Matching wines to food on Christmas Day
If it has feathers, it probably goes well with pinot noir. Chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant, goose, pigeon, quail, spatchcock, etc.
There’s not a huge difference between chicken and turkey when it comes to wine matching, although there is certainly a step up in flavour and gaminess the darker the flesh of the bird. Then, of course, there’s the farmed versus wild argument: there’s no doubt the intensity and flavour and gaminess are much higher with wild duck and quail, to match the darker colour of the meat. Most of us will be eating the farmed product, but if you are lucky enough to have wild, just step up the flavour of the wine accordingly.
For turkey and other darker-fleshed poultry, lighter-bodied reds such as pinot noir, gamay/Beaujolais, and rosé do the trick, but for something different, try a chilled Australian sparkling red. Bleasdale NV (tastings) is year in, year out one of the best value for money, as is Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz (tastings). Also, try Rockford Black Shiraz, Charles Melton (tasting), Peter Lehmann Black Queen (tastings), if you can find them.
Pinot noir is arguably the most adaptable red wine of all with food. It’s light to medium bodyweight and light, soft tannins make it compatible with most medium- to full-flavoured savoury foods, from red meats to furred and feathered game, to a wide range of cheeses, pastas and risottos, more strongly sauced or marinated fish and seafoods, stronger vegetable dishes, cold meats and snacky things like pizza.
Here’s a selection, in ascending order of weight and price: Wickham’s Road (made by Hoddles Creek – tastings), De Bortoli Villages (tastings), Yering Station Little Yering (all modestly priced – tastings). Stonier‘s regular label (tastings). Anything from Coldstream Hills (tastings), De Bortoli, Mayer (tastings), Toolangi (tastings), Foxeys Hangout (tastings).
And at the top end: Hurley Vineyard (tastings), Dexter (tastings), Yabby Lake (tastings), Eldridge Estate (tastings), and Kooyong (Haven, Meres or Ferrous – tastings) from Mornington. Chatto (tastings), Stargazer (tastings), Home Hill (tastings), Sailor Seeks Horse (tasting), Freycinet (tastings) from Tasmania. Giant Steps (Sexton or Applejack Vineyard – made by Innocent Bystander – tastings), Gembrook Hill (tastings), Mac Forbes (tastings), Mount Mary (tastings), Wantirna Estate Lily (tastings), all from Yarra Valley.
Gamay: see De Bortoli Vinoque Roundstone Vineyard (tastings), Eldridge Estate, Sorrenberg (tastings), Two Bud Spur (tastings); and Beaujolais from Chateau Thivin (tastings) and Domaine du Vissoux (tastings).
Bake it, glaze it, re-heat it, eat it cold, make a sandwich or an omelette out of it – ham is the most versatile and, I suspect, the most consumed meat at Christmas time. That succulent leg of ham in the fridge keeps providing meals for days after it’s broached.
Ham can be served with light-bodied reds and Beaujolais (see above), but the least risky match is with rosé.
There are many styles, and in Australia there has been a subtle shift away from the deep-purple coloured, shrilly fruity and often slightly too-sweet styles in recent times toward a more Provencal style. These are my favourites. The trend was initiated by De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley with their various labels (see especially La Bohème – tastings), but many others are making superb dry, delicate, complex and more savoury-tasting rosés.
My favourites include TarraWarra Estate (tastings), By Farr and Farr Rising Saignée (tastings), Soumah Ai Fiori (tastings), Ten Minutes by Tractor (tastings), Port Phillip Estate Salasso (tastings), Scorpo (tastings), Shelmerdine (tastings), Willow Creek Estate (tastings). There’s a ripper newie from Beechworth called Schmölzer & Brown (tastings). And if you prefer a darker, fuller-bodied style, Charles Melton (tastings) and Turkey Flat (tastings) are still the go-to’s.
Rosés and lighter pinot noirs can work well, but the best wine for chicken is chardonnay. There is something about the rich, fleshy roundness of a generously proportioned, properly ripe chardonnay, and it works whether you have a straightforward roasted bird, stuffed and trussed, or the same bird served cold the next day.
Here’s a selection (rising in price and richness as we go): Hoddles Creek Estate (tastings), De Bortoli (tastings), Coldstream Hills (tastings), Oakridge (tastings), Yering Station (tastings), TarraWarra (tastings), Toolangi (tastings), Stonier (tastings), Dexter (tastings), Kooyong (tastings), Ocean Eight (tastings), Yabby Lake (tastings), By Farr (tastings), Shaw + Smith M3 (tastings), Tapanappa Tiers (tastings), Bird In Hand (tastings), Grosset Piccadilly (tastings), Henschke (tastings), Penfolds (tastings), Freycinet (tastings), Tolpuddle (tastings), Bay of Fires (tastings), Dawson & James (tastings), Leeuwin Estate (tastings), Xanadu (tastings), McHenry Hohnen (tastings), Flametree (tastings), Cape Mentelle (tastings), Cullen (tastings), Voyager Estate (tastings), Vasse Felix (tastings), Howard Park (tastings), Devil’s Lair (tastings).
Other fuller-weighted dry whites can also work well. Try any of the Rhone Valley white blends involving marsanne, roussanne and viognier. Such as Spinifex (tasting), Turkey Flat (tastings) or Torbreck (tastings) from the Barossa, or Chateaux Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc (tastings) from France.
Fish and seafood
Delicate dry whites are the best. Think semillon, blends of semillon and sauvignon blanc, Chablis, dry or near-dry riesling, and in imports, Italian pinot grigio, verdicchio, pinot bianco and the better soaves. Riesling with a touch of sweetness such as German trocken can work well, as can federspiel-grade Austrian gruner veltliner. Too much sweetness can jar, though, so unless you know the wine it’s best to err on the side of dryness. Freshly shucked oysters with young Hunter Valley semillon is a perfect match. The same styles of unwooded semillon are also a great match with ceviche – citrus marinated fish. The rule of thumb here is match delicate food with delicate wines. Champagne and other delicate Brut-style sparkling wines work for the same reason.
Prawns and chardonnay are a perfect match – see “chicken” earlier.
Selections: dry Hunter semillon from Tyrrell’s (tastings), Andrew Thomas (tastings), Brokenwood (tastings), Margan (tastings), Audrey Wilkinson (tastings), Keith Tulloch (tastings), Mount Pleasant (tastings), Pepper Tree (tastings) etc.
Riesling: KT (Kerri Thomson) of Clare – the especially the Churinga (tastings) and Peglidis (tastings) vineyards and the softer Melva (tastings). Crawford River (tastings), Helm (tastings), Pikes (tastings), Jim Barry (tastings), Petaluma (tastings), Bay of Fires (tastings), Stargazer (tastings), Grosset (tastings), Henschke (tastings).
Gruner veltliner: Salomon (tastings), Rudi Pichler (tastings), Nikolaihof (tastings), Franz Hirtzberger (tasting), Nigl (tastings) (Austria); Hahndorf Hill (tastings), Lark Hill (tastings), Hesketh (tastings) (Australia).
Champagne: Pol Roger NV (tastings), Piper Heidsieck NV (tastings), Laurent-Perrier NV (tastings), Lanson NV (tastings), Robert Moncuit NV (tastings), and for a real spoil, Louis Roederer 2009 Blanc de Blancs (tasting).
Australian sparkling: Arras (tastings), Heemskerk (and Abel’s Tempest – tastings), Stefano Lubiana (tastings), Deviation Road (tastings), Sittella (tastings), Clover Hill (tastings), Bay of Fires (tastings).
Does anyone really eat this on a hot Australian Christmas Day anymore?
If you do, there is nothing so good as dessert muscat (or topaque) from Rutherglen. It has the sweetness and richness to cope with one of the world’s richest desserts (especially when served brandy butter!) It can be served mildly chilled. And it will also go with any leftover cheeses. Think Morris (tastings), Chambers (tastings), All Saints (tastings), Stanton & Killeen (tastings) and Campbells (tastings).