Leanne Kelsall speaks to Jamie Collins (aka The Wine Beagle) to uncover which are the best wines to serve this festive season.
With weeks until Christmas, you’re no doubt filling your home full of decadent food and drinks ready for the big day. But when it comes to choosing the perfect wine, there’s a lot to consider. Fear not. We’ve got our own little helper in the form of Jamie Collins, aka The Wine Beagle.
Below is his guide to matching wines to your festive fare. And if you’re keen to find out more about his service, there’s more info at the bottom of the article.
The best wines for…
Getting the party started
Sparkling wine is surely a Christmas essential. But where to start? There are so many different styles to choose from. Well, my two tips for 2017 are ‘Grower’ Champagnes and English Sparkling wines.
‘Grower’ Champagnes are those made with grapes grown by the producers themselves, rather than bought in from all over the region as is the case with the big brands. The majority are snapped up by the French but you can find some excellent, small production examples over here in the UK too. Just look out for the tiny little letters ‘RM’ on the bottle which stands for Récoltant-Manipulant.
Keeping it more local, English fizz has very much come of age and quality is now up there with some of the better Champagnes. There are numerous producers to choose from and the number is growing at a rate of knots. Three that I would particularly recommend though are Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Wiston.
Seafood starters or mains
First off, I would say that if you’re having fish this Christmas, don’t underestimate the potential of sparkling wine as a good match. Champagne or English fizz can both go exceptionally well with fish, just try to match the weight of the dish to the weight of the Sparkling wine. For example, a light English fizz with smoked salmon or a rich Champagne to stand up to white fish in a creamy sauce.
In terms of still white wines, white Burgundy is always a good choice – a relatively lean Premier Cru Chablis with grilled fish with parsley butter works very well, or perhaps a richer white from Bordeaux.
These oaked blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon can be absolutely delicious and are somewhat underrated at the moment.
The Christmas turkey
For turkey, I’d recommend a medium-bodied red. Turkey is not a very fatty meat so too much tannin is a no-no. A red Burgundy would, therefore, pair well or a Pinot Noir from the New World if you favour something fruitier. A fine white Burgundy can also be a good choice, it needs to have a certain amount of richness to stand up to all the trimmings though, so a good Meursault or Chassagne-Montrachet would be ideal.
If you’re having goose – a stronger and fattier meat – you should go for something with a bit more oomph. A rich red from Toro in northern Spain would be excellent, or perhaps a Barolo from northern Italy. Both have the acidity and structure to work well.
A nut roast
If you’re going for a nut roast then similar rules apply to matching with the turkey roast. You will, after all, have the same trimmings and possibly gravy, so a medium bodied red with a certain amount of intensity would match well. A Claret for example if you’re keeping it traditional or perhaps a rich, New World Cabernet-Merlot – Margaret River in Western Australia produces some particularly excellent examples.
The Christmas pud
Tawny port has always been a favourite choice of mine. Served slightly chilled it takes the traditional pudding to new levels of deliciousness. For the more adventurous, I would advocate a 10-year-old Madeira (or older). These sweet but bracingly fresh fortified wines from the island of the same name are astonishingly complex and a perfect match for the fruity richness of the Christmas pudding. What’s more, they’re almost indestructible so can be left open in the fridge and turned to if you are ever in need of quick sharpener.
About The Wine Beagle
Looking to impress your guests with the latest grape? Then The Wine Beagle could be the answer.
Designed to save you the time and stress of searching for something special, The Wine Beagle will ‘sniff out’ the best new wines and deliver them straight to your door.
The man behind the wine is Jamie Collins. Having spent a decade in the London wine trade, he decided to go solo and set up a service that seeks exclusive and undiscovered wines from up-and-coming European wine producers.
Once a fortnight, subscribers receive a newsletter with a hand-picked selection of wines from Jamie – varieties which are not available anywhere else in the UK. Subscribers are then welcome to put an order in. This comes without the traditional merchant mark-up when it comes to price.
Jamie says, ‘After 15 years in the wine trade with time spent at Majestic and more recently as a buyer at an online merchant, I was inspired to launch The Wine Beagle as I believe that many wine lovers are stuck in a rut with their usual tipple and often stick to what they know, but there are so many wonderful undiscovered wines out there. I wanted to bring these to the dining room tables across the UK for them to be enjoyed without my customers going through the hassle of finding them or paying over the top prices.”
The Wine Beagle – Where and how