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.
Although goose, salmon, steak and more recently nut roast pose threat in the tussle for the top spot of the Christmas dinner 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.
While personal preference is paramount in all of this, there are a few points to consider when wishing to pair red wines with your Christmas dinner...
Guidelines to follow
- 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 dinner. 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.
Bodega Urbina Crianza 2012, Rioja, Spain
Bodega Urbina has a history that spans 150 years, with winemaking taking place as early as 1870 across four generations. This Crianza remains in American oak barrels for 12 months, then it is bottled and remains in the bottle for a minimum of 6 months before being released onto the market. Cherry-ruby colour, balanced, hints of blackcurrant and damson on the palate; good structure and persistence, with a touch of vanilla and mint from the period in oak.
Château Lamothe Gaillard, Bordeaux Supérieur 2020, Bordeaux, France
In pure respect for Bordeaux tradition, this wine is made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet
Sauvignon. A vibrant and alluring deep purple, aromas of ripe red and black fruit, full bodied, fleshy and full on the palate, with fine grained and silky tannin. A Bordeaux to enjoy over the next few years. AB (Agriculture Biologique) and Organic certified.
Invincible Number One 2020, Douro, Portugal
Enticing nose of dark fruit, cherry and light oak aromatics. The palate is layered with juicy red fruit and ripe cherries followed by a fine tannin structure. The finish is vibrant and lengthy with a subtle spice from the oak ageing. A field blend from 30+ year old vineyards: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz.
Altosur Malbec 2021, Mendoza, Argentina
This beauty is crafted from Malbec grapes grown at an altitude of 4,000 feet in the Andes. Aromas of intense ripe fruit: cherries, blackberries, blueberries and fresh plums, combined with spicy and floral hints. In the mouth the sweet and round tannins increase its fruit sensation and balance. Wine of good intensity, concentration and a long, supple aftertaste.
Scriani Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2019, Veneto, Italy
Valpolicella has always been famous for its wines, which have been well known and appreciated ever since the Roman period for their fragrance and personality. The nose and palate deliver red berries, cherries and plums in a beautifully poised, medium bodied style. A wonderful accompaniment to festive meats and cheeses.
Cline Cellars Lodi Zinfandel 2019, California, USA
This wine shows an array of dark berry fruit including black cherry and strawberry. Additionally, spice notes and a lasting finish of vanilla from oak aging and firm, supple tannins add complexity to this wine. Cline Cellars is owned by Nancy Cline. Both her grandfathers were from Ireland - Gregory Laughlin from County Cork and Bunting from Lurgan, Co Armagh.