Holiday season is most definitely upon us. If you haven’t thought about wines to go with your Christmas dinner, it’s more than time to get cracking. But not to panic, the Décanté team is here to help.
Tis the season to share joy and a good bottle of wine with those you love. Although within the team, impatient or epicurean as ever, there is no need to wait for a festive occasion to crack open a special bottle.
We are well aware that the appellations (AOC, IGP…) can’t aspire to completely defining a wine – a winemaker’s work greatly impacts the wine’s quality and character – however we will use them as reference to tell you all about the wines you could choose to refine your meal. It is undeniable that appellations still stand for quality most of the time.
In order to give you a wide berth, we will go over all the main foods we typically encounter at Christmas. If on a whim you decide to stray towards an ambitiously unique meal, ask your wine merchant for advice as he will surely be delighted to help out.
Here are the keys to setting up for unforgettable evenings around an expertly thought up table.
I – Appetisers and starters
We’ve selected a few original pairings for your great Christmas classics.
Let’s begin with our oysters. Often Muscadet is associated with them, and for good reason as they do very well together! We can recommend the wines of Jo Landron, the new ambassador of the region. Otherwise you could go for a Chablis, or a Chenin Blanc and play with their sharp and vibrant character. To be even more original you could venture out towards a young Riesling.
Now regarding Foie Gras, have your pick of the litter! You could go with the traditional Sauternes. It can, however, seem slightly sickly to some due to its sweetness. In this case you may favour a semi dry such as Vouvray. It could also be served with Champagne (Blanc de noir, and an old millésime), a Porto, or even an old red Bordeaux from Haut Médoc (but avoid those with a strong woody character).
Now, if you prefer Salmon as a starter, we can suggest a very different type of pairing. We quite like to counter the fatty quality of salmon with some acidity to cut through it. This can be found in several wines, take for example a champagne, ideally blanc de blanc extra brut. If you’d rather steer clear of bubbly, try a Riesling with sharp acidity, from Mosel in Germany or Alsace. We can recommend the Bott Geyl domain, or Achilée in Alsace. Finally for something more traditional but just as pleasing, why not select something from the Sauvignon Blanc variety, like Sancerre.
It would be a shame not to mention Scallops these wonderful shellfish we call Saint-Jacques. You could serve them with a Savennieres, or even a Champagne (extra brut or non-dosé).
Finally, the ultimate starter: Caviar. Enough to make quite a few green with envy, you might as well serve it with Champagne. Don’t hesitate to vary the Champagne according to the types of Sturgeon and their flavour characteristics.
II – Mains
Would it really be Christmas without the classic turkey? It is often served with chestnuts, and would be the perfect match for very fine reds like Burgundy. Our thoughts go straight to Corton Volnay, but you could also pick a Morgon which would suit perfectly. A millésime from a few years ago, ideally. Another option is to aim for wines such as an old Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais). In any case, avoid serving wines with too strong a body and high tannin.
Another classic, Capon, can be served with wines from the Loire Valley (Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-loire in particular) or a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Truly a match made in heaven. Alternatively, a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape will do very well too.
Perhaps Christmas, for you, calls for game instead. In this case, we can suggest a wine from Languedoc or from Provence, like red Bandol from a few years ago. Otherwise why not give Cornas a try, a little gem from the Rhone Valley which we tend to forget. This wine, just like a Côte-Rôtie, would be the perfect escort for quail.
Holiday season if also a good occasion to share platters of seafood, either as a main or a starter. In this case, white wine from Burgundy is always a good choice: Meursault, or Montrachet in the may variations they come in. Or perhaps the more budget-friendly Givry or Montagny. A more original choice would be white Hermitage, always a pleaser too.
If you’re lucky enough to sample some truffles over Christmas, select your wine depending on what you serve them with. With eggs, in an omelette for instance, go for a red Beaujolais (Cote de Brouilly, or Morgon for a more powerful option) or a wine from Loire like Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Served with white meats, a white would be more appropriate for truffles. Hermitage, Saint Joseph or a white from Burgundy.
III – Cheese
Here we are, face to face with our toughest dilemma: red or white with cheese? We won’t attempt to convince you either way, but rather to give you a few pointers.
An old classic consists in serving camembert with cider. Trust us, this will forever be a pleaser. For soft or pressed cheese, you can’t go wrong with a white wine, or even bubbly. They go very well together and light acidity will cut through fatty cheeses. This pairing always goes down well.
It remains difficult to convince those who like red wines with their cheese. In this case, you’d better stick to rather powerful reds such as those produced in the Rhone Valley.
IV – The Christmas Yule log
We did warn you we were going over the classics. What could possibly be a more typical Christmas dessert? Unfortunately, one could easily go wrong in selecting a wine for this delicacy. Many serve it with champagne, although bitter chocolate doesn’t really go down well with its acidity.
We recommend having a look at fortified wines. Often we think of Porto – and it does indeed work very well – but you could also choose young wines from Maury or Banyuls, in the south of France. A true delight.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
And there you have it, the perfect wine for whatever classic you decide to enjoy over Christmas. So don’t hesitate to introduce a little bit of variety and most importantly to share it with your loved ones.
All of the Décanté team wishes you a splendid holiday season. Make the most of it, and don’t hesitate to share your favourite food and wine pairings for the occasion in the comments. Cheers!