The Bath & Wiltshire Parent’s wine columnist, Ben Franks FRSA, from local business Novel Wines, shares his monthly favourite drinks with you.
While the world is a still up in the air, we can all look forward to Christmas, albeit one that’s perhaps a little smaller and subdued than normal. One way we can splash out is with the Christmas dinner and to get the whole experience right, it helps to choose a good wine to match.
The cheat to any food and wine pairing success is to remember that salt and acidity are best friends. If you’re having something like baked fish over Christmas, the salty notes and light body demand something fresh. Try wines like the zingy, bright Aldwick Estate Jubilate Seyval Salute (£22.00 on offer at Novel Wines), an English sparkling wine grown locally in the Mendip Hills.
For traditional Christmas day roast, the most popular option is still roast turkey. This is a lean bird, so it can be easily overpowered by wines that get too full bodied. However, don’t forget what you’re serving it with: cranberry sauce, gravy, salty and crispy roast spuds, maybe honeyed carrots, bright fresh peas and sprouts. The trimmings need to be paired as well as the meat. So if you’re going white wine, I recommend Pegoes Colheita Seleccionada Branco (£9.99, Novel Wines) from Portugal’s warm Peninsula de Setubal. It’s full of moreish notes of peach melba and cream but retains freshness and great acidity as to not overpower the meat. It’s also a top wine pairing with nut roast, too.
If you’re a red wine fan with turkey, don’t fret. Go a little lighter than you might normally and opt for something like the Balla Geza Blaufrankisch (£12.99, Novel Wines) from Romania. This is an exceptional wine full of bright notes of cherries, cranberries and smooth tannins.
For sweeter meats like honey roast ham or other cuts of pork, spare a moment to think about how well apple sauce goes alongside. Mouth-watering, right? So with the wine look out for apple-like flavours. Wines like Chenin Blanc, especially the Sula Chenin Blanc (£10.99, Novel Wines) and others from warmer climates, have a roundness and sweetness that works wonders with the meat. In reds, go juicy. Try something like the mouth-watering Semeli Feast Red (£9.99, Novel Wines) from Greece.
When it comes to fatty cuts like lamb, or if you’re veggie and you’re thinking about a pie filled with roast vegetables and goat’s cheese in a buttery, herby sauce, you need a wine that’s going to cut through things and keep it fresh. My number one lamb wine is Heimann Kadarka (£15.99, Novel Wines) because its full of toast, juicy red fruits and silky tannins – although if you want a bottle you’ll have to be quick, because it’s selling like wildfire.
For roast veg pies and herby lamb cuts, opt for Peter Pince Thurzo Tokaj Furmint (£14.99, Novel Wines) for a white, or Tikves Cuvee Methodius Vranec (£9.99, Novel Wines) in the red. The former white wine, from Hungary, is coming from the ‘honey pot”’ vineyards of Tokaj and bursting with fruit, butter and spice. The red is from the Republic of North Macedonia and an absolute delight of mixed berries, plums and leather. Both great with anything herby, or will go with your cheeseboard after dinner as well.
Those of you going big and bold with roast beef or even Wellington, we have to turn things up a notch. While Malbec is the obvious choice with its rich fruit and notes of chocolate and spice, my pick is the Pizzato Fausto Tannat (£15.99, Brazil). This wine is made for beef. Vibrant and deep, brimming with blueberries, spice, caramel and vanilla over grippy tannins and a peppery finish.
Finally, it’s not Christmas without a sweet wine and there’s one I’d plum for this year over everything else. Let’s not lie, 2020 has been tough on everyone in one way or another, so we all deserve a little treat. The royalty of all sweet wine comes in a Tokaj bottle and is called ‘Aszu’ (Ah-zoo). This sweet wine can be eye-wateringly expensive, but thankfully for us there’s another new style called Szamorodni that is making these sweet nectars accessible to everyone. Try Sanzon Tokaj Sweet Szamorodni (£20.99, Novel Wines) if you prefer your sweet wines with cheese, or try the Demetervin Sweet Szamorodni (£28.99, Novel Wines) if you’re going to sip it alongside dessert.
For more details and help choosing great wines, go to www.novelwines.co.uk