Pairings | Christmas
Top wines to drink with turkey
You may already have your own favourite wine pairing for turkey but if you're looking for inspiration here are some of my favourite matches.
The challenge with pairing wine with turkey is what else you serve with it - a full-flavoured, fruity, sometimes spicy stuffing, tart cranberry sauce and an array of vegetables (sprouts and carrots at a minimum) that means you probably have about a dozen different flavours on your plate. That doesn’t mean you can’t pick a white or rosé but it does suggest something full and fruity that can cope with the onslaught.
The other consideration should be who you have round the table as both Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be multi-generational gatherings involving older members of the family who may well be set in their ways! So it’s worth sticking to tried and tested crowd-pleasers:
Six wines that pair really well with turkey
Not an inexpensive option, admittedly but the impressively embossed label has a real feel-good factor and the generous alcohol of the wine will hold its own with the stuffing and sides. Don’t try to do it on the cheap though. A decent Chateauneuf costs at least £15 (on special offer) and generally well over £20.
Other southern Rhône reds
More affordable options would be appellations such as Lirac (just next door to Chateauneuf), Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône ‘village’ wines such as Vacqueyras, Séguret and Cairanne. The 2015 and '16 vintages were particularly good ones. A magnum would make that choice even more impressive
Other GSM (grenache/syrah/mourvèdre) blends
‘Cos that’s the base of the Chateauneuf/southern Rhône reds. You’ll also find that style of wine in the Languedoc but also in Australia and South Africa. Often with the letters GSM on the bottle.
Time we rehabilitated Merlot which is a really delicious, crowd-pleasing wine. Look for a smooth velvety style rather than a heavily oaked one. Chile has some well-priced examples.
This is what the Aussies tend to have with Christmas lunch which is of course celebrated in high summer. If you don’t have the nerve to serve it with the meal itself crack open a bottle on Boxing Day. (Straight unfizzy Shiraz is also pretty good with a hot or cold bird)
A surprise, maybe, but at a Christmas tasting I did a couple of years ago for Decanter magazine a white burgundy - a Chassagne-Montrachet - came out tops. (Limoux chardonnay is a good low cost alternative.) You need to keep the gravy relatively light, obviously, but it’s surprising how well it works. Well worth having a bottle on the table for those who prefer white wine to red.
You could obviously serve other classic wines such as red Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rioja but I personally feel they’re better with other festive meats:
Bordeaux or other cabernet blends - better with roast beef
Burgundy or other good pinot noir - better with roast duck or goose
Rioja - better with roast lamb
What I wouldn’t do is pull out some aged and venerable bottle that you’ve been keeping for a special occasion. There’s always a danger that it will disappoint and that the cranberry sauce will just slaughter it.
When it comes to cold turkey think in terms of a slightly lighter red like a pinot noir or (my own favourite) a chilled cru Beaujolais or good Beaujolais Villages.
So what do you drink with your turkey? I’d love to hear about your favourite wine matches in the comments or on Twitter.
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