Cyprus Mail
Christmas time Food and Drink Life & Style

Matching wine with festive meats: it’s not just about the turkey


A true pâté is a mixture of ground poultry, meat or game and spices, wrapped in an inedible dough made of flour and water. Without pastry, the mixture is known as a terrine. Over the years, the crust, if it is there at all, has become edible and pâté has come to mean all manner of thick savoury purées. The silky, voluptuous texture is due to the high fat content.

Given the fact that there is a high fat content wines to accompany it must have acidity. Whites are fine but rosés and light, fruity reds are better, bright berry fruit that complements the pâté when served slightly cool. A Beaujolais will be just great or inexpensive red Burgundy basic from a good producer. From Cyprus go for Mavro grape, light, fresh and fruit forward.  Some of the young, red blends in Cyprus will be just great.

Then we have Cabernet Franc, there are a couple in Cyprus, but try also from Central Loire valley, Saumur, Bourgeuil, Chinon and Anjou. Go also for some bright, cherry fruit forward Valpolicella or a young Shiraz from Cyprus. The island is famous for its rosés so go for the light dry versions or choose from Provence. Chablis is good with ham, so it is fine with pâtés. Any unoaked Chardonnay or Semillon from Cyprus will do a great job, especially with salmon pâtés

Silky terrines call for rich, silky wines. One traditional match is Sauternes or Barsac. Another option is a late-harvest (vendages tardives) wine from Alsace. You do not want something too sweet, but it should have an unctuous quality to stand up to the foie gras. Definitely one for unfortified Commandaria or a rich Moscato. A bold, not-too-polished red wine with spice notes will match well the assertive flavours in this dish. Try Grenache-based blends from Spain or the south of France, a peppery Côtes-du-Rhône, or even a sturdy Beaujolais. Cyprus Shiraz will do fine as well as Mourvèdre or Mataro will be very good choices.

And finally, Fiona Beckett of Matching Food & Wine recommends not a wine, but a surprisingly good pairing is gin! Because of the botanicals, especially juniper.

The meat on the table for Christmas is not just turkey, no festive meal would be complete without a ham. The key to a successful matching of ham is the glaze. We know then, for a fact that our ham will be sweet.  Recipes vary hugely but generally include some element of sweetness to counteract the saltiness of the meat.

Also, different wines will be served for a cold ham as appetizer or a hot ham as part of the main meal. If gammon is served cold, even as a leftover on Boxing day and is combined with turkey go for a Beaujolais Cru, a fresh young Pinot Noir or a Mavro grape red from Cyprus.

Back to the glazes. Usually, they have an orange or marmalade component. Because of this, they tend to work well with bright, fruity reds. Think of young Maratheftiko, Australian Shiraz. From Cyprus try with medium to full body Merlot, Syrah, even Yiannoudi and Maratheftiko, however the not too alcoholic or tannic, a ripe juicy fruit is what you need with the ham.

If any degree of spices are involved, so the glaze is hot, or any mustard is rubbed around the ham look out for reds that can cope with spicy food. California’s Zinfandel – the spice will excite the taste buds or South Africa’s bold Pinotage are ready for the task especially if you are in the mood to grill your ham. They can also handle smoky hams too.

My favourite, since gammon is usually served with turkey is to enjoy Christmas lunch with an aged Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the same respect the softer tannins and more complex flavours of an aged Barolo or Bordeaux would also do their magic.

What about white? Tricky, it is harder than red, but a rich Semillon from Australia will do the trick especially if you are thinking of the baked ham and pineapple combination. Lightly oaked Chardonnays – both local and from abroad – will entice.

Also, a blowsy Viognier, a dry Chenin Blanc or a lovely refreshing Riesling that has a spring elegance for orange glazed ham or a Gewürztraminer from Alsace for a honey butter ham. But try also with Vasilissa and Morokanella, the citrus flavours in this white grape varieties emphasise the juiciness of the ham.

If you are also having a rib of beef on the table this is heaven for red wine. There are many cuts of beef that may influence your choice of wine. Cooking time and accompaniments are also factors. Overall, it is a fairly easy affair to match beef with wine.

Leaner cuts have a tender texture so will be matched with medium bodied reds. Too strong wines will overpower the flavours. Red wines like Sangiovese or even Maratheftiko and Yiannoudi will suit.

Fattier cuts have a richer flavour and they open the stage for a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Barolo or Barbaresco or a rustic Tempranillo. The tannins in wines like Cabernet will help dissolve the fats, acidity to lift the dish.

The problem with cooking time – rare, medium or well done – rich juicy wines match the rare ones, like Grenache, Syrah or Shiraz, Grenache blends. Save the reds with savoury character and spicy flavours for medium and well-done cooking to reflect the additional cooking time. You also need bigger structured wines to match the firmer texture of the meat.

But at Christmas it is not just about the meats, the accompaniments also try to attract attention. Look for wines with freshness and acidity. If you are serving a spicier sauce consider bolder and riper reds.

White wines will have a tough time keeping up, but if you are hard-pressed and must venture to the white grapes try a full-throttle White Burgundy (Chardonnay).

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