that are so good at ageing. A fine Riesling almost demands time in bottle. Their perfume and raciness can make them particularly food-friendly – often more so than a heavier, oak-aged white.

White: Rieslings from the Mosel, Alsace or the Wachau are some of the wine world’s most distinctive, least imitable wine styles: light, crisp, racy, refreshing as a mountain stream and where the best can age for a decade or two in bottle. We would suggest the Schieferkopf Riesling Lieu-dit-Buehl from Michel Chapoutier.

The pescatarians: Whole poached salmon

Salmon is a delicious and unique fish, but one that can be tricky to pair with wine but how you cook the salmon should determine the wines you pair with it so with poached salmon, a rich Chardonnay can be wonderful but I’d look to the Rhône. These weighty but food-friendly whites are inexpensive and offer an exciting mix of characterful, juicy white wines. It’s a bit harder to find a red wine that pairs with salmon. The richness of the wine can overwhelm the salmon flavour if you’re not careful so try a lighter style.

White: M.Chapoutier Condrieu Invitare 2016, the biodynamic 2015 Hermitage Chante-Alouette or from Saint Joseph Les Granilites 2015

Red: A light Pinot Noir such as the 2016 from Hamilton Russell or Tapanappa Foggy Hill. Alternatively try a Gamay such as Domaine Chanson’s Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent or Beaujolais-Villages.

The country folk: Venison with red cabbage 

I have a rule when it comes to pairing red wines with game, “Rhône with feathers and Burgundy with fur.” I know it doesn’t exactly role off the tongue but hopefully you see where I’m going with this…. Venison is rich, has a gamey flavour and is very lean. All this makes it quite hard to match with wines and it is Pinot Noir wines that cope with it best of all. However I have just returned from Piedmont, the home of Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo – the charismatic grape – delivers graceful, smooth but intensely flavoured reds with aromatic, savoury notes of truffle, smoke and soft black liquorice. They are on the dear side (ho-ho!), but top-notch with venison steaks and roast venison. 

Red: Mature red burgundy is a great option but we would suggest a bottle or two of the Ceretto Barolo Prapo 2014 or the Barbaresco Bernadot 2015.

The Scandis : Spiced quince ham 

All ham has an underlying saltiness that pairs best with light-to-medium-bodied wines with lots of fruit and low tannins such as Chablis and Beaujolais and fruity reds such as Pinot Noir and Merlot. Semillon can also work a treat but Christmas hams tend to be more elaborately glazed bringing in an element of sweetness and spiciness that can strip all the character out of dry wines. To be honest a beer is actually a better bet than wine with intensely treacle-y hams – again something that has a touch of sweetness or spice itself.

Red: Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz 2013

Beer: A lot of brewers make Christmas ales that I think would work really well or go for an American style IPA or a brown ale.

The taste of the Orient: Peking-style Duck  

When talking about duck and wine pairing, Pinot Noir tends to be the blanket answer. And there is certainly a lot of sense in that recommendation. So while I agree that Pinot Noir works well with duck, I think more importantly it depends on the recipe. Peking-duck is a classic recipe, whilst the duck will be the star of the show, the plum sauce is the one to think about when it comes to the wine. It’s wise to choose something with a little bit more sweetness to match the sauce and here, white wines can definitely work well. My suggestion would be Vouvray, if you don’t know this appellation, I would highly recommend you try it. It’s one of my favourites, pick a dry, or off-dry wine. The slight sweetness will pair well with the spices and sauce, yet the wine’s acidity and body will hold on to the dish’s overall intensity.

White: Sauvignon from New Zealand’s Awatare Valley in the form of The Crossings 2017 Sauvignon Blanc will work ideally

Red: Shiraz – either go for one from the Rhônes such as M.Chapoutier’s offerings from Côte Rotie, Saint Joseph or Hermitage or a Shiraz from the Turkey Flat Vineyards in Australia.