I’ve probably mentioned before that my approach to wine selection is randomness at its best – what’s on offer, what takes my fancy or what’s a type I haven’t had before are my three main methods. When the meal in question is Christmas lunch, however, I feel the need to pick wine a little more professionally, so I decided to do some research on the topic and here’s what I found.
Pick wine for turkey
Many of us will have a focus on turkey for Christmas and it remains top of the charts in terms of traditional meats for the lunch. There are two things to remember about turkey that affect wine choice – it isn’t a powerful white meat and it is quite low in fat (hence the reason it dries out if overcooked). So how does this affect the choice of wines?
Tannin is an ingredient of wine that interacts with the fat in food and enhances the taste of both. But if the meat in question is lacking in fat, like turkey, then lots of tannins are a bad thing. This means if you are looking for a red wine for the meal, go for one with medium tannin. This means something like a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais Cru. You can also go with something like a claret, a chianti or a rioja but look for one that’s a few years old as the tannins soften after time and this makes for a good pairing with turkey.
White wine may not be the most popular choice with Christmas lunch but a good Chardonnay will be ideal, especially if you have bread sauce with it like my husband. The creamy acid flavours of the chardonnay give a boost to the dry turkey. If you can find one, a white burgundy is another good alternative though I have often looked and not found one having tried it some years ago and loved it.
Other main courses
We often have two meats in our house on Christmas lunch – turkey and beef. So, this means picking wine for Christmas lunch can be either selecting for one or the other or just picking a favourite. For beef on its own, if you have a low fat cut of meat then stick with low tannin wines much the same as with turkey. Cabernet Sauvignon or red Bordeaux are good choices.
If you go for goose or duck for the meal, then the oiliness of these meats work well with red wines that have a high acidity such as a red burgundy. In terms of white wines, go for those that are a little sweet such as a Riesling.
Starters and wine
Sometimes you might like to serve more than one wine with the meal and some like to pair each course with a suitable wine. Smoked salmon or seafood dishes are popular at Christmas, contrasting nicely with the main course.
If you are choosing a wine to go with this kind of starter, then look for something that is lightly acidic to counter the richness of the food. A Riesling can be a good choice or a Gewürztraminer though this can also be a chance to bring in some champagne or other sparkling white wine!
Many of us enjoy a spot of Christmas pudding after the meal and brandy or whiskey sauce is a common accompaniment with the dish. But if you want something to drink alongside it then head towards the port aisle rather than the wine. A good tawny port is ideal to match up with the nutty flavours in the pudding. Port is also perfect to match up with cheese boards if you are a cheese fan or plan to add that final course after the pudding.
Of course, there’s no rule that says you have to go with these ideas – it’s about what you like and enjoy. As a kid, we always had a bottle of Asti Spumante with Christmas lunch as my parents aren’t wine drinkers and it was the only one they liked. I still enjoy a glass of it now!
What’s your favourite wine? And how do you pick what wine you are going to drink with a meal?