Ask Me Anything: Festive Food and Wine Matching with Emma Briffett
Today we’ll be chatting to Emma Briffett (aka @EmmaB), our Tastings & Events co-ordinator and ultimate go-to food-and-wine matching pro. You’ve been sending your questions in advance, and we’ll start by answering those.
Who’s here? Feel free to say hello and ask any last-minute questions!
I love sprouts too!
I always chop them finely and fry them off with bacon and chestnuts - not the healthiest, but very tasty. In which case, a nice rich chardonnay works a treat.
Its not all that often that you just have sprouts on their own, so I would normally be slightly guided by what other things were also on the plate.
Sprouts - depending on how you cook them - can be slightly ‘green’ tasting, so a wine with a little bit of sweetness such as a pinot gris, also works really well.
For reds - anything fruity and not too heavy (also try and avoid too much oak) - think of new world pinot noir or grenache.
To be honest the La Rocca does need more time in bottle in comparison to the Coffele, which is a slightly lighter, slightly less intense style. The 2016 vintage was a good classic vintage, but the 2015 wasn’t a bad vintage either. Therefore if you like your Soave with some age go for the 2015 vintage –Jancis Robinson thinks the 2016 is drinking well now – it’ll just have a little more freshness. All personal taste really.
As for what dish to pair with your wine, in Tastings we often show Soaves if we are serving a dish which is Italian/Italian influenced. Looking through some food and wine matching books squid ink risotto is something which comes up quite frequently, but I don’t think Squid ink is all that easy to come by – or at least not round Stevenage!
I would consider doing something like fresh grilled prawns or whitebait – or if you treating yourself – fish and chips would work a treat. If fish doesn’t take your fancy, it would also work with pork – Gordon Ramsay does a lovely pork loin stuffed with membrillo and manchego. Finally, I know it’s not the season but these Italian whites do go a treat with green chlorophyll-y veg like asparagus which can make other wines taste bitter.
OK, so with this lot I would divide the evening into 3 sections….
With the Taittinger my gut reaction would be to go down the fish route – my favourite pairing is Champagne and fish and chips, so bearing in mind that it is NYE and so you want things you can do in the house rather than having to go out for food, I would buy some of the nicest, best quality scampi you can get and serve them in wicker baskets straight out of the oven with a wedge of lemon. Very old school, and very tasty. The Taittinger, whilst starting to drink now, is still on the young side and so you should find the crisp acidity works really well with the ‘oiliness’ of the scampi batter. Alternatively smoked salmon blinis are always a classic and are easy to do, as are cheese straws – use a lot of parmesan in the mixture, the salty savouriness of the cheese really sets off the Champagne.
We’ve also recently tried champagne with blue cheese - i’d read recently somewhere it was a great match, and suprisingly (to me at least) it does really work. So the posh option here is to make a blue cheese souflee, or just little cubes of stilton!
You could also try little Yorkshire puddings with a piece of roasted chicken put in them and a little drop of chicken jus – if you want to make your life easy you can buy all of these readymade, so you just need to assemble them. Or even pork rillettes served on some crispy melba toast.
This should all work with the Puligny as well.
Then on to the Cote Rotie – this needs something a little gutsier. Normally we would suggest quite perfumed meats with this – so things like lamb cooked with lots of rosemary and thyme, rabbit terrine or pulled pork. But you could think of matching the earthy spice of the syrah with similar flavours in the dish, so think Mexican – chipotle, paprika – perhaps do some little tacos with some slow cooked pulled pork, and some spicy prawns, both topped with a little bit of guacamole.
Alternatively, a hunk of hard cheese such as comté always works!
Then finally onto your sweets. With the riesling I would do something custard-based – little crème brûlées or tinned rice pudding would work a treat. With the Tawny Port – Cadbury’s fruit and nut (other makes are of course available – but they don’t hit the brief quite as well!) If you don’t believe me try it – it’s a match made in heaven! If you are going for a more civilised option, a hard cheese with some dried fruit and nut paste would be a lovely accompaniment, or a chocolate melting pudding.
I hope you have a lovely New Year – I have to say, with that line-up I’m rather jealous!
Goose can be quite fatty and so whatever wine you serve with it just make sure that it has good fresh acidity or it will all become a little bit heavy.
Claret is often put forward as the ideal accompaniment, especially something quite young which has some tannins and good acidity – both of which help to cut through the richness. However, as the Rhône rather than Bordeaux is my favourite region I tend to head there for my wines of choice. I like reds such as Rasteau Cuvée Prestige, Domaine la Soumade 2014,
or The Society’s Exhibition Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2013.
Remember, it’s not just the goose that you’re pairing but everything else which goes with it – when this applies to the Christmas meal, all the trimmings can make for a fairly full-bodied plate of food.
If it’s a white you’re after go for something fairly gutsy such as Radford Dale Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2017
I love southern Rhone wines, so whilst Rasteau always does the trick, if i’m looking for something a bit lighter I do sometimes head to Cairanne or Beaumes de Venise. I don’t know whether you’ve tried it but the Ginglinger pinot gris is excellent - and great value for money too, which makes it a double win!
Beef Wellington is my absolute favourite meal so I’m very jealous. Personally, as with all food and wine matching, I think you have to look at the whole dish, and so whilst you might naturally head for cabernet sauvignon with the beef, as there is also the mushrooms, pate and parma ham I think you might be better off with a wine with slightly softer tannins and more soft berry fruit.
There’s a number of wines that could work here:
Pinot noir: If you can get hold of a lovely, mushroom-y, farmyard-y pinot with a bit of age so much the better so I would look initially to red burgundy. They’re not cheap (unfortunately) but depending on your budget, a wine like Domaine de Bellene, Nuits-Saint-Georges Vieilles Vignes 2012
or you could head over to the USA for one of their lovely pinots – the good thing about the Oregon pinots is that they tend to have a bit more fruit which would help counteract the slight saltiness of the parma ham element of your Wellington.
Northern Rhone syrah would do the trick – perhaps something like a Saint Joseph, or if you’re feeling like spoiling yourself a Côte-Rôtie.
Or, though I’ve never tried it in person, I think that perhaps a Chilean carmenère might just do the job – it’s sort of going towards the cabernet sauvignon in style, but just holds back slightly therefore allowing the Wellington to shine.
And finally a Spanish or South African grenache would be lovely – they have all the juicy red fruit flavours, with a hint of earthiness and some spice which I think would work really well with your wellington extravaganza!
The Boxing Day left overs are my favourite meal of the Christmas period – especially bubble and squeak – we actually do extra veg to make sure we have plenty for the next day!
And so with Boxing Day you can play it two ways – either you collapse on the sofa and drink wines with your ‘left-overs’ meal that are comforting and which make you feel all warm and cozy and Christmassy or you go into proper food and wine matching mode.
I tend to do the former, with a smattering of the latter – so for me the go-to red is always zinfandel. It works brilliantly with turkey (think Thanksgiving) and oaked chardonnay for the white – but that is mainly because oaked chardonnay makes me calm!
This really is the most accommodating of meal, and so when we have the whole family round we also tend to put a couple of bottles of off dry riesling on the table – something like The Society’s Saar Riesling 2015,
which works beautifully with the ham, any chardonnay or pinot gris (huge fan – but make sure you go gris not grigio, you need the richness) For the reds, Beaujolais at any price point also works for something a bit lighter, as does any Cotes de Rhone red, or a nice spicy shiraz from the new world. And then there’s the zin – don’t forget the zinfandel!
I’m always determinedly old-school with Christmas - so it’s always bacon sandwiches and champagne to start, egg nog with present opening, and then for the main event - Christmas dinner, turkey (we did try goose once but had trouble fitting it into the oven - very stressful!) sausage stuffing, sage and onion stuffing, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, gravy and an obsence amount of bread sauce, oh and home made cranberry sauce!
i’m not a fan of Christmas pudding - after all the main course it sometimes feels a bit much, so i quite often turn it into Christmas pudding ice cream!
I’ve not tried that particular Cairanne, so will have to head down to the Showroom after this. Have you tried the Escaravaille wines, at the moment we just have their Cotes-du-Rhone, but if you like full-flavoured, fruit-driven reds, its definitely one to try (if you haven’t already!)
For me it’s baked ham and rielsing all the way, the combination is magical, I think it’s a bit like the way in which pork and apple work so well together. I would look for an off-dry riesling which has seen a bit more sunshine, in order to match up to the way in which the ham has been cooked and so, depending on your budget, something like the Greywacke Marlborough Riesling 2016
would be lovely, or if you really don’t want any sweetness in your wine, try the Klein Constantia Riesling, Constantia 2015
or The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Riesling 2016.
You could also try something like Tahbilk The Tower MVR 2016 – the marsanne should work well with the flavours in the ham.
For a red you could go grenache – so perhaps look at Spain – something like the Viña Zorzal Garnacha, Navarra 2017
or d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Red Ochre 2015.
Above all you want a red which is nice and fruity.
For the gewurztraminer – I had to refer back to wines we’ve shown with gewurz at our Pudding Club workshops in Stevenage.
I agree, Christmas pudding will most probably overwhelm the wine, however, if you are very keen to serve Christmas pudding have you thought about making it into an ice cream – it’s still rich but the vanilla custard which makes up base of the ice cream (before you stir the Christmas pudding into the mixture) helps to lighten it and make it more wine friendly.
Alternatively, over the years I have found that flavours such as ginger and nutmeg spice work really well – it’s a bit of a case of matching like with like on the flavour front. We did a lime and ginger cheesecake once which worked really well, so did a white chocolate mousse and raspberry pistachio and white chocolate profiteroles.
Also, if you put plenty of nutmeg on top, homemade rice pudding would be a lovely accompaniment, though I appreciate, not massively Christmassy.
Do let me know what you go for as an accompaniment!
Good lord! How could I have missed the key element to a calm and happy Christmas! Lots of wine! Always! We often put a few different bottles on the table in order to keep everyone quiet. Chardonnay is always there, as is Southern Rhone for the red (often The Society’s C.N.D.P) This year I have spotted that we have Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite Chenin in magnums which i think I might go for.
It is a straightforward question, but I’m afraid I’m not going to give you a straightforward answer as it all really does depend on what you personally like to drink! I always maintain that producing a complete Christmas dinner without completely losing it with the vagaries of the oven (or other family members) you deserve a medal, and so you should really drink what makes you happy on the day!
That said, there are a few wines that I do really like with roast turkey. Here I presume that you are having the bird with all the trimmings, and so I’m suggesting wines which are more robust than they would need to be if you were eating the turkey on its own – hopefully one or two of these suggestions will float your boat…
For whites – I normally go for one of the following – a ripe Chardonnay with a touch of oak to give it some weight. The Domaine Cordier, Mâcon Aux Bois d’Allier 2016 is a staple in our house (it pretty much goes with anything).
Or for a new world option, the Radford Dale or Meerlust chardonnay (both from South Africa) have both definitely worked in the past.
Alternatively, if you or anyone else coming are ABC (anything but chardonnay) people, you could try a marsanne/roussanne blend – there are a few to choose from on the website, although we did show the Languedoc, ‘Pourquoi Pas’, Château de Valflaunès last year at the Christmas Food and Wine matching workshop and that went down really well.
The blend tends to have the weight to work with all the elements of a Christmas dinner, but isn’t too heavy.
As a final option for the white – you could try a pinot gris – I usually go for one from Alsace, and the Domaine Ginglinger is the current tastings team favourite!
Now for your reds. Here you can go old school and pair the turkey with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, The Society’s one is our current favourite. Its spice and overall weight (which isn’t too over the top) really works with all the elements such as the bread sauce, pigs in blankets, stuffing etc.
Also old school, you could go for a claret – last year we managed to get hold of some magnums of Château Beaumont which worked beautifully. I’ve seen that we’re not stocking them this year but we do have the Château Cantemerle which would also be lovely, and if you have a few people coming over, looks pretty impressive on the dining table. Quite hard to get through if you’re on your own though!
Finally, you could consider a primitivo from Italy (its the same variety as zinfandel – so if you preferred you could go to California instead of Italy) and it works so well with turkey.