Food


Ask the expert: The perfect wine for Christmas dinner

 

Say hello to Nick Adams, Master of Wine, who joins the Jarrold family as our resident wine expert to help you get more enjoyment from our wine collection in the Deli and Wine Bar. Here Nick recommends some of the best wines to have with your traditional Christmas dinner.

Christmas is not only the time to celebrate, but to indulge. Good food, wine and company are integral to the success and memories which make this time so special.

To help you elevate your whole dining experience this Christmas, here are my wine options for each course of your traditional Christmas dinner. For each course I have highlighted three types of wines under the general banners of a) crowd pleaser – a good all rounder, b) off piste – try something different and c) treat  – something indulgent.

 

Starter - soup

Tis the season for soup – for sure. The classical chefs I work with generally prefer to serve their soup without any wine at all – hmmm! However, and this is my homemade recommendation for the holidays – nothing beats a great pan of vegetable soup – onion, leek, celery, carrot, black cabbage (cavolo nero is just so good in soups) garlic, borlotti beans, flat leaf parsley with pressed tomato and deseeded chopped pulp. And what makes this so flexible is you use two pans – in one add chicken stock and shredded ham hock for the carnivores; and in t’other, skip the ham and use vegetable stock for the veggies - then everyone is happy! And to finish it off use any leftover bread to make your own crostini (roast in the oven with a little oil) topped with cheese and re bake – either a good cheddar or gruyère.

Or, with your left-over game and chicken bones, roasts these and use as the basis for a game soup –just perfect when you come back from that Christmas or Boxing Day walk. 

But to finish the whole experience off – and please trust me - chill down a bottle of Fino sherry – yes, I did say that – please do try it you might just have found an unexpected new wine match.

Crowd Pleaser: Chenin Blanc Hutton Ridge, Coastal Region South Africa

£7.00

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Off-Piste: Classic Dry Fino or Manzanilla Fernando de Castilla Sherries, Jerez Spain

£13.00

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Treat: Ayala Rosé Majeur Champagne Brut NV, Champagne France

£36.50

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The Main Course - Traditional Turkey

Where else to begin! And we start with a twist. Good quality, free range turkey can be mildly gamey (like Guinea Fowl) and depending on how it has been cooked it can work surprisingly well with a light bodied red or fuller bodied rosé, as with (the more obvious choice) a dry white wine.

And don’t forget that the “trimmings” often come with a salty and tangy edge to them (eg sausage, bacon, stuffing). Also, if you are doing traditional bread sauce (with clove studied onion as its base) then you are also adding dairy and soft spice notes. In general, for white avoid anything that is heavily oaked as this conflicts with these flavours. Equally you want a white which has some weight, punch and fruit.

Regarding a red, opt for a lighter bodied red, which is fruity but not too tannic – and serve it cool (10 minutes in the fridge) as this lifts the whole profile if the wine with the food. Basically, any crisp, dry, unoaked white which you normally enjoy will work, but if you want to be a little different...

Crowd Pleaser: Sauvignon Blanc Tierra Alta, Central Valley Chile

£7.50

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Off-Piste: Pinot Noir Lawson’s Dry Hills, Marlborough New Zealand

£15.50

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Treat: Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy Domaine de la Motte, Burgundy France

£22.00

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Dessert - Christmas Pudding

The key principle to matching sweet wines with desserts is to make sure the wine is at least as sweet as the pudding, else it tastes weak and rather thin (and paradoxically dry).

The first consideration is probably what goes with the Christmas Pudding (and Christmas cake and mince pies)? The wine needs to be as sweet and as rich as you might imagine – in fact you could consider Port again here, or a rich Pedro Ximenéz from Spain

Then you have sweet but more delicate items such as meringue, fruit pies which would be swamped by Port. Here a more refined sweet wine such as Sauternes or Tokaji Aszú from Hungary works well. Likewise, these same wines also team up with caramelised desserts (classically Tarte Tatin).

The biggest challenge comes with chocolate dishes – chocolate (especially high cocoa content) really challenges a lot of sweet wines – again they need to be really sweet but also savoury, maybe even caramelised themselves in nature. An aged Tawny Port is a good partner for example – try it cooled down it really does work better.

Apart from Late Bottled and Vintage Ports, all sweet wines should be served well chilled – this is very important to maintain balance and keep them from tasting heavy and cloying. And the good news is sweet wines go a long way – they can be sipped, savoured and stoppered and returned to the fridge where they can last happily for up to a week, or longer in some cases. A little goes a long way!

Crowd Pleaser: Monbazillac Domaine de Grange Neuve, Bordeaux France

£11.50

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Off-Piste: Classic Pedro Ximenéz Fernando de Castilla, Jerez Spain

£20.50

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Treat: Dona Matilde Colheita Tawny Port Vintage 1982 (bottled 2017), Douro Portugal

£79.00 (no need to decant)

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The Cheese Board

Another must have for Christmas!  And is there anything more appealing than a great board of cheese on Christmas or Boxing Days? Sadly, the great Turkish fig season is over by then to go with them, but look out for Fenland winter (white) celery – a classic savoury accompaniment – and some good grapes (I love the “Muscat” flavoured Sable grapes). Also, quince paste or jelly is a fine partner. 

The paradox with cheese is that for all its dairy richness the very product is itself very acidic, as souring the milk to start the whole process of production is essential to allow the milk to coagulate. Do not be deceived by the more-ish richness – there lurks behind an acid grip! Therefore, a high acid, tannic red wine is maybe what you don’t need to accompany it. You may be pleasantly surprised that a fuller bodied weightier white wine works rather well - especially with nutty cheeses like Comté, or a mature cheddar.

Otherwise trusted old favourites such as Port and fuller bodied sweet wines work well with almost all types of cheese. I happen to live not that far away from the superb Stilton dairy of Colston Bassett – my own personal favourite for this cheese. They nearly always say when you buy directly from the dairy – and to quite them “this cheese has been made and matured at the dairy and is ready to be enjoyed right now” - and please do not pour port into it – drink it with it - they would all curdle at the dairy at the prospect of this direct blending! Also, older cheese tends to produce ammonia – especially blue and soft cheeses - you can just smell its acrid notes in an instance and it is a complete killer for any wine.

Letting a good Brie or Camembert run like Sir Mo Farah is not a good combination with any wine, however much you might like that style of cheese! Also, there is Roquefort which is aged in salt, so beware no territory for any red wine, but wonderful with sweet whites. Here endeth the lesson!

Crowd Pleaser: Graham’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Port, Douro Portugal

£15.00

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Off-Piste: Moscato Passito Araldica, Piedmont Italy

£8.50

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Treat: Dona Matilde 2011 Vintage Port, Douro Portugal

£32.00 (this wine needs to be decanted)

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I hope this guide is useful. It is only a guide I must stress and eventually you must enjoy the sort of wines which appeal to you personally and - very importantly - within your budget.

Nick is one of only 369 Masters of Wine in the world and has over 30 years’ experience in the world of wine, during which time he has visited many of the world’s famous wine regions and worked with some of the most renowned names and producers.

Nick officially joins Jarrold in the New Year to give you a greater level of service and information in our Deli and Wine Bar.

*Pictures are illustrative only  

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