The festive holidays are always filled with high-spirits and laughter, where friends and family can come together to eat, drink and be merry! Our dining tables tend to be heaving with an array of Christmas culinary delights, and our glasses brimming with a continuous stream of festive wines and speciality beverages.
But in the chaos that is Christmas time, with all of the different dishes and flavours, and not to mention those fussy relatives that we all have to contend with, our Wine Development Manager, Matthieu Longuere MS, is on hand to help you pair your festive dishes with the perfect wine, and ensure that this Christmas is one to remember.
Pairing with turkey
Christmas day would not be the same without a traditional roasted turkey. There may be a plethora of other equally as tasty options, such as beef wellington, goose, or even a three-bird roast if you’re feeling adventurous, but as with most things, nothing beats the classics.
The flesh of turkey is fairly delicate so it can easily be over cooked and end up tasting a little bit dry. In order to avoid this Christmas catastrophe, one of the tricks that our Master Chefs recommend is deboning the turkey’s legs and cutting the fillet as it will be easier to manage in a normal sized oven. To keep it moist, you can wrap the fillet in bacon, place the stuffing inside the deboned leg, and tie it up. During the roasting, the bird can just be basted regularly in its own juice, which is undeniably the base of all of the best gravies! Matthieu points out that as the turkey is quite a subtle taste and a soft texture, the style of the wine will essentially depend on what you are having to accompany the fowl on Christmas day.
And all the trimmings...
The classic trimmings that tend to be eaten alongside turkey for Christmas lunch are, a mountain of roasted potatoes, more stuffing (because you can never get enough stuffing), carrots, parsnips, pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon), red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and an ocean of gravy! This variety means that your choice of wine needs to be a good all-rounder, and not too tannic or it will clash with the sweetness of the cranberry sauce and root vegetables, and the sweet and sourness of the cabbage. Also, it cannot not be too heavy or too full bodied, as it will overwhelm the soft turkey meat. But do remember that it is Christmas so you are allowed to indulge a little and go for something a bit more special, either red or white is fine.
If you have a New world Pinot Noir or a Red Burgundy that you have been cellaring for over 5 years or so, waiting for the perfect opportunity to uncork it, then this is definitely that occasion. But Matthieu’s top choice of red wine for pairing with your Christmas Lunch is a Rioja Gran Reserva, he says:
“They are usually released when they become ready to drink so quite often they have a little bit of bottle age. A very special one is a La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja 2005 vintage. Having aged for over ten years, this wine is really complex, with aromas of tobacco, autumn leaf and sweet oak and feels like pure silk on the palate.”
And for all of the white wine lovers, don’t despair, there are also plenty of options for you to consider. In this case the wine will need to show a little bit of bottle age as you don’t want anything that tastes too sharp or acidic. A barrel fermented or barrel matured white wine would be ideal such as a great New World Chardonnay, a Burgundy from Meursault or a Chassagne-Montrachet. Matthieu’s white wine recommendation is Semillon as he says:
“For the more adventurous amongst us, you can select an over 4-year old barrel aged Semillon from the iconic Boekenhoutskloof winery in Franschhoek, South Africa. It is full bodied and concentrated with a lovely spicy and honeyed streak to it. This is the type of white wine that you might want to decant to allow it to breath as it will soften the structure and enhance the aromas.”
Wine with nut roast
To all of the vegetarians out there don’t worry, Le Cordon Bleu London have not forgotten about you. With so many different options of nuts, grains and herbs that can be used in a nut roast, it is easy to see why it is such a popular choice for the Christmas dinner table.
As you can imagine, the flavours in a Christmas nut-roast will vary a lot according to the type of nuts used (pistachio, cashew, macadamia, chestnut and walnut to name a few), the base ingredients (lentils, beans, rice, bread, mushrooms…) and the sauce (cranberry, dried apricot or something of the sort). Invariably though, a white wine might be more appropriate as the nuts and the sauce will tend to bring the bitterness out of a red one, and Matthieu suggests:
“As a white, I would recommend a ripe Viognier bursting with apricot flavour, quite rich and unctuous to handle the oiliness of the nuts and marry the flavours of the sauces. A good quality, wildly available one would be the Eden Valley Viognier produced by the Yalumba winery in South Australia.”
But if you really can’t live without a glass of red wine to accompany your nut roast, Matthieu has the solution. He has found that the only exception to the ‘no red wine with nut roast’ rule is to have a very fresh, relatively acidic and Gamay based red wine like a Beaujolais. As it is a special occasion, a Cru like Morgon or Fleurie from a reputable producer is ideal.
Last but definitely not least we come to Christmas dessert. Although the majority of the world are stuffed and have usually given up by this point, it is still important to consider what wines can be paired with a sweet treat for those who do make it!
The variety of Christmas dessert options is practically endless, ranging from Christmas pudding and Christmas cake to mince pies and the classic sherry trifle. But Christmas desserts tend to all be invariably boozy, with brandy, sweet sherry or rum being the common denominator amongst them. They also tend to be very rich and sweet, and are usually served with brandy sauce, custard or cream to make it even lighter... The only wines that can stand up to these sweet, boozy Christmas treats, are fortified ones, such as Tawny Port, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Rich Madeira and Banyuls, but Matthieu’s top choice for the perfect pairing is a traditional Rutherglen Muscat from South Australia - with its orange marmalade, molasses and treacle flavours a plenty.
So there you have it, the complete guide to wine pairing on Christmas day, so now you can eat, drink and be merry without having to worry about a palate clashing catastrophe!
What wine are you drinking this Christmas? Share them with us on Instagram and Twitter and use#LeCordonBleuXmas