Thursday, 3 December 2015
Christmas wine: Wines to match turkey
Over the ten years I've been in the wine industry, few occasions have caused more excitement and experimentation amongst my colleagues and I than picking the perfect wine to go with roast turkey and all the trimmings.
Christmas dinner is the best meal of the year (FACT) so there's no better time to splash out and buy a special wine to accompany it. You don't even have to spend that much - there's plenty of epic turkey wine pairings for those on a budget.
Here's some of the best wine matches for Christmas dinner that I've found over the years*:
This was my first proper 'wow' moment with food and wine matching, back when I first started working in wine.
I'd never considered a full-bodied, spicy red wine as a match for white meat, but this really works. I think it's because we usually serve turkey not just with your average vegetables, but with pigs in blankets, mounds of stuffing, cranberry sauce and sticky, rich glazed veg.
That's a lot of flavour, and it needs a wine with similar punch to stand up to it.
The exact I used all those years ago was the epic southern Rhone Lirac Rouge La Fermade Domaine Maby (£9.50 at The Wine Society, £12.95 at Yapp and Vin Neuf). It's made not far from Chateauneuf and gives a little bit of the same kind of character but at a fraction of the price.
But just ask your local wine merchant for a good spicy red Rhone and you'll be laughing.
2. Californian Zinfandel
This is my cheeky favourite. It's another trick I discovered at The Wine Society and it's been my turkey wine of choice for the last two years.
Think of it this way: what goes brilliantly with turkey? Juicy, boozy cranberry sauce. And zinfandel provides just that kind of character - big alcohol, big fruit and often lots of cranberry flavour. It's another wine with body enough to go with all the trimmings - we always need at least two bottles.
The one that first convinced me was Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel (usually £8-10 at Sainsburys, Ocado and Tesco) and to be honest I really don't think you need to spend more.
3. Pinot Noir (particularly older Burgundy)
More of a classic match, this - but the old ones are often the best. Although a young pinot noir might not necessarily have the same kind of body to go with all the trimmings as the other two reds I've mentioned so far, it's definitely got that wonderful red fruit flavour and silky texture that makes it a super match.
Mature red Burgundy is one of those quintessential Christmas dinner wines (and the soft tannins do make it a good candidate) and I'd advise going for the best you can afford. That said, new world pinot noir from New Zealand is another epic match.
I'm not going to list all the amazing New Zealand pinot noirs out there - there's so many good ones to choose from - but if you're really on a budget or looking for a bargain then I'd suggest Aldi's Exquisite Collection New Zealand Pinot Noir. In typical Aldi fashion, it's a multi-award-winner and yet it's only £6.99. Madness.
4. Rich Chardonnay
If there's one white that can stand up to Christmas dinner, it's rich, creamy white Burgundy and new world Chardonnay. The buttery taste works really well with fat, juicy slices of turkey, and apple and stone fruits you so often get work well with the sausages and stuffing.
A good buttery Burgundy that doesn't break the bank is Montagny 1er Cru 'Les Millieres' by Caves des Vignerons de Buxy (currently £9.74 if you're buying a mixed case of six or more bottles from Majestic, or £12.99 if you're buying less than 6 bottles overall).
As for the new world, another BRILLIANT bit of schooling from The Wine Society was that their Exhibition Chilean Chardonnay is the absolute boss of turkey. How it's only £8.95 I will never know.
So, this is sort of a classic and yet it's like the other classic turkey matches' geeky cousin, because not many people seem happy to suggest Beaujolais.
That said, it is a brilliant match on paper - not too many tannins, big red juicy flavour and smooth texture. Plus, if you're having Christmas dinner at lunch then it's generally a good low-alcohol option too - so you won't doze off during the Queen's speech.
Most people suggest going with the Beaujolais crus such as Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin a Vent - a reliable and widely available choice is Bouchard Pere et Fils Fleurie (currently £11.99 at Waitrose). For a more budget option, try Beaujolais-Villages from Georges Duboeuf (currently £7.49 at Majestic). It's super-fruity and soft - very drinkable indeed.
*Never before when writing a blog post have I SO CRAVED the food I'm writing about. Would give my left arm for a buttery turkey sandwich right about now... BRING ON THE LEFTOVERS!