Drinks writer Peter Ranscombe picks five wines to pair with the Christmas banquet.
CHRISTMAS is a time for feasting – celebrating family and friendship over good food and good wine.
Taking that feast outside into a location like The Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh – as Scottish Field did for its December 2018 issue – makes the occasion extra special.
Dining outside means that we need wines with character that will retain their aromas and flavours in the open air, but which won’t overpower the ingredients in the dishes, especially anything that’s been foraged.
Food-friendly whites like gruner veltliner are great places to start if they have enough intensity to their fruit, while the fresh acidity in pinot noir makes it a great lighter red option.
Deeper red wines like Minervois from the Languedoc in the south of France are ideal winter warmers – whether indoors or out – and what better way to kick-start a feast than with some fizz?
I wish you a peaceful Christmas and Hogmanay – no matter which vinous treats you choose to accompany your feasts.
Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve, 2014
Bubbly from south of the Border with ripe raspberry and pear to tame its acidity. I’m a huge fan of English sparkling wine, but I do find that some examples still don’t have enough concentrated fruit flavours to balance their acidity. That’s not a problem for winemaker Charlie Holland at Gusbourne in Kent; I’ve been impressed again and again with both his sparkling and still wines, especially the intensity of their flavours. A friend who shares my passion for UK fizz produced a greatly-appreciated bottle of this wine as my birthday bubbles over the summer.
Finest Minervois La Liviniere, 2016
A richer red, full of blackberry and blueberry, ready to match meatier dishes. This is a real warming wine for the winter months and the ideal example of that old adage, “What grows together goes together”. Vineyard managers in the South of France may battle against wild boar but, when it comes to cooking the beasts, their wines can form a perfect pairing, with the high percentage of syrah in this Minervois providing plenty of dark fruit to match the posh piggy in the pie. There’s a hit of tannin that quickly settles down into the background, adding to its food-friendly credentials.
Extra Special Marlborough Pinot Noir, 2016
Red cherry and raspberry layered with woodsmoke and spun sugar make this perky pinot great value. Goat can handle a surprisingly-wide range of red wines – especially cabernet sauvignon, more syrah or even malbec, particularly when the meat’s been slung onto a barbecue – but here I’ve opted for the more elegant tones of pinot noir. Asda’s Yarra Valley pinot from Australia has been a mainstay of Scottish Field’s wines for Christmas for years, but this vintage of the Marlborough pinot from New Zealand makes me want to swap Antipodean island. It’s got enough tannin and acidity to sit alongside the goat – and plenty of fruit for balance.
Rabl Gruner Veltliner, 2017
Marks & Spencer
Austria’s flagship white, with ripe red apple and apricot, plus plenty of texture. Gruner veltliner is such a versatile white grape when it comes to food and wine matching and is a bottle for which I always make a beeline when I spot it on a menu. This example from M&S is great value and the perfect introduction to this unsung hero. It’s worthy of its place at any feast, and here it’s fun to try it with the roast leg of goat as an alternative to the pinot noir. Never underestimate textured whites like roussanne or gruner when it comes to winter roasts.
Domaine de Lasserre Jurancon, 2015
A healthy kick of freshness to round off the meal and match the chestnut and pear strudel. There are bonus points on offer if you’ve ever heard of petit manseng or gros manseng, the two grapes used to make this dessert wine from the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in South-West France. Their acidic freshness is beautifully balanced by flavours of pear, red apple and honey, with a floral aroma on the nose and a peachy finish. The Co-op’s Jurancon is a top performer year-after-year and very versatile when it comes to matching with desserts. For more ideas of what to pair with pears, check-out November 2018’s Wine to Dine column.