Thoughts from the Grapevine – Vol 2 Issue 2 – Natural Wine – Part 1
April 14, 2021

Which wines to pair with your Christmas Dinner

The holidays are a coming, and with that come the holiday feasts. My families traditional feast on Christmas day is the classic Turkey dinner with all the fixings.

So what will I be drinking that day? This is a pretty simple question with a very complex answer.

If I had to narrow it down to four wines, they would be: A Grand Cru or Lieu-dit Riesling from Alsace (ham), a traditional method sparkling wine (turkey and dessert), A Rhône blend with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (turkey and tourtière) and an earthy Shiraz from Australia (sweet potato purée).

The components of a Christmas dinner vary in the way they are prepared and cooked, as well as their primary flavour profile. So here are my thoughts on what you might want to serve with each course of your Christmas dinner

Having been brought up in Québec, my table always has tourtière at Christmas. I make mine with lamb, veal, pork, and a blend of sweet spice. Onions and potatoes add complexity and the profile is rounded out by the flakiness of the crust – homemade by my wife Carolyn. Here you want to avoid wines with too much tannin. Fruity reds with a nice level of acidity would pair nicely here. I would choose a well-aged Côtes du Rhône village or a Châteauneuf-du-pape. The tannins have softened, leaving a terrific fruit/acid balance.

Delicious Glazed Holiday Ham with Cloves Served for Dinner

Baked spiral ham is a combination of sweet, salty and fatty. High fruit and acidity are essential for this pairing. Plus, you need a decent level of sweetness to match that of the ham. A nice aromatic Alsatian Riesling Grand Cru is my suggestion. The fruitiness and medium-dry flavours will match well with the saltiness of the ham, and the nice acidity level will cut through the fat.

One of my favourite sides at Christmas dinner is roasted sweet potato purée. I roast the sweet potatoes in the oven with a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Then I mash them up with some sweet spices, such as cloves, nutmeg and a bit of cinnamon. Add a little bit of butter and then bake in a 350°F oven until a slight crust forms on the top for a terrific side dish. Pop open a bottle of Australian Shiraz as a perfect foil for the earthy spiciness of this dish. 

Roast turkey with stuffing sitting and waiting to be carved

The classic Roast Turkey and Stuffing has a lot of versatility. Richer than other poultry, the white meat is still not very highly flavoured, although the dark meat stands up better. Long roasting of a nicely basted and seasoned turkey means that there will be a bit of oily fattiness and a certain amount of saltiness in the meat and stuffing.

High acidity is imperative with the ultimate Christmas main course. Turkey will also help make tannins more palatable. I suggest a traditional method sparkling wine from France, South Africa or California. Oh heck, why not splurge and go for a non-vintage Champagne. Alongside that I would suggest a Pinot Noir from Oregon or Burgundy. The acidity and tannin levels in such a wine will pair nicely with our main course.

Finally, dessert. We usually offer a choice of pumpkin or apple pie. Umami or sweet, either way, you can’t go wrong with a well-aged 20-year old Tawny Port. An excellent balance of sweetness and soft tannins make this a wine that can be paired with either, or both, desserts. If you want to go local, you could also opt for a wonderful Québec Iced Cider. They tend to maintain a nice high level of acidity to go along with the sweetness.

May you all have a wonderful festive season!

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