The excitement is building at F+R HQ over which wines to crack open during the festive period. It’s time to agonise over those extensive menus and work out which bottles will please all of your guests, while at the same time being worthy enough to stand up to all the rich and varied flavours of Christmas. We have put together some classic food and wine pairings, alongside some more off-the-wall options in our foolproof guide to Christmas drinking...
Beef Wellington on Christmas Eve
Pair with: Pomerol or New World Cabernet Savignon
That beef fillet deserves something silky, soft and rich and there is no better contender than Pomerol, whose silky tannins and dense, opulent Merlot fruit work beautifully with this delicate cut. F+R's pick would be Chateau Belle Brise 2009, a distinctly delicate Pomerol of the highest calibre. An alternative pick would be a New World Cabernet, whose tannins are that much sweeter and more succulent than its Bordeaux counterparts. F+R recommends Jonata’s El Desafio de Jonata 2006 from Ballard Canyon in California – incredibly fine tannins and dense, mature fruit.
Present Opening & Hors d'Oeuvres on Christmas Morning
Pair with: Champagne or UK Sparkling Wine
The vast array of bites and nibbles early on in the festivities call for something highly versatile. You can’t go wrong with Champagne which works with virtually everything. Its light body and delicate fizz whets the appetite perfectly. A magnum of our own F+R Gosset Vintage 2006 Champagne is the perfect choice; a large format deserves the limelight at this time of year and easily accommodates all guests. A bottle fermented sparkling wine would also suffice – Forty Hall’s London Sparkling 2016 wine would be an ideal alternative and a great talking point to distract from that inappropriate gift from your Auntie.
Christmas Dinner Starter - Smoked Fish or Pâté
Pair with: Chablis, Alsace Pinot Gris or Mosel Riesling
Smoked fish works well with a lot of whites - providing you have enough acidity - so you can really experiment. Fine Grand Cru / Premier Cru Chablis with a bit of bottle age pitches really well but other mineral-led Grand Cru Alsace options can offer a bit more fruit. F+R recommends Billaud Simon’s Le Clos Grand Cru 2011. Pinot Gris rarely gets its deserved look-in but works well here. Try Zind Humbrecht’s Single Vineyard Rangen de Thann Clos St Urbain 2013. For sweeter pâté, you can start to dial-up the residual sugar levels. A top Kabinett or Spatlese Riesling from the Mosel is a classic foolproof option. F+R suggests Von Hovel’s Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett.
The Main Event - Turkey and all the Trimmings
Pair with: White/Red Burgundy or New Zealand Pinot Noir or Chardonnay
Not particularly original choices here, but they just work so well. Christmas is all about those special moments and memories and there isn’t a better wine in the world that can frame those than a perfect bottle of Burgundy in its prime. Top reds from 1999, 2002, 2007-2010 are drinking beautifully now. You could even start enjoying the 2012 village reds. Whites up to and including 2015 are all drinking well, but you might want to hold back on some of the top 2014s. If you want some more reliable New World alternatives, wines from Martinborough in New Zealand are a great place to start. F+R recommends Escarpment 2014 Kupe Pinot Noir and Chardonnays from Dry River.
Something Sweet - Christmas Pudding
Pair with: Aged White or Tawny Ports
Rich, unctuous and fruity puddings require wines with a similar constitution. You cannot go wrong with very old Tawny Ports. F+R recommends the magnificent range of Aged Tawnies from Quinta do Mourao who, on visiting F+R earlier this year, provided the team with potentially the most memorable tasting of the year. His wines are outstanding! Try a bottle Quinta do Mourao 50 Year Old.
To Finish - Christmas Day Cheese Board
Pair with: Northern Rhone Aged Claret or Vintage Port
Cheese can be a bit of a minefield and any very strong cheeses should be approached with caution. Hard, moderately strong cheeses work brilliantly with good Northern Rhone wines – Hermitage, Cornas or a St Joseph. Good, aged Left Bank claret is also a great alternative. Less classic, but equally suitable, would be New World Syrah alternatives. F+R rates Sine Qua Non’s Patine Grenache 2011. Vintage Port is ideal for finishing off the meal. F+R recommends Dow 1994 - drinking beautifully now or if you really want something very special there is the Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994.