Christmas, and alternative feast

This magazine article accompanied an alternative Christmas menu of:

  • Sarlar Smoked Salmon Canapes
  • Pumpkin Soup
  • Roast Duck with Five-spice, Orange and Honey
  • Chilli and Cumin-roast Sweet Potatoes
  • Mulled Wine and Cherry Sorbet
  • Plum Pecan Puddings

This month’s delicious recipes add an intriguing Pacific Rim twist to traditional Christmas fare, with ingredients like coconut, lime leaves and five spice. These flavourings are more aromatic than spicy, adding those vivid little peaks of flavour that make oriental cuisine so appealing. I have just returned from a fascinating visit to the Far East, where I had plenty of opportunity to experiment with the matching of wines to these sparky, brilliant flavours. In general, I found white wines that are clean, unoaked and themselves aromatically complex work best, perhaps with just a hint of sweetness too. Reds should be quite low in tannins (so no strapping Cabernet Sauvignon) and preferably with some gentle spiciness of their own. Grape varieties like Grenache, Pinot Noir and Gamay spring to mind. Below are recommendations for this month’s alternative Christmas, and for a more traditional affair. One last tip: if, like me, you love to top off a Christmas meal with a really good dessert wine, try the Recioto di Soave “Le Sponde” from Coffele – an unusual sweet Italian Soave.Whites

Ca’ Bianca, Gavi
Gavi is a wine from Northern Italy that is fashionable at the moment and commands high prices. The wines are pale coloured and quite delicate, and usually have a lovely lemon-freshness about them. This also has subtle notes of honey on the nose, and a savoury mineral quality on the palate. Pair it with this month’s smoked salmon canapés.

Rosemount Estate, “GTR”
An unusual blend of Gewürztraminer and Riesling from Australia. The nose has delightful floral scents with notes of roses, lychee and peach as well as ripe pear. On the palate there’s a definite off-dry ripeness of fruit, but it is an intriguingly chewy wine with plenty of depth. A great foil for the Thai flavoured pumpkin soup.

Errázuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay
In the running for South America’s best Chardonnay with its nutty, yeasty nose and nuances of minerals, honey, figs and melon. On the palate it is quite chewy with flavours of quince and butter, peach and apricot fruit and again a nutty, herbal edge that adds a savoury quality. Perfect with roast turkey or pork.


Plan de Brus
This Southern French wine is from the Costières de Nîmes appellation, where juicy, quite serious wines are crafted from Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. There’s a delicious sweet violet and blackberry profile on the nose before a palate that has a deep, smoky seam of crunchy redcurrant and black fruits and a warmly spiced finish.

Vereto, Salice Salentino
This wine from Puglia in the heel of Italy has a lovely baked, stewed prune and Morello cherry nose. The palate is clean, crisp and refreshing with red fruits and bright notes of raspberry, cherry and plum. It has plenty of character, lovely balance and a hint of caramel in the finish.

Bethany, Grenache
Loads of Christmassy spices and sweet cassis and berry fruit in this Australian wine. 100% Grenache, it has a wonderful vivid crunchiness about the fruit, good body and a sweet length of creamy, chewy fruit. This would be superb with the pot-roasted duck, picking out the 5 spice flavours perfectly.

With the Plum Pecan Puddings

Brown Brothers Liqueur Muscat
Sensational liquid that is thick, sweet and utterly irresistible, with rum-soaked raisin flavours and a mellow complexity of marmalade fruit and spices that just matches Christmas pudding perfectly.