Ben's Christmas Tips
Christmas is coming and, whether your goose is getting fat or you are vegetarian, it is time to decide what you will be drinking with your Yuletide feast. There are so many wines to choose from and it can be difficult to find what you want without breaking the bank only to find that the expensive treat does not match the food and might as well have been water.
Here are my favourite wines to have during the festive season and, especially, the best food matches.
With the aperitif, with turkey, with beef and let's not forget the sweet wines!
Sparkling and Aperitif
For a great many people, a sparkling wine is an absolute necessity for celebration and Christmas is no exception. I have also included a couple of still wines for those who prefer not to drink bubbles.
Blanc de Blancs Brut, Domaine de Maison Blanche – If you are pushing the boat out, I advise you to go Swiss with this fantastic sparkling Chardonnay from the talented Yves de Mestral. It is crisp and lovely and very fizzy! £31.86
Blanc de Blancs Demi-Sec, Domaine de Maison Blanche – For absolute decadence you must have some of this wonderful creation. The Brut (above) is lovely and this slightly sweet version is divine. The aroma of elderflower is heady and exciting and the flavours are incredible. Drink it as an aperitif of as a dessert wine with lemon based puddings. £31.86
Perle Rouge, Domaine Matray – Sparkling Red! Yes, this is a sparkling Gamay from Beaujolais. For those who love to have fizz with their Turkey, this is the perfect choice. Not only that but with the addition of a drop, or two, of sloe gin this creates the most amazing Christmas cocktail. It smells and tastes of Christmas! £16.80
Wines with Turkey
AS anyone who has discussed wine with me will know, I am an ardent advocate for the Gamay grape as the perfect match for a Turkey Christmas dinner. It is the one grape that will consistently hold its flavour against all the conflicting flavours of Christmas Day without the flavour of the food being altered. That said, Gamay is not the only fruit!
Fleurie 2009, Domaine Gravallon-Lathulière – My top pick for Gamay must be Beaujolais Cru and, of those, Fleurie. The greatest year in living memory is still 2009 and this is a perfect example. £14.39
Wines with Beef
Beef requires a very different style of wine than Turkey. It is best to look for something with a good tannic structure as that helps to soften the fat of the meat in your mouth which, in turn, helps to release more of the fruit flavours of the wine.
Cabernet Fût de Chêne 9/9 2011, La Cave de Genève – This is a big blend of several different Cabernet varieties, the principal one being Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a splendid piece of Swiss wine engineering to create an almost black concentrated wine. £24.82
Cornalin "Champmarais" 2008, Cave Jean-René Germanier – If you are choosing the best beef for Christmas then it deserves the best wine. This is a phenomenal wine made from a rare grape, Cornalin, by one of Switzerland’s best winemakers, Gilles Besse. Treat it with reverence and awe and wallow in the wonder of this perfect pairing.
Remember that sweet wines are not exclusively for dessert purposes but can be excellent as aperitifs and as accompaniment to salty snacks and savoury starters. Here are a few which span the sweetness levels from light to syrup!
Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese 2011, Philipps-Eckstein – With 92 g/L of residual sugar, this is quite sweet. It is, however, one of the most wonderful Rieslings I have ever tasted. It is rich and deep and is, to me, the very quintessence of the Riesling grape. Perfect at any stage of the meal and especially with a fruit salad. £25.90
Mitis Amigne de Vétroz 2010, Cave Jean-René Germanier - A full-bodied sweet wine made from late harvest Amigne, with a lovely gold colour and a sublime bouquet of quince, honey, whiffs of orange peel and a touch of vanilla. This is Swiss heaven and perfect with foie gras, blue cheeses and fruit. £41.15
Trockenbeerenauslese Welschriesling 2006, Josef Lentsch – This is the top of the shop for sweetness! On the palate it is beginning to taste a lot like Christmas with dried and crystallised fruits in abundance. The honey is exceptional and, although this is quite a viscous wine, the texture is not cloying. The finish is very long and filled with fruit and sweetness.