Choosing Wines For Turkeys
(or something like that...)
Jon gives his advice on wine for that all important meal....
"A couple of years ago I was at wine tasting where Hugh Johnson was giving a talk. He was charming, witty and knowledgeable, telling stories about his time as a journalist in the world of wine. He mentioned that, years ago as junior writer, he first addressed the question that inevitably arises at this time of year; what wine to drink with turkey. He went on to explain that he had written the same article no fewer than eighteen times over his career.
So, although there is nothing new under the sun, the question does remain. What wine should one drink with turkey? It’s not such a daft question either. Christmas is a time for bringing out the best, but the problem is that many “best” red wines are just too hefty for delicate turkey. Turkey’s light flavour and general leanness suggest a lighter red, certainly not too tannic or full bodied. Pinot Noir is a classic suggestion, or something Grenache based like a Cotes du Rhone, a Lirac or a Gigondas. Similarly Beaujolais would work, as would Bardolino or Valpolicella.
Of course, it is possible to avoid the question altogether by eating something else. I’ve served salmon on Christmas day, on that occasion with a delicious Soave. Many serve goose - an altogether oilier and more flavoursome bird, and one that might work better with a good Bordeaux or a Rioja.
Another option is to make Christmas lunch into Christmas dinner. This avoids the Queen’s speech, the afternoon slumped in front of the TV and the disagreeable onset of the early evening hangover. At this time of day roast beef or lamb might work well and these are eminently suitable for hearty, hefty, well oaked reds. Some examples would be Barolo, something from Tuscany, Australian Cabernet, a Priorat or Zinfandel from the USA. There are many options that would work.
It is also worth considering that many will simply prefer something white to drink, even if it is with a meaty meal. Personally I would avoid light, lean and crisp on such a celebratory day and opt for something richer. A Pinot Blanc from Alsace? An off-dry Vouvray? Something aromatic from Southern Italy or a Jurancon from southern France? All of these are delicious and just that bit more full of flavour.
Last but definitely not least... With climate change now such a serious and pressing issue, many of us are now leaning towards vegan and vegetarian food to reduce our carbon footprints. A delicious nut roast with all the trimmings is a great option and actually opens up some interesting wine possibilities. You could pair that with hearty white wines - a good Grillo from Sicily, a South African Chenin Blanc, or a lightly-oaked Chardonnay for example. Look too for organic wines that do their bit for biodiversity; vineyards where vines coexist with a large number of other flora and fauna are helping in the fight against habitat loss.
Whatever you decide, just make sure you open the first bottle early. Perhaps an English Sparkling wine? That will make all the subsequent decisions so much easier.
And please remember to shop with your local wine merchant this Christmas!"