It’s December and, let’s face it, this year has sucked on numerous levels. 100% of the world’s population will no doubt be looking to get out of 2020, shudder, and eradicate it from the calendar. Here’s hoping for a more inspiring and optimistic 2021.
Personally, I am looking forward to Christmas day more than ever before. This is the year where a blowout of epic proportions is well deserved, possibly even required. Food, chocolates, good wine and the odd local brewed beer are all on the cards for the festive period at Wine Fined HQ. So, what are the best wines to celebrate Christmas day with? The short answer is…whatever you like to drink. However, if you want to get the best out of your smoked salmon breakfast and your tender turkey dinner, then here is my guide to the perfect Christmas day tipples.
Breakfast/Brunch (for the hardy or perhaps fool hardy…no judgements here)
Lots of people like to start the day with a bang so… if you are one of those people, and you are planning on something more luxurious, like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, you want something which is going to be dry as a bone and high in acidity. That’s where a good bubbly comes in to play, Cava or Champagne are perfect. With smoked salmon you want something which has fresh acidity to cut through the oily fattiness of the fish and that will also work well with the creamy scrambled egg. A quality sparkling is superb with this kind of food and at a general alcohol level of around 12% abv. it’s a gentler start to the festivities (as long as you don’t have a bottle each of course!). If you want to start the day with a fizz after breakfast then Prosecco is great. Light, and with a touch of sweetness, it is designed for enjoying on its own.
Christmas Lunch (un-buckle your belt)
First Course - The meal of the year deserves a little thought as to what to wash it down with. Don’t spend untold hours in the kitchen and then dilute the flavours with something you would usually crack open to watch strictly! Starters can come in many forms and there is no point me trying to match every potential recipe. My advice is to go with something white and unoaked. Don’t go too aromatic unless for some reason you decide that your starter this year will be Asian inspired. I’ll be cracking open an Albariño, but you’d be just as happy with a French Loire Sauvignon or an Italian, good quality, Pinot Grigio. You want your wine to be fresh and not heavy to kick off the crimble dinner.
The main event - With the Turkey/Goose sat in the middle of the table surrounded by bread sauce, roast potatoes in goose fat, stuffing, buttered spouts in bacon etc., you want a wine that can stand up to the fat, cream and butter. People tend to say go with a good oaked chardonnay, and those people would be right! A Chardonnay from Burgundy which has been oaked or, at the very least, spent time on its lees to develop a richness, will be big enough for all that rich food. Other wines would be lost in the wilderness, completely overshadowed by the big flavours. Also, all that richness would dull the subtler flavours of a lighter wine. It doesn’t have to be Burgundy, or Chardonnay for that matter…but it does need to be big enough to contend.
If you want red with your white meat then Pinot Noir is just bang on the money, but don’t skimp! Go for something with a bit of pedigree so you get the most from this amazing grape variety. Pinot Noir is fairly light in tannin and that works well with turkey and even fattier goose. Salty food also brings out the fruit flavours in red wine as it works to smooth out tannin, meaning Pinot Noirs’ beautiful red fruit character will become more obvious.
If you still want something big and red for Christmas lunch or, as many do these days, you are going for beef, then rich reds are a must. Go for something soft though, especially if you are going to have it with white meat. Southern Rhone reds are fantastic for this occasion. Generally, blends of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah etc. pack a full-bodied punch of flavour, with smooth, ripe tannins and plenty of herbs and pepperiness.
Dessert (The final hurdle) – If you have room for puds then well done! This is the part of the meal when you want to leave the dry whites and reds well alone. If you carry on drinking dry wine with sweet food, then both food and wine will taste pretty vile. Sugar brings out acidity and tannin and completely nullifies fruit flavours in wine, so your white or red will taste like you’re drinking thin, liquidised sand…DON’T DO IT! If you’re having a chocolate dessert then go for a PX sherry, Rutherglen Muscat or something similar. Something fruity like Tarte Tatin and vanilla ice cream will come alive with a Sauternes or lighter style sweet wine. Ports with dessert are a good match with LBV or Vintage styles standing up well to richer desserts. Tawny Ports are great with things like Cheesecake, Crème Brulee and actually work very well with sweet tarts.
Cheese to finish (you off) – This is one of my favourite parts of Christmas day, everything has slowed to a crawl and you either take it to the sitting room for Christmas movie time or Christmas board games. This is where the cheese board appears, and as if by magic you find your second wind. Those inviting slabs of cheesy goodness and salty crackers deserve a drink which brings out the best in both. Here Port is King, Queen and Lord of the manor. I would suggest any port you have is going to work (maybe not white or rosé so much). Your LBVs, Vintage or Tawny ports will all compliment.
If you can still face anything after the cheese board then you deserve some kind of medal, so well done you!
So that’s it Wine Fiends, those are my suggestions for the 25th of December. Whatever you decide to go with, I hope you have a cracking day and a wonderful December all round! Rest up well my friends and let us burst into 2021 swinging our arms and taking no prisoners…we WILL prevail.