Wine

Christ­mas feasts can be­come a wine pair­ing free-for-all. But with some prepa­ra­tion, you can cre­ate the per­fect part­ner­ships.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - DECEMBER - Words MIKE BEN­NIE

Choose the per­fect vino to com­ple­ment your Christ­mas din­ner.

Christ­mas Day can be a mine­field for the wine cognoscenti. For those who make wine-and-food match­ing their liv­ing, it’s a shock their hard and fast rules are to be left aside, with vis­ceral plea­sure trump­ing the sen­si­bil­ity of their life’s work. See a wine nerd wince over big fes­tive oc­ca­sions: Un­cle Kev slosh­ing around big reds with oys­ters, Aun­tie Doris guz­zling Grange with le­mon­ade added to it, or weird cousin Sam down­ing port with his prawns. Shock and awe around the ta­ble.

Re­gard­less of the of­fence, the best prac­tice of all is just to drink the wines you like with what­ever food you choose — the finest oc­ca­sions are the ones where con­vivi­al­ity takes prece­dence over any sense of or­der. How­ever, if you want to ap­ply some sen­si­bil­ity, there is a broad path to this ‘best prac­tice’ on the premier day of the fes­tive sea­son.

Start­ing early seems part of the for­mat. Rip­ping into presents and a glass of some­thing fizzy is al­most writ­ten into lore and law.

The old school push the sparkling red agenda, of­ten a shi­raz, as per Aus­tralian tra­di­tion. Rich, foamy and vig­or­ously bub­bly, sparkling reds of­fer a sense of oc­ca­sion that’s hard to erase — best ex­am­ples from con­sid­ered pro­duc­ers drink su­perbly.

The new school are more likely to have you pop­ping ‘pet nats’ (nat­u­rally sparkling wines) or the ris­ing stars of Aus­tralian pros­ecco.

The lat­ter works a treat, with its fresh­ness, and abil­ity to be a lighter touch in the morn­ing, part of its ap­peal. The King Val­ley in north­ern Vic­to­ria has be­come the epi­cen­tre for Aus­tralian pros­ecco pro­duc­tion, with Ital­ian fam­i­lies such as the Dal Zot­tos and the Pizzi­nis

lead­ing the charge. Aus­tralian pros­ecco is typ­i­cally crunchy tex­tured, crisp in tropical fruit flavour and, best of all, will hap­pily marry with a splash of your break­fast juice, just in time to in­ves­ti­gate what’s in­side the Santa stock­ings.

Christ­mas lunch is a jour­ney through a myr­iad of flavours and tex­tures.

One of the great ways of nav­i­gat­ing the day is through wines that cover a num­ber of bases. These util­ity wines are typ­i­cally clean, bright in acid­ity, gen­er­ally re­fresh­ing and not overly laden with oak or overt ‘rich’ fruit flavours. They take a chill well — even the reds — and are gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent splashed across the cor­nu­copia of dif­fer­ent foods that hit your plate in the course of cel­e­bra­tions.

Aro­matic white wines are a good place to start. Fo­cus on the drier styles of ries­ling, Ital­ian grape va­ri­eties such as fi­ano or arneis, or young wines that are pro­duced from a blend of grape va­ri­eties. These are wines that sit easy with things from the sea, roast chicken, sal­ads and food off the grill.

Roast white meats, cold cuts, ham and pork dishes also marry well with these wines, but per­haps more ideal are things that are pink and light red. Rosés are of­ten ma­ligned as not be­ing se­ri­ous enough to be a real ac­com­pa­ni­ment to food, but winer­ies’ at­ten­tion to de­tail and a closer fo­cus on pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity rosé has led to a cav­al­cade of ex­cel­lent and af­ford­able ex­am­ples. Look to­wards Ital­ian grape va­ri­eties such as neb­bi­olo or san­giovese, or pro­duc­ers work­ing with pinot noir. These are of­ten the best.

With rosé be­ing so good and so preva­lent, it’s al­most as if red wines dur­ing the sum­mer months should be by­passed. But that’s pretty con­tro­ver­sial, so the ad­just­ment should be to lighter, fresher, younger drink­ing styles and va­ri­eties.

To match with meats, roasted things and heav­ier sal­ads, plump for reds that of­fer plenty of acid­ity for fresh­ness and good nat­u­ral tan­nin for re­set­ting palates. Again, Ital­ian va­ri­eties make for a good start, with nero d’avola, mon­tepul­ciano and san­giovese all wor­thy. Also, don’t ig­nore the rise and rise of qual­ity tem­pranillo, with wines pro­duced in a ‘joven’ style, mean­ing they’re sent to bot­tle very young and fresh, as

Christ­mas lunch is a jour­ney through a myr­iad of flavours and tex­tures.

a fo­cus. If the va­ri­eties seem un­fa­mil­iar, all the bet­ter for fun and ex­plo­ration at the ta­ble.

Fin­ish­ing off lunches of such mag­ni­tude should be some­thing sweet. Too sweet and sticky, how­ever, can ren­der drinkers lethar­gic or over­whelmed with flavours, so of­fer dry ries­ling wines or lightly sweet, fizzy wine styles pro­duced from moscato.

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