Festive wines for your main course...

Esk Tapiz and Annone trio of wines.

Esk Tapiz and Annone trio of wines. - Credit: Archant

The festive season is a time for getting together with friends and family often with food involved, whether drinks and nibbles or Christmas Day lunch.

Once the menu planning is done thoughts then turn to selecting wines to go with it. Whether you’re choosing traditional wines or experimenting and trying new ones all choices should follow a general rule of thumb.

This is to remember to match the dominant flavours of the food with complimentary ones in the wine to drink with it. Here are a few thoughts to tickle your taste buds…

Turkey is still the favourite for Christmas lunch and though not a highly flavoured meat itself we usually enjoy a mélange of flavours with it from cranberry sauce, bread sauce, roasted vegetables and not least the stuffing chosen to accompany it.

The meat is low in fat so choose a mature wine such as a Claret or reserve Rioja where the tannins are less obvious, with age and time in oak, or a vibrant fruity red wine such as Barbera from Italy.

This grape ages well and tastes of vibrant red currants, black cherries and a touch of spice show through on the palate.

It has a rich texture balancing taught acidity and fine oak tannins. Alternatives to the traditional wines also include Spanish wines made from the Mencia grape produced in Bierzo, modern styles of Pinotage from South Africa, and Californian Zinfandel with its briary spiciness.

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For white wine lovers a Chablis, lightly oaked is ideal such as those from Garnier with fragrant aromas and ripe-rounded fruit with a hint of honey. Other Chardonnays that are minerally and textured from careful oak aging would make a great festive meal combination too like those from Chile, or an aromatic stylishly fruity Torrontes from Argentina.

Chenin Blanc with lightly oaky flavours from South Africa or a rounded fruity finish like the Sauvion Vouvray from the Loire would make a great alternative too.

These are also great with vegetarian dishes like mushroom risotto and creamy pasta sauces. Tomato-based dishes need a vibrant fruity wine and here a Chilean Pinot Noir with fresh fruit, ripe tannins and light pepper and spice would be a great choice.

Some often-forgotten wines such as those from Alsace are just made to go with the many and varied festive meal flavours.

Try an off-dry ripe and rounded Pinot Gris with floral and spice aromas and flavours or a Spatlese Riesling from Germany whose fresh fruit notes with balancing acidity.

Another forgotten region is the Beaujolais where the Gamay grape makes vibrant fruity wines like Fleurie or deeper more concentrated styles such as Moulin a Vent and Regnie though all have light tannins to match with poultry dishes.

Most of these will also be great with goose or duck though a richer style of wine like a New Zealand Pinot Noir or a Grenache/Syrah-based wine from the Rhone can be an easy match with these meats.

If your favourite festive meat is beef try some classic wines from Bordeaux with a dark blackcurrant, berries and tannic structure or experiment with a wine from the Languedoc such as those from the Terrasses de Larzac or Montpeyroux would make a delicious match.

At this time of year too, when we meet up and enjoy meals with a wider family or friends group and need more than one bottle of each wine look out for the larger formats available including magnums, ie two bottles in one, the wine ages well in this size bottle and they have impressive presence on the table!