What wine to drink with a Christmas lunch
21 December 2015
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto yet another edition of Old Mutual Live, and as the festive season approaches, lots of people wondering what they should be drinking these holidays. I thought we’d get a man in the know onto the podcast today. He’s one of the experts when it comes to what you should be drinking with what foods. It’s time to talk some pairing with Jean Vincent Ridon. Jean Vincent, bonjour, thanks for joining us today.
Jean Vincent Ridon: Bonjour, thank you for welcoming me onto your show and forgive my broken English, but the French blood is always here.
BB: Jean Vincent, I must tell you, your English is way better than my French. We love the French accent, we’re not going to mark you down on that, I can tell you that much. Let’s talk about festive season, particularly here in SA, it’s very different to European Christmas.
A lot of South Africans tend to do their Christmas lunches outdoors and there’s braais, lots of seafood, let’s talk about pairing. Let’s talk about a traditional Christmas lunch where people will be sitting down to lots of heavy things like turkey and that sort of thing. What would you suggest people should be pairing with a traditional Christmas lunch in 2015?
What to drink with a traditional Christmas lunch
JVR: You know, the Christmas lunch is always something very important and we must, you know, sometimes people try to show off with great wines because it’s a very important meal in the family. But sometimes we need to go back to basics and see what we need.
In the case of turkey or ham, which is a traditional lunch, remember that the way you’re going to cook it. Because wine pairing and food pairing, you must understand the food to make sure you can find the right wine with it. It’s important as a sommelier for me to make sure that I’m not just going according to the book.
If you make your turkey or your ham crispy or caramelised, when you’ve got this glazing, this glazing is always synonymous with sweetness and spices. Which means if you have something which is caramelised, which is slightly sweet like the turkey skin.
I’m not talking about the flesh, but the skin is very important because it’s been infusing into the flesh, then you need something which is not too tannic or too astringent. You should not at any cost, but very often, avoid red wines. People say oh, it’s meat, even if it’s white meat or if it’s gammon or pork, they will go for a red win because by the book people say red wine makes a treat.
Is Chardonnay the Christmas lunch winner?
However, for Christmas lunch like that, I would definitely go for a white wine, but as I said, no tannin, no astringency, so I would get away from Sauvignon Blanc and I would go back to basics like Chardonnay. Because Chardonnay will give at the same time, the acidity that you need to balance the spices and to balance the fat of it, especially in the case of the ham, less for the turkey. The wood that you often find on Chardonnay will be a nice complement to the spiciness of your glazing.
If you want to go more extreme than that, you can go with more spiciness and then you’re going to have to take note and get the unusual, the bizarre, things like Bukettraube, eastern Europe cultivars, but which start to make a comeback in SA.
You can find, I remember tasting recently a Cederberg Bukettraube, it’s slightly sweet, it’s a off dry wine, but a lot of spiciness and a great acidity and that will go very well with turkey and ham. You can even play with Riesling, you’re going to say oh, now a Frenchman promoting German cultivars, but it will go very well with the white meat and the pork.
If you want to go red, then try wine with no tannins, no harshness, no astringency. You’re going to go to Pinot Noir, that’s always a great choice and you can as well go for Nebbiolo, it’s an Italian cultivar you find in northern Italy that makes the famous Barolo or Barbaresco and it smells like truffle, it’s delicious.
If you’re having a braai – here’s what to drink
BB: I love that. Let’s talk about a traditional South African Christmas, a lot of people will be spending it around a braai, fire, lots of red meat, Jean Vincent, what would you suggest for a traditional South African braai at Christmas lunch?
JVR: You know, people keep telling me that French can’t braai, so I don’t know how to answer that. However, I can say the red meat traditional braai and barbecue we do in South Africa for like Christmas, with a lot of boerewors and a lot of red meat like beef, it’s very often using fairly fatty meat.
Fatty meat, when you grill it and sometimes overcook it for French standard, then you’ve got all this spiciness and herbs you can find on the meat, then you will need acidity or tannins to cut through the fat and cut through the spices.
Acidity can be achieved either with, now it’s all the fashion of people going for Cinsaut because Cinsaut is rediscovered. Cinsaut was very famous in South Africa and met all the Chateau Libertas, and when you drink now all Chateau Libertas, which we all grew up with, these wines can age very well, they have the freshness, the acidity and they go very well with a braai.
If you want to go to tannins, then you can go for Cabernet and not Cinsaut because Cinsaut can go for Cabernet. But you can even go even more extreme with unusual cultivars, there are a few producers using that cultivar from the south west of France or Petit Verdot because Petit Verdot will combine at the same time the tannins and the acidity.
Going white, unless you really cook your meat very lightly, it will be difficult. You can get a very powerful Chardonnay with a lot of wood, but I would stay red because that will make everybody happy. Tanins or acidity, which means Cinsaut on one side or Cabernet based or then going to Petit Verdot.
I know Petit Verdot will not be easy to find but try to search for one. There’s about 20 producers in South Africa making very good Petit Verdot and that can be the perfect match for this family braai on Christmas day.
BB: Jean Vincent, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live, once again I want to wish you and yours a very merry festive season and I hope 2016 is a fantastic year for you, thanks for your time.
JVR: Thank you so much and 2016 will be the best for all of us.