What to drink with Christmas turkey?

It’s a classic conundrum for Christmas – which wines to drink with turkey? A white wine because it’s a white-fleshed bird? But then again we will probably serve it with sausages and rich, meaty gravy… so maybe a red would be better?

christmas wine

© Jill Clardy

By now we ought to have let go of that horribly outdated notion ‘white wine with white meat, red wine with red meat’ (it’s never as simple as that). Yes avoid impossibly thin whites with turkey, or reds full of black fruit flavours, but what are the experts tipping for Christmas Day?

In the FT Jancis Robinson has been talking about a very typical match – Pinot Noir. She suggests Lequin-Colin, Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009, a vintage she says produced particularly fruity wines. Fresh, zesty and honest, she reckons it is far better value than most New World Pinot Noir and a snip at just £11.25 from www.stonevine.co.uk.

Not so, says Fiona Beckett in The Guardian, whose recommendation for Christmas Day (having submitted a range of wines to a turkey sampling test) is Chardonnay. She went for a French Chassagne Montrachet, but she also thinks top new world examples would be equally impressive, such as Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2010 (on offer at Majestic for £6.99 if you buy two). But she admits she usually likes classic Rhone valley Syrah/Grenache/Carignan blend with her turkey and points to Ogier Lirac Reserve 2010 on offer in larger Co-op stores at £6.99.

Jane MacQuitty in The Times agrees with Fiona Beckett and says Chardonnay’s typical bold, buttery fruit makes it one of the few whites that can cope with turkey. She tips Tesco Finest Del Rios Vineyard Chardonnay from Victoria, Australia, down 20% to £7.99 until January 3rd.

For a left field suggestion, Terry Kirby in The Indendent on Sunday has been tipping Beaujolais Villages. In La Croix des Rameaux Brouilly 2009 he says the normally lightweight Gamay grape has succulent black and blueberry flavours, fresh texture and a fantastic earthy finish. £20.70, exelwines.co.uk.

In the Mail on Sunday Olly Smith says Rioja can be a crowd-pleasing alternative with turkey, but he mostly tips Carignan. Odfjell Orzada Carignan 2008 Maule Valley is £15.19 in Waitrose and is arresting with intense smoke and wild berries. Or for a cheaper option Tesco Finest Côtes Catalanes Carignan 2010 at £6.99 gives a good idea of the style. His white option is a Viognier, for gorgeous peaches and apricots to complement the festive flavours: Anakena single vineyard ‘Lilen’ Viognier from Chile, £6.99 in Majestic.

So what will I do? I reckon I will have two bottles open. I rather fancy the Viognier for those at my table who prefer white and the Pinot Noir for those who want red.

This year’s tip for cooking turkey

And as for the turkey, each year we have tried a different technique to make sure the breast comes out juicy and not too dry. I once submerged it overnight in a vegetable and onion spiced brine (because Nigella said it made a difference) but I didn’t notice any improvement to the flavour. Nigella is also responsible for my efforts turning the turkey upside down to ensure the breast benefits from fat running off the legs, but it’s heavy and there’s a big risk you may drop it when it comes to turning it over again for the last half hour’s cooking.

This year the best tip I’ve read is to pour some stock into the roasting tin with the turkey before putting it in the oven. It then cooks in a kind of steam bath, slowly at 180 degrees (but turn it up to 200 degrees for the last 30 minutes). That sounds like a really promising idea and I’ll let you know how it goes…


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