Festive Food & Wine Pairing Guide
Posted on December 13 2021
Please note all the wines mentioned are available to buy from us. Those without links are available in store or to order via firstname.lastname@example.org where our team will be happy to help you.
Perhaps because last year was so difficult, this year feels like there’s a palpable determination to really enjoy celebrating again.
So here, with my old “Somm” hat on, are a few simple guidelines to food pairings for the festive season – classic pairings and a few walks on the wilder side – it wouldn’t be The Good Wine Shop without them. And it wouldn’t be festive without fizz.
Family gatherings usually require an “all-rounder” Champagne – but that should never mean average! Rather a fizz with enough fruit and biscuity flavours and creamy depth to please everyone. Hubert Paulet’s Extra Brut Premier Cru from Rilly ticks that box brilliantly. It’s mostly Pinot fruit, with a slightly gentler mousse and refreshingly dry – but not remotely lean.
Varnier Fanniere’s Extra Brut Esprit de Craie Grand Cru Chardonnay from Avize offers richer texture of creamy depth buttressed by a nice line of acidity and a crisp finish.
For true indulgence, Dom Perignon 2002 is memorable – an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is rich and sumptuous with tropical fruit, pastry and beautiful savoury notes with an amazingly long finish.
If “Rabbit’s friends and relations” are coming over on Boxing Day then Crémant is a great plan – for your finances and taste buds.
Made in the same way as Champagne but all around France, my own weakness is for Crémant de Bourgogne – from Lucie Thieblemont and Meursault-maker François Mikulski. Lucie’s is Brut Zero – no sugar added at all, naturally made – super creamy and rich, but bone dry. Mikulski’s is a little softer – a classic Brut style with all the flavour you’d expect from a top white Burgundy maker.
For traditional Christmas turkey, the perfect match is either a rich but fresh white, or a red with enough fruit and cut to square up to everything from Brussel sprouts, chestnut stuffing and the uniquely mouth coating properties of bread sauce.
While the obvious white choice is white Burgundy like Guy Amiot’s Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers, the recipe is just as successfully replicated by New Wave South Africa’s Chenin Blanc blends and by other classy New World Chardonnays like Giant Steps’ Tarraford Vineyard or Ridge’s Estate Chardonnay. For magnum fiends the Macon-Loche 2018 has all the presence on the table and the palate for the occasion.
Reds for Turkey need good fruit and acidity – but they don’t need to be really full on. Sangiovese works very well – a richer style of Chianti or Vino Nobile, or for a real treat Piombaia’s Brunello. Lighter Nebbiolo based reds like Barbaresco, or the forgotten parts of Piemonte like Gattinara and Lessona also work beautifully. Save your Barolos for beef!
Pinot Noir works too but it needs concentration. Hannes Storm’s Hemel-en-Aarde Pinots would do the trick. And of course mature traditional Rioja is always a great match.
The unsung hero is Grenache – oodles of concentrated silky red fruit, tame tannins and a spicy lift, it’s deliciously versatile.
If numbers justify a magnum, then Usseglio’s 'Creation' has Christmas lunch all over it. Don’t be deterred by having a “Vin de France” grace your table – that’s just French bureaucracy, and in this case it’s a stunning looking bottle anyway. This one is 100% organic and biodynamic old vine Grenache, part from Châteauneuf and part from Lirac across the river – quite possibly the loveliest red I’ve drunk this year and the one most likely to make a repeat appearance this Christmas...
For the Beef Brigade I would wheel out the Bordeaux, Barolo and the really big reds...
So think a wonderful, powerful Gran Reserva Rioja like Bodegas Montecillo 2011 '22 Barricas', an elegant Right Bank Bordeaux – Lassegue’s Saint-Emilion 2015 or La Fleur de Gay’s Pomerol 2009.
Italy is also a go-to with the likes of Fabio Motta’s gorgeous Bolgheri Superiore 'le Gonnare' or Cavallotto’s impressive Barolo.
Malbec lovers could take a walk on the French side and try Chateau Le Cedre’s top offering “Le Cedre” from their oldest vines in Cahors, or the wonderful 'Vina 124' centenarian Malbec from De Angeles in Argentina.
Puds bring their own issues. Trifle is a slam-dunk for Sauternes such as Chateau Rieussec 2014, Late Harvest Rieslings and Tokaj Aszu 5 Puttonyos. And Sauternes is also a perfect match for blue cheese.
Christmas pud is much better with something fortified that will cut through the sticky, concentrated richness of dried fruits – and whatever alcohol you soaked the fruit in.
While Port springs to mind first, there are other deliciously different options.
The D’Oliveiras’ 10yo Medium Sweet or Medium Dry Madeiras are extraordinary. Aged Tawny Ports, like Barao de Vilar 40yo, provide the same spectrum of oxidative flavours – dried fruit, candied peel, roasted nuts, burnt caramel. A wild card, new to our shelves this year, is an aged Moscatel de Setubal fortified with Cognac – I’m in!
I tend to think of these wines as “Christmas pud in a glass” – my preferred way of consuming is after a rich lunch.
Boxing Day dawns – the cold cuts beckon – or maybe a great fish pie or possibly Roast Gammon… Whatever your Boxing Day brings, we all look forward to fresher wines to wash down lunch. It’s time for Riesling and Albarino, and light, flavoursome and juicy Beaujolais, Chinon and Mencia…
Katharina Wechsler’s Rieslings and Pazo Pondal’s Mina Vida would be just perfect with the richness of a fish pie or the saltiness of gammon.
Cold cuts of beef, turkey and ham find their match in the fruity crunch of Beaujolais, Chinon or youthful Pinot. Domaine de Noire’s 'Elegance' Chinon drunk cellar cool provides all the refreshingly light red fruit flavours you need, as would any Cru Beaujolais like Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py, or one of the single parcels Mencías from Raul Perez’s La Vizcaina range.
Whatever you plan to drink this festive season, the most important thing is the shared pleasure of friends and family, great food and fine wine.