Although turkey goes hand-in-hand with a Christmas dinner today, it hasn’t always been the first choice. Boar, goose, chicken and even swan or peacock were served up for the festive feast long before turkey. Some sources point to King Henry VIII being the first English monarch to have had turkey at Christmas, and while we can't be certain of that, turkey did first start appearing during the 16th Century.
The Victorian era was the turning point as goose lost its dominance of our Christmas tables. At the same time, during the 1860’s, a reduction in import duties on wine was introduced, so perhaps the conundrum of which wine to serve with the Christmas turkey began then?
Getting the right wine for the right dish is good business. When a wine pairing is good, it’s very good, elevating both the wine and the food. Showcasing these pairings on your menu or with staff recommendations help guide customers to wines they will enjoy and wines more profitable for you. Many customers gravitate to the bottom end of a wine list when choosing a bottle, food and wine matching can help stop this.
There are some guidelines around food and wine matching that you can find in our guide, here. These guidelines will enable you to make some suggestions of your own from your existing wine list. But with time precious, in our list below we’ve selected some wines we think are perfect for Christmas Dinner, whether you’re serving turkey or not. Let us know what you think!
First up is our recommendation for turkey. It’s the undisputed king of the Christmas dinner table since at least a time when Scrooge sent Bob Cratchitt for a large turkey in 1843. There is nothing miserly about the wine we’re recommending however. With all the trimmings, the ‘traditional’ Christmas meal is far more complex than just the poultry element, so it’s important to find balance with the cranberry and bread sauce. For that reason we’re selecting Flor de Campo Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, it does a superb job of reflecting the spice in the bread sauce and is at one with the Cranberry.
If a turkey isn’t the bird of choice from your Christmas menus, have no fear. Roast chicken is a great dish for showing off both full-flavoured whites and lighter or mature reds. We’re choosing a real bargain of our wine list from the Conca de Barberà region of Catalunya, a vibrant, berried red made by Cara Nord. Cara Nord Negre, Conca de Barberà is elegant and minerally packed with ripe fruit flavours. A truly sophisticated chicken choice.
Duck is packed with flavour; the richness of duck makes it work well with the structure of Pinot Noir. Seeing as we’ve already selected a Pinot Noir to serve with turkey and to avoid looking like a cast member from ‘Sideways’, we’re choosing a Chianti Classico Santedame Estate by Ruffino. This was has a lovely elegant acidity and the cherry fruit and spice.
If you’re forgetting turkey for a truly traditional Christmas roast by serving goose then we have the pairing for you. We’re staying in Italy for another waterfowl choosing Barolo by Enrico Serafino; the acidity and tannin structure harmonises with the rich, fatty goose releasing the red fruit and spicy notes of liquorice and vanilla. We love this pairing.
The final bird on our list is Pheasant. Not that often seen on our dinner tables anymore, but perhaps for an extra special Christmas treat. Pretending that it is served in the Normandy style with apples and cream, it would be wonderful with a Pinot Gris from Alsace to complement the apples, Emile Beyer’s Tradition will do very nicely and be a treat in its own right.
With poultry not being for everyone, we’ve come up with a pairing for a delicious Beef Wellington too. This dish makes the perfect foil for a good red, perhaps a mature claret? Personally, we’re taking note of the forest-floor notes supplied by the mushrooms and as such, we’re off to Burgundy for Remoissenet’ Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Damodes.
Gammon is a popular choice for Christmas menus and a personal favourite. It’s spicy and sweet, so we’re going to select a wine to contrast with it, a light red. Chapel Down’s Union Red, made from primarily the Rondo grape. Grown in the ‘garden of England’ it would make a great choice for a great British Christmas.
Our final Christmas pairing suggestion is for those serving a meat-free Christmas. A nut roast is substantial and filling so we're going with a fruity red that will stand up to the rich flavours; a Chilean Merlot such as Veramonte’s Merlot from the Casablanca Valley will serve us well.
Resource: Food and Wine Matching Guide
You can find more information about the wines we stock here. If you want to stock any of the wines mentioned, click here to place an order online now, or here to request an account with us; and don’t forget we’re here to support you with everything you need to ensure that your wine range is a success, from free menu design and print services to staff training.