Paul Fogerty, head sommelier at Ashford Castle, gives us the lowdown on whether Chardonnay goes with turkey and if Rosé Champagne tastes as good as it looks.
With so much preparation going into the Christmas Day meal, the wine choices can often be an afterthought. For those of us who don’t know anything about wine, we can end up just buying a wine we’ve had before, or one that’s on offer, not knowing whether it’s actually a good match or not.
Luckily for us, Paul Fogerty, head sommelier at Ashford Castle has shared his tips for choosing wine for Christmas Day for us, and he’s not just recommending expensive bottles. He’s sticking to grape varieties, so you can choose something that fits within your own budget.
Paul says it wouldn’t be a celebration without Champagne, and Christmas is certainly an occasion to pop some bubbles. For something different, he recommends Rosé Champagne, as “it really opens up the taste buds in readiness for all the delicious food to follow”. He particularly likes Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, with notes of red berry fruits.
If you’re opting for the traditional turkey feast, Paul has recommended both a red and a white wine, so choose whichever you prefer. For red wine drinkers, he likes a Burgundy Pinot Noir, and a favourite is Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, with dark cherry notes.
A full-bodied Chardonnay is Paul’s white wine choice. “Chardonnay is an exceptional accompaniment to turkey and is delicious with side dishes such as bread sauce,” says Paul.
“Choose a wine with good complexity and an oaky richness, which will really help to bring out the flavours of the meat. If in doubt, speak to your local wine merchant or off licence and they’ll be happy to help you pick out something special for Christmas Day.”
There is always fresh lobster, crab and other seafood on offer at Ashford Castle at Christmas, so Paul has chosen some of his favourite pairings for these. With smoked salmon he likes a lightly oaked aged Chardonnay, Champagne with oysters, and for dishes like prawn cocktail, a dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.
Many people prefer beef to the traditional turkey, and Paul advises that you don’t necessarily need a big red wine to bring out the flavours of the beef. He would pair it with a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon, a silky Italian Barolo, or a full- bodied Malbec.
Executive head chef at Ashford Castle Philippe Farineau and his team have developed special vegetarian and vegan festive menus, with options such as beetroot, carrot and date galette and French truffle and potato risotto.
Paul recommends a Beaujolais Cru such as Morgon with earthy and mushroom dishes. For warm, tomato-based dishes, Paul recommends Chianti.
To go with dessert, Paul loves Beaumes de Venise – a golden Muscat, as well as Moscato D’Asti, a lower alcohol, sweet sparkling white wine with a lovely light finish.
Paul likes to pair port with a cheeseboard, and says that a Vintage Port like Neipoort goes particularly well with strong cheeses such as Cashel Blue or Stilton. “What can you say about this beautiful wine, but that it’s full, rich and packed with plums, berries showing ripeness and on the finish, subtle nuances of cinnamon and nutmeg,” says Paul.
New Year’s Eve
Even if your gathering is small this New Year’s Eve, it’s no reason not to pop open the Champagne. Paul’s recommendation is Perrier Jouët – Grand Brut.
He also points out that there are many fabulous alternatives to Champagne, including any Crémant from the Alsace region. “In Ireland, Crémant seems to be the lesser known of the sparkling varieties of wine,” says Paul, “but it’s probably my favourite.” Crémant is similar to Champagne in terms of how it is made, but it’s less effervescent and usually, not as expensive.
Prosecco is also a popular alternative to Champagne and Paul suggests popping a Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Santa Margherita, Italy. Paul is also a big fan of some of the wonderful wines from Cava, Spain so when it comes to bubbles, there are plenty of options, and price points, from which to choose.
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