How to take your Christmas wine pairing to the next level

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18th December, 2019 by Edith Hancock

Pairing wines with Christmas dinner can be a delicate balancing act, but every year, we’re told that Pinot Noir is the ideal match for the big meal.

(Photo: Cono Sur)

Why, though, when so many opt for Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec?

When I was studying my WSET Level 2, I recall my tutor advising the class on what wines to bring if you’re going to a dinner party.

“If in doubt, take a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir”.

It may be the “heartbreak grape” for winemakers, but Pinot Noir is an incredibly versatile wine for food pairings.

There are a few reasons for this. Pinot Noir-based wines tend to be relatively low in tannin compared to other reds. This means it matches well with white meat and a whole host of fatty and salty foods one expects at dinner parties, that would only accentuate the tannins on a big, bold, young red.

Another thing to bear in mind is acidity. There’s a lot going on on the dinner table at Christmas, with sharp, fruity cranberry sauce, rich bread sauce, salty savoury turkey, earthy sprouts and root veg, and smokey pigs in blankets. Not to mention the gravy, and the Yorkshire puddings, if you’re that way inclined. Wines with medium to high acidity tend to match with more foods than those on the lower end of the scale.

But finally, Pinots also come with red berry flavours that are virtually designed for cranberry sauce, which itself is a perfect partner for turkey.

Turkey itself is not an exceptionally flavourful meat, and isn’t particularly high in fat, do can be on the dry side if overcooked. You ideally want either a full-bodied white wine with malolactic qualities to balance out the lean meat, or a bright, acidic red with delicate red fruits and a little spice.

If your wallet can’t stretch to Burgundy (and frankly, few can), the Pinots from Chilean Cono Sur’s Pinot Noir’s are full of aromatic flavours, to compliment and bring out the unique taste profiles of many a Christmas dish.

But there’s no reason why you can’t make the match even more ideal. Pinot noir is crammed with red fruit aromas, so you can get playful with cherries and cranberries in your stuffing, or with fresh rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

You could also add a splash of wine to the gravy pan as you bring it to its final simmer. This will bring more depth to the sauce and elevate the wine pairing. Win win.

Finally, pigs in blankets – or anything with bacon – make a superb partner for Pinot Noir, thanks to the high salt and fat content that match up with the wine’s acidity. Try layering a few slices of bacon on to your turkey for the final hour of roasting.

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