Festive Food And Wine
At this time of year, almost every magazine you open has its definitive list of dos and don’ts for festive food and wine pairings. At Gerrard Seel, we prefer to approach the matter from a different perspective. Matching food and wine at Christmas is not a problem to lose sleep over; there is no right or wrong. Eat your favourite foods and drink wines that you love alongside them. If you enjoy the two together, the pairing works. It’s as simple as that.
We love wine and we love food, and for us there are certain combinations that can elevate your festive feast to an entirely new level of enjoyment. Here are some of our suggestions for the big day – drop us a line with your favourite pairings and we’ll give them a try!
Here are some wines we enjoy with a classic Christmas menu:
Smoked salmon pâté
The oiliness and smoke of the salmon require a wine with fresh acidity to counter the richness, and a depth of flavour to stand up to the savoury and salty characters. Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal choice, and Bouchard Finlayson’s Walker Bay example is excellent. Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with a premier cru Chablis - Domaine Vrignaud’s 1er Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes is as good as it gets.
Roast turkey with all of the trimmings
The fabled Christmas turkey, with its stuffing, chipolatas and cranberry sauce, needs a really big, fruity red to hold its own. The Château Saint-Roch Châteauneuf Du Pape is ideal: darkly fruited, ripe and deliciously approachable. Christmas is the perfect day to push the boat out on a bottle of wine, and Château Pavillon Beauregard Le Chapelain - a Lalande-De-Pomerol from the fantastic 2009 vintage - has the concentration and the velvety structure to reward you handsomely.
Stilton and walnuts
The savoury and slightly salty character of blue cheese pairs brilliantly with sweet wines. Two Veneto wines are equally fine matches and they give you the option of choosing either a red or a white wine with your cheese. The Luigi Righetti Recioto Della Valpolicella has a delicious blend of sweetness, ripe Morello cherry fruit and freshening acidity to beautifully counter the cheese. Corte Adami’s Recioto Di Soave, the dried grape white wine from Soave, Valpolicella’s eastern neighbour, has more than enough honeyed, apricot fruit and mouthwatering acidity to cope with Stilton.
Christmas pudding is difficult to pair with wine, not only because of its richness and sweetness but also because it’s flambéed with brandy! Gratavinum's Dolç D’En Piqué is what is known as a vin doux naturel - a wine that has had its fermentation stopped by the addition of a little brandy to retain its sweetness and bright fruit flavours. Although similar to port, this is a little lighter and fruitier than its Portuguese cousin and it’s a great way to round off your meal. Another classic pairing for the pudding is a Muscat, and the honey, citrus and dried fruit flavours of Astoria’s Ventus Moscato Di Sicilia make it easy to see why.
If you prefer a slightly more intrepid bill of fare, we hope that these suggestions will inspire you:
Pears with Gorgonzola and prosciutto crudo
Sweet, salty, savoury and meaty – there’s plenty going on with this tasty little starter. A wine with a similar touch of richness will neatly fit the bill here: this is the ideal time to overcome your fear of German wines and give the delicately sweet, citrussy fresh J & H Selbach Saar Riesling Spätlese a try. Slightly weightier on the palate but just as delicious is Sipp Mack’s Gewurztraminer Tradition - an aromatic and gently spicy delight.
Porchetta with roasted Brussels sprouts
Along with garlic and herbs, there should be a good sprinkling of fennel seeds rolled up inside a fine porchetta. The Italians believe that the flavour of fennel enhances the flavours of the red wine you serve with it and, if you’ve chosen a great wine in the first place, you’re definitely in for a treat. San Giorgio A Lapi Bandecca Chianti Classico Riserva is an archetypal Italian red, tailor made for a dish such as this. Fresh, red cherry fruit, spicy tobacco and leathery notes, firm acidity and grippy tannins cut through the rich suckling pig without overwhelming its delicate flavour. Didier Desvignes’ Moulin-À-Vent Terre De Manganèse works in a similar way. Opulent and brooding for a Beaujolais, there is even a lick of oak adding flesh to Gamay’s athletic frame.
Soft, white, rinded cheeses such as Camembert are tricky to pair with wine, although a soft, fruity style of red probably copes best. Bodegas Señorío De Arana Viña Del Oja Rioja Gran Reserva is just such a wine thanks to its mix of berry fruit, creamy and savoury oak flavours, bright acidity and mature tannins. At this point in the proceedings, one can be forgiven – or possibly wholly encouraged – for a somewhat unexpected wine suggestion. Acústic Celler Auditori, made from 80-100 year old Grenache vines, has both a beautiful weight of sweet, dark fruit and a vibrant acidity due to the altitude of the vineyards. An amazing wine for a special occasion.
Gingerbread and white chocolate mousse trifle
The warm spices and punchy ginger are brought to heel by the soft, creamy white chocolate mousse, requiring a wine that balances the sweetness and spice whilst supplying enough acidity to prevent it from being cloying. Château Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos has quince, dried apricot, honey and sweet spice flavours with a beautiful burst of electric acidity to leave you salivating for more. Given that it’s Christmas, which comes but once a year, why not see the day off in style with a glass or two of Champagne? The G.H. Mumm Demi-Sec is both the ultimate pairing for this dessert and a sweet yet revitalising toast to the hardworking chef.
We hope this selection helps you to choose your wines for the big day and we'd love to hear from you if you'd like any other food and wine pairing suggestions, but please don't be afraid to stick to wines you know and love - we can gladly assist you with those, too!