Julie Dupouy chooses six wines to suit a festive feast – and many other occasions …
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” goes the song and yes it certainly is, when all the planning and scrambling is behind us, and we get to take a moment with family and friends to relax and enjoy the celebration that is the close-out of the year. Entertaining guests can heavily tax our time and energy in December but for those of you brave souls taking on the head chef role for a dinner party, like Greg Delaney did, in this post, I have put together some beautiful combinations using some of my favourite ingredients and some very reliable wine pairings to complement your efforts in the kitchen. A little forward planning, as always, is key.
Champagne Blanc de Blanc Chromatique, Stéphane Régnaud, €75; www.greenmanwines.ie.
SMOKED SALMON, CRÈME FRAÎCHE ON BLINIS
I absolutely love this combination. It’s all there – luxurious smoked salmon, rich and lightly acidulated crème fraîche with the slight pique of the oniony chives, delivered on the pillow like miniblinis. There is no doubt that it is celebration time when you pick up one of these little treats and, of course, it begs for an apéritif that matches that sense of special occasion. Champagne is the obvious choice. Look out for Blanc des Blancs styles for their classy, elegant profile. The variety of wines from the Champagne region being imported into Ireland in recent years has grown immensely and the selection available is excellent. Ask your local professional what interesting options they stock, and your curiosity will undoubtedly be met with an appreciative smile. High-quality sparkling wines from the UK or Spanish cava will also complement nicely. Alternatively, for still wine, Pouilly Fumé is a great option – the high-quality examples, produced on silex soil, typically show structure, minerality and a gentle smokiness which will kick things off beautifully for your guests.
Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux, Domaine Louis Michel, €45; www.searsons.com.
NATIVE OYSTERS FROM GALWAY
Oysters can prove a little divisive. Those who appreciate oysters, with their iodine flavour and reviving character, seem to develop a real adoration for them and oysters from the west coast of Ireland certainly deserve their recognition among the best in the world. A simple mignonette preparation of red wine vinegar, diced shallots and pinch of sugar spooned over them just before serving will take them to another level. Serve with bone-dry, highly mineral wines such as Chablis, Muscadet, Albarino or keep those decadent apéritif bubbles flowing and enjoy one of the gastronomic world’s most luxurious pleasures.
Rías Baixas, Albariño, A Grana, Naclares y Prieto, €31; www.pintowines.ie.
PAN-FRIED DUCK FOIE GRAS, CARAMELISED APPLES
There are not many ingredients that say “special occasion” more than foie gras. Rich and buttery with a unique flavour profile, foie gras has many uses in the kitchen but quite simply pan-fried in thick slices is the best way to experience its delicious qualities. Pre-order from a good butcher as a whole lobe or occasionally it can be found pre-sliced in the frozen section. Both can offer great results. Caramelised apples, still with a little bite to them, bring both sweetness and sourness that not only provide balance to the richness of the foie but also complement its savoury character so well.
Riesling Auslese, JJ Prum, Wehlener Sonnehur, €65; www.64wine.ie.
Adding a little finely chopped tarragon at the last minute is a beautiful bridge into the wine pairing I suggest. With this dish, “Spätlese” or “Auslese” style Riesling wines from Germany are fabulous. Their medium-dry profile, balanced by an energetic acidity, make this a very special pairing.
Côtes du Rhône Syrah, Sainte-Agathe, Domaine Georges Vernay, €37.50; www.greenacres.ie.
GOOSE, FIVE SPICE, CHESTNUTS, ROAST POTATOES
For those who might like a darker meat option for Christmas but still enjoy the idea of a beautifully bronze roast bird centrepiece, goose is a great option. Full of flavour, it can be garnished in many ways. I absolutely love this combination: Score the skin and rub in the Chinese five-spice powder with salt, pepper and the fine zest of lemon, lime and orange, and follow the roasting instructions. When the oven door opens, the waft of spice and citrus is divine, everything the Christmas table should smell of. Being naturally high in fat, goose is a dream to roast. Skin is golden and crispy while the meat stays succulent and moist. Wine-wise, the meatiness, paired with the citrus and spice element calls for a gorgeous savoury wine such as a Syrah from the Northern Rhône Valley, Victoria State, or Sonoma County. Other good options include Pinot Noir from Central Otago or Martinborough.
Port, Niepoort, €26.99; www.mchughs.ie.
BLACK FOREST CHRISTMAS LOG
My all-time favourite dessert with a twist. A beautiful chocolate sponge, generously brushed with rum and cherry syrup, layered with whipped cream and crème fraîche, dotted with preserved cherries and then carefully rolled in greaseproof paper until it holds its cylindrical shape. Decorate with more of the cream mixture, cherries, chocolate shavings and a little icing sugar and cake decorations to accentuate the Christmas look. A high-quality ruby port or Maury, served slightly chilled, will work fantastically with those Black Forest flavours. A beautiful way to round off a truly special meal.
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