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Red Wines for Christmas Lunch

Posted on 6th December 2019 by JN Wine

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Red Wines for Christmas Lunch

The festive season is well and truly underway and as the “big day” draws closer there’ll be some that will, in the midst of the frenzied preparation, nevertheless still find time to consider the all-important vinous accompaniments to the occasion with utmost seriousness and scrutiny.  If the Christmas lunch is to serve a purposeful simulacrum to the humble spruce, pine or fir around which family and friends gather at this time of year then it is the wine that acts as the adorning angel or star; propelling an otherwise uniform, Groundhog Day-esque spread into one that dazzles and sparkles long in the memory.

The Main Event

Although goose, salmon, steak and more recently nut roast pose threat in the tussle for the top spot of the Christmas lunch centrepiece it is undoubtedly turkey that still rules the roost. Being a white meat with little fat and more meek in flavour than most, it becomes important to take this subtlety into consideration when choosing red wines to pair alongside. Given too that the plate will likely be brimming with other flavours and textures vying for dominance; namely ham, parsnips, stuffing, cranberry and the notoriously difficult-to-pair Brussel sprout, it is no wonder why many find the task of pairing reds to this fabled repast more taxing than it would initially seem.

Guidelines to follow

While personal preference is paramount in all of this, there are a few points to consider when wishing to pair red wines with Christmas lunch:

  • Be wary of tannins – In general, low or mid-tannin wines will perform better with turkey, being a low-fat meat. This lack of fat leaves little to soften the tannins in the wine meaning that high-tannin wines tend to overpower not only the the subtle flavour of the turkey but the dish as a whole.
  • Acidity is your friend – Wines with medium or high levels of acidity will act as palate cleansers when confronted with the myriad of flavours and textures that make up the Christmas lunch. Just as the cranberry sauce brings about a sense of piquant, tart freshness to the dish so too will a vibrant red wine with zippy acidity.
  • If you must go full-bodied, go mature – Full-bodied wines tend to have high-levels of tannins which, in their youth, can be over-dominant and/or austere and run you into the problems outlined in the first point when considering pairing with Christmas lunch. Bottle ageing over time however will serve to integrate and soften these tannins within the wine contributing to a rounder and less grainy character that will contend less with the food served alongside.

With all the aforementioned in mind you can find below a list of suggestions of red wines that we are confident will provide the ideal pairing for your meal this Christmas as well as delivering joy in times spent away from the table in the company of friends and family.

Rudolf Fürst Spätburgunder Tradition 2017

After years of being unfairly maligned consumers are now waking up to the possibilities and inherent quality offered from German red wines. This Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, from renowned Franken producer Rudolf Fürst boasts a beautiful limpid ruby colour with crunchy wild strawberry and earthy aromas alongside flavours of woodsy raspberry, cherry, clove and umami. This bright fruit coupled with the slightly savoury character in the wine makes it the ideal match to the various components of the Christmas lunch.

Sylvain Loichet Chorey Les Beaune Rouge 2014

For many of us Christmas and Burgundy go hand in hand but with it becoming increasingly difficult to find pocket-friendly examples it’s no surprise that consumers are turning to elsewhere in the world for their Pinot Noir fix. However, value can be found if you know where to look. This red Chorey-lès-Beaune from relatively obscure producer Sylvain Loichet offers excellent value with Morello cherry, rose petal, allspice and tilled earth flavours with all the refined elegance and purity expected of the appellation.

Domaine Rochette Régnié 2017

Beaujolais as a region is very much en vogue with wine aficionado’s nowadays; loved for its relative value for money (when compared to its Burgundian cousin just slightly north), progressive winemaking culture and ability to produce wines with a tangible sense of place through the vector of the Gamay grape. Domaine Rochette tick many of these boxes and with this Régnié (from right in the heart of the Beaujolais “crus”) they offer up all the dusty, curranty fruit, powdery tannins and veins of chalky freshness one could demand from this village.

Vinedos y Bodegas Dominio De Tares Baltos 2016

Mencía, native to Bierzo in the northwest of Spain, is a grape that has catapulted in popularity in recent years – likely thanks to the proliferation of tapas bars across the UK and Ireland. Often liked to Pinot Noir but with a tad more weight, darker fruit and a smattering of crushed gravel and black pepper spice, this grape is an ideal gastronomic partner to many dishes thanks to its medium-body, fresh acidity and pert tannins. With this particular example’s 6 months of aging in French and American oak adding some liquorice and baking spice into the mix, it provides an ideal and slightly leftfield accompaniment to the Christmas lunch.

Secateurs Red Blend 2018

Continuing the theme of the leftfield festive appurtenances, this red blend from irreverent yet revered South African producer Adi Badenhorst provides buckets of character at outstanding value.  Adi, who professes to make “natural wines in the traditional manner” on a farm co-owned with his cousin Hein in Swartland, blends the “darling” variety of the region, Cinsault, together with Shiraz and Grenache – all picked from unirrigated bush vines on the side of a mountain – to create a beautifully aromatic, floral, earthy young wine that is a delight to drink on its own or alongside white meats and vegetables. A real JN favourite and one worthy of stocking up on!

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