DESPITE the numerous alternatives available these days, turkey remains the centrepiece of many Christmas lunch tables. As the gentleness of the meat itself makes it particularly wine versatile, this week’s column has assembled a range of options.
Slightly surprisingly, perhaps, rosé is a good choice – think of the affinity between turkey and cranberry sauce – but make sure it is a dry one. Southern France is famous for that style of rosé but I also enjoyed 2012 Monferrato Chiaretto (£6.49, M&S online) from Piedmonte. It has that required dryness but wraps it around juicy cherry fruit, an attractive herbal underscore and gentle raspberry-centred acidity.
Similarly, turkey also works with pinot noir and a tasty but gentle choice would be 2011 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir (£17.99, Majestic) from the North Island of New Zealand. It has floral, light and smooth cherry flavours underlaid with spice and strawberry influences and touches of orange that bring substance and balancing acidity.
For a more substantial pinot, cross the Pacific to California for 2008 Marimar Estate Cristina Pinot Noir (£41.08, www.vintagemarque.com) from Russian River Valley. This combines the depth and earthy elements that pinot does well and fits them skilfully around the wine’s velvety, rounded black cherry fruit that is freshened up with just a nip of raspberry acidity. This really is serious and intense stuff.
Syrah is also popular at Christmas, especially with something more substantial than turkey. A brilliant choice would be 2009 Jean-Luc Colombo Les Mejeans Cornas (£23.99, Luvians, St Andrews and Cupar) from the northern Rhone. Here the iconic winemaker has created a full, silky and perfumed red with cherry and prune depth, a smoky coffee finish and generous hints of minerality.
However, if lunch is, say, beef, then look to 2008 Santa Rita Casa Real Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon (£21.95, Costco) with that extra sense of purity that unfiltered wine brings. Enjoy, too, the dense bramble and mocha flavours with a suggestion of nutmeg and the excellent balance between flavour, acidity and tannin that good Chilean producers like this strike so effectively.
In some households, White Christmas signifies what they drink rather than what they sing and, there, I would warmly recommend 2011 McHenry Hohnen Calgardup Brook Chardonnay (£17.95, www.winedirect.co.uk). From its toasty nose, through its complex and structured orange and tangerine fruit to its rich, buttery, vanilla finish, this is exactly what classy Margaret River chardonnay should be.
Something off-dry can also be popular and I have been greatly impressed by 2012 Prinz von Hessen H Riesling (around £15, 0845 263 6924 for stockists). This has riesling’s characteristic clean and crisp lime flavours but then neatly superimposes rounded touches of honey on to the wine’s light and floral background.
For a dessert wine, snap up the 2012 Seifried Nelson Sweet Agnes Riesling (£13.99 half bottle, Waitrose Direct) from New Zealand. It also has those trademark riesling lime flavours but here they are embellished with a perfume and honey opening and some typical, slightly petrol viscosity. At a mere 11 per cent alcohol, it will bring Christmas lunch to the measured, soft landing I believe all readers of this column truly deserve. n
2012 Exquisite Collection Limoux Chardonnay Languedoc, France, 13.5 per cent
Perfect for anyone seeking a rich yet balanced white at Christmas time. Although the wine is complex and textured (with substantial orange and intense peach fruit) it also has a fresh herbal backdrop, apple-centred acidity and just a hint or two of oak from, in particular, the barrel fermentation.
2011 Boschendal Lanoy Cabernet Sauvignon Western Cape, South Africa, 14 per cent
A full and smooth cabernet for robust dishes. It delivers damson, cherry and blackcurrant fruit, bright and sprightly acidity and hints of vanilla, mint and other spices to accentuate them all.
£6.99 (down from £8.99 until Christmas Day), Tesco