Christmas dinner will feature in most people’s plans within a couple of weeks, and for most of them, roast turkey will be the main feature.
The traditional preparation of many home chefs will involve stuffing and roasting the bird, and finishing it off with a rich gravy.
I have used Alton Brown’s Good Eats roast turkey recipe, which you can find online at the Food Network, to achieve good results in the past few years and I highly recommend it.
A key ingredient for my Christmas dinner will be the wine selection.
We sometimes make selecting wine much more difficult than necessary.
The first rule is that you need to like the wine. If you prefer red wine, then drink red wine!
With some attention to your choices, though, you may find that your wine selection improves both the turkey and the wine.
There are a few main features about a roast turkey which I use to help in my wine choices.
Turkey is a light meat compared to beef or lamb. Heavy, tannic red wines would tend to overpower its light flavours.
Better red wine matches would be relatively light in body with little or no tannin.
There are quite a few attractive choices in this category, and we look to varietals such as Barbera and Pinot Noir, and regions such as Beaujolais and Italy, to find them.
The following wines are examples of such red wines.
Look for these and similar wines from many parts of the world.
‰ Batasiolo Sovrana Barbera d’Alba DOC, Italy (NLC $19.98)
‰ Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC, Italy (NLC $17.48)
‰ Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, France (NLC $14.87)
‰ Beringer Founder’s Estate Pinot Noir, California ($17.97)
Roast meats in general pair well with wines that have enjoyed some barrel aging. The inside of barrels used for wine aging are “toasted,” and the wines pick up some of the roast flavour elements.
When looking for a white wine with oak aging, the place to start is with Chardonnay. Heavily oaked Chardonnays turned off many consumers, but when properly done, such wines are an excellent choice with turkey. Here are some examples:
‰ J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Arroyo Seco Chardonnay, California (NLC $19.48)
‰ Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Chardonnay, Australia (NLC $16.78)
The flipside to matching the weightier elements of the roast turkey dinner is to consider cleansing the palate between bites.
Wines in this role play much the same tune as tart-tasting cranberry sauce. The acidity of the wine refreshes the palate after a mouthful of rich gravy and stuffing.
There are many choices for such a role, but I prefer Riesling for the combination of body and acidity. Some examples:
‰ Firesteed Oregon Riesling, Oregon (NLC $17.48)
‰ Spy Valley Marlborough Riesling, New Zealand (NLC $19.14)
Continuing the theme of refreshing wines, we have to consider dry (brut) sparkling wines of all sorts, including Prosecco and cava.
‰ Caneval Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut DOC, Italy (NLC $26.79)
‰ La Crusset Cava Brut Reserva, Spain (NLC $23.24)
You will also find that are fruit-forward and zingy rosé wines, such as Las Moras Shiraz Rosé (NLC $12.47) will be a suitable match for the same reasons.
Whatever wine you choose, be sure to follow the first rule, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas dinner.
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org