Raise a glass, or two
JOHN WILSON'S CHRISTMAS WINES: Christmas dinner presents some challenging wine matches. Here are some versatile suggestions to go with Domini Kemp’s menu, as well as the traditional turkey
Are you a Christmas conservative or iconoclast? Do you stick with turkey, or experiment each year? I am something of a traditionalist, although after a month of tacky songs and gaudy decorations it can all wear a little thin.
I have defended the turkey (it is great, if cooked properly) and the sprouts on these pages before. We have few enough culinary traditions in this country, so at Christmas I will eat turkey or goose. There are 364 other days in a year when we are free to eat whatever takes our fancy. So today, I will offer suggestions for Domini’s venison, but also make room for turkey, too. In fact, they both call for similar wines, with one exception.
Some of you open your very best bottles on Christmas Day. If there is a large crowd sitting down to dinner, I tend to veer towards less expensive wines. I am not a wine scrooge, but it is hard for anyone to appreciate the finer points of a fine wine when all hell is breaking loose.
These days, with more mature children around me, I like to open up something decent. Even in these hardened times, it is nice to create a feeling of a little luxury on the day. Put out your finest glasses, serve the wine in a decanter and bring out any other accessories that will add to the sense of opulence.
As soon as the festivities begin, have a glass of something ready for your guests. The final food preparations can take a lot of time, and you certainly don’t want anyone going thirsty. Besides, the chef will appreciate something to quench their thirst.
I like to kickstart the day with a glass of Champagne. Current favourites include Bollinger, Roederer, Bruno Paillard, Deutz and Larmandier-Bernier. However, if the weather is very cold and you have all been out for a walk (or a swim) a glass of mulled wine is less expensive, but equally welcome.
Domini Kemp’s suggested apple, celeriac and smoked trout starter is not the easiest dish to match to wine, but both the apple with its sweetness and the smoky trout would suggest Riesling. A Kabinett from the Mosel would do nicely. Alternatively, a lightly oaked Chardonnay would match both the apples and the smoky flavours of the trout. I would normally reach for a bottle of Mâcon, but I did try some very decent Chardonnays from Chile at a tasting a few weeks back, including the Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay (€17.99, widely available).
This would also go well with a starter of smoked salmon, and double up with the turkey main course for white wine drinkers.
Venison is one of the most richly flavoured meats, so a bottle of something reasonably full-bodied is called for. The cherry and red wine sauce would suggest something with real ripeness. Barolo is great with venison, but might be a bit too dry with the fruit sauce. Instead, I would head to the southern Rhône, Australia or maybe Argentina.