A Study in Scarlet: Red Wine & Christmas

Let’s go back in time a little, and truly look at the history of Red Wine. And by history, we really mean history. So if you're curious about this rich, velvety elixir and wondering what to pair it with for a delightful Christmas feast, you're in for a treat. In this beginner-friendly guide, we'll unravel the mysteries of red wine and explore mouthwatering pairings that will elevate your holiday celebrations. 

Red wine is not merely a beverage; it's a time-travelling elixir that connects us with centuries of human history. Its origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where grape cultivation and winemaking were cultivated with care. The birthplace of red wine, as with wine in general, is believed to be the fertile valleys of Mesopotamia, where the ancient Sumerians were among the first to document the art of winemaking on cuneiform tablets.

The Greeks and the Art of Wine:
The Greeks, ever the enthusiasts for art, philosophy, and the finer things in life, embraced the culture of wine. Dionysus, the god of wine, became a central figure in Greek mythology, and wine became an integral part of religious ceremonies and social gatherings. The Greeks not only enjoyed the consumption of wine but also explored the nuances of its production, laying the groundwork for the viticulture that would flourish in the centuries to come.

Roman Expansion and Viniculture Mastery:
With the expansion of the Roman Empire, the appreciation for wine spread far and wide. The Romans took viticulture to new heights, introducing advanced techniques for cultivating vines, harvesting grapes, and crafting wines. Red wine, in particular, became a symbol of opulence and sophistication, enjoyed by emperors and citizens alike.

The Monasteries' Legacy:
Amidst the tumult of the Middle Ages, it was the monasteries that preserved and advanced the art of winemaking. Monks meticulously tended to vineyards, refining the techniques of fermentation and ageing. Red wine became not just a beverage but a source of sustenance during times when water was often unsafe to drink. Monastic influence extended from the vineyards of Bordeaux to the hillsides of Tuscany, shaping the wine traditions of regions that are renowned for their red wines today.

Revolution in the Vineyards:
The Renaissance marked a turning point for red wine. In regions like Bordeaux, winemakers began to experiment with blending grape varieties, creating complex and nuanced wines that reflected the unique terroir of their vineyards. This period of innovation set the stage for the development of the wine styles that are celebrated today.

Modern Mastery:
Fast forward to the modern era, and red wine has become a global phenomenon. Each wine-producing region, from the sun-soaked vineyards of California to the picturesque landscapes of New Zealand, contributes its own chapter to the ever-evolving story of red wine. Technological advancements, scientific understanding, and the dedication of passionate winemakers have led to a diverse array of red wines, each with its own personality and charm.

A Match Made in Heaven

The intertwining of red wine and Christmas is a tale as old as the festive season itself. Dating back to mediaeval Europe, the tradition of serving red wine during Christmas feasts became a symbol of warmth and celebration. In colder climates, the full-bodied richness of red wines, often mulled with spices, provided a comforting contrast to the winter chill. As centuries passed, this tradition evolved, with red wine becoming a staple at holiday tables around the world. The ruby hues of a good red, whether a robust Cabernet Sauvignon or a velvety Merlot, echo the festive colours of the season, making it a perfect companion for toasts, merriment, and the creation of cherished memories during the most wonderful time of the year.

Now, enough of that history lesson. Let’s move on to the best part: what can you pair red wine with during Christmas and not go wrong? And the biggest question … which red to choose?

🦃 Roast Turkey: Roast turkey, the centrepiece of many Christmas tables, deserves a wine that can match its flavorful profile. Opt for a versatile Pinot Noir or a fruit-forward Zinfandel. The bright red fruit notes in these wines, coupled with a subtle spiciness in Zinfandel, complement the succulence of the turkey. The result is a harmonious symphony of tastes, where the wine enhances the roast's juiciness without overpowering it.
Your Red: Domaine Ricardelle De Lautrec Nature Pinot Noir 2021 or Pete's Pure Pinot Noir 2021
Best Turkey in Town: Las Carretas

🐄 Beef Wellington: Beef Wellington, with its luxurious layers of beef, mushroom duxelles, and flaky pastry, demands a wine with enough boldness to stand up to its richness. A robust Cabernet Sauvignon, with its deep fruit flavours and firm tannins, is an excellent choice. The wine's structure not only matches the intensity of the beef but also provides a balancing act, cutting through the richness and elevating the dining experience. 
Your Red: Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 or Domaine Henri Nordoc Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
Best Beef Wellington in Town: Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill (Don’t act surprised. Don’t roll those eyes. You knew this was coming!)

🐐 Anything Lamb: Grilled lamb chops, with their robust and savoury character, find a perfect companion in red wine. Opt for a Syrah or a Malbec to complement the bold flavours of the lamb. The dark fruit notes and peppery undertones of Syrah or the velvety texture of Malbec create a symphony on the palate, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the dish.
Your Red: Domaine Ricardelle De Lautrec Nature Syrah 2021 or Trapiche Malbec 2022
Best Lamb in Town: D’Italiane’s Espresso Lamb Shoulder

🍄 Mushroom Risotto: Mushroom risotto, with its earthy and umami notes, calls for a red wine that can complement its savoury goodness. Choose a Merlot or a Chianti for this dish. The soft tannins and plummy notes of Merlot or the acidity and cherry flavours of Chianti provide an elegant contrast, bringing out the richness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the risotto.
Your Red: Reserva Especial Merlot 2020 or Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva Docg 2020
Best Mushroom Risotto in Town: Table & Apron

🦆 Duck Confit: The richness of duck confit, with its tender, flavorful meat and crispy skin, pairs wonderfully with a tannic red wine. Opt for a Bordeaux blend or a bold Malbec. The tannins in these wines cut through the richness of the duck, cleansing the palate with each sip. The dark fruit flavours in Bordeaux or the intense, plummy notes in Malbec create a delightful harmony, making each bite a culinary experience.
Your Red: Chateau Brandey Bordeaux AOC 2020 or Trapiche Malbec 2022
Best Duck Confit in Town: Bistro à Table