Christmas in the age of coronavirus means that most Kenyans will host guests for lunch or dinner at home. Because people are looking to wind down a tough year, bad wine should not be on your dinner table.
Hire a private sommelier and chef if you must. Don’t ruin the festivities with bad wine. Here is our recommendation for the best buys this festive season and how to serve right.
1. Rosa Ali
Founder of WineRoutes, an importer of high-quality South African wines in Kenya. Her wines range from Sh1,500 to Sh5,000 at her online store.
Which are the best red wines to serve for Christmas?
To ease into the Christmas Day affair, I would start a warm sunny morning with sparkling wine, like our Italian Valdo Prosecco while enjoying a bit of background Christmas carols to get me in the spirit. I might also have a few Rosés chilling in the fridge at this point.
What wines are best to serve with the main meal?
It depends. If a host is serving;
Roast beef or lamb
Christmas meals are usually rich and with that delicious roast beef or lamb, I would choose rich full-bodied wines such as a Rietvallei Cabarnet Franc, (toasty oak flavours), Asara Cabernet Sauvignon (fresh acidity and rich dark fruit flavours) or Meerlust Rubicon (violets, ripe plum, cedarwood, fennel and intense spiciness). All these pair wells with beautiful roast beef or Lamb.
Always look for a bottle that is well balanced and not overly oaky, so you can enjoy the taste of the various dishes on the table. The tannic structure and generous fruits in these wines will excellently complement the hearty, flavours of red meats.
Chicken stew, roasted turkey
For a creamy chicken stew, I would go for richly textured white wine like a wooded Chardonnay which has a buttery-smooth taste that fills your mouth with creaminess while still maintaining a rich citrus tone.
My choice here would include the award-winning Rietvallei JMB Chardonnay (fruit and wood integration, mixture of ripe orange, lemon, and lime flavours) or Baronness Nadine by Rupert & Rothschild’s (delicate composition of lemongrass and lightly roasted macadamia nuts).
These are full-bodied but typically have more acidity and minerality to pair well with wholesome chicken stew.
If my chicken is cooked with lemon, garlic and other herbs like coriander, I would opt for a Sauvignon Blanc. The citrus overtones of Sauvignon Blanc energise the lemony take on such dishes.
It is light enough not to overpower a delicate chicken dish. My recommendation here would be Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc, Creation Sauvignon Blanc and Tokara Sauvignon Blanc.
For a Roasted chicken or turkey, I would select a wine that does not overwhelm the food. A roasted chicken, for example, pairs well with a full-flavoured red, a medium-bodied rosé. An oaked Chardonnay does really well with a roast too. This is also the time to think about red wine pairing with white meat!
A well-chilled Pinot Noir will be a great pairing if you use mushrooms, root vegetables, tomato sauce or red wine sauce in your preparation.
Chicken with a barbecue sauce—can take a more full-bodied red with a touch of sweetness like a Shiraz (Lourensford Shiraz) or a Grenache (Creation Sumac Grenache).
If you are having seafood, semi-dry white wines will please all palates. Pair crab or oysters with Chardonnay or Semillion. A must-have chilled and ready in your fridge would be or Sauvignon Blanc which is versatile enough to go with almost every shellfish.
And a blend of both such as Creation Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon would be delightful (the invigorating, salty bouquet, reminiscent of the fresh sea breezes caressing our vineyards, is complemented by delightful hints of green fig) For Chardonnay, my recommendation would be lightly oaked Glenn Carlou Chardonnay (fresh citrus characters, green apple and pear).
If you are having lobster, think acidity, not tannin structure. I would suggest that you pair it with a South African Chenin Blanc. The flavour plus the weight and sweetness you get from the tiny bit of residual sugar is just wonderful with lobster.
A Viognier would be my second option to pair with this delicious seafood. You cannot go wrong with Creation Viognier. My Chenin Blanc recommendation would be Creation Cool Climate Chenin Blanc (bouquet of gentle ginger, tender tomato leaf, apple skin and honeycomb).
If you choose fish like salmon, there are a few options. Few wines work so well with this delicate fish. An oaked Chardonnay (Rietvallei Chardonnay) or Viognier will be a fantastic choice to bring forward that slightly fuller, more luxurious side of the fish.
A soft Pinot Noir (Glenn Carlou Pinot Noir) is also ideal if you prefer those who want to drink red wine with your seafood.
At what point should a host serve Rosé and which is best to serve during the holidays?
I am up for a good Rosé at any time of the day. Rosé’s not only match brilliantly with light dishes, but they also look gorgeous with the sunlight glowing through the glass.
Dry Rosés work best with leafy green salads, but if your salad has some chili kick or creamy slaw, then opt for Grüner Veltliner (Diemerdal Gruner Vetliner) which will cut through the mayonnaise and balance the spice.
On this occasion, I would choose the Asara pinotage Rose.
If I have a cheeseboard?
For a cheese board, a creamy, barrel-aged Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay suits Brie or Cheddar, while an elegant Sauvignon Blanc is invariably delicious with goat's cheese.
For dessert which wine should one serve?
I would finish off by serving a decadently rich chocolate dessert like molten chocolate lava cake or chocolate pecan brownie which I would pair with Diermersfontein Pinotage (the nose rich dark, decadent chocolate and powerful freshly brewed coffee styling.
2. Andrew Lumiti
Sommelier at Serena Hotel in Nairobi
Andrew says your choice of wine to serve guests depends on the consumer; are they vegetarian or non-vegetarian?
Can wine be served any time?
Yes, be it in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Whatever time your guests arrive.
What wines must one have for the festive season?
Make sure you buy sparkling wine, champagne, Rosé, and Prosecco. Prosecco is served chilled. It is light-bodied, aromatic and crispy. It has a medium to high amount of acidity and large, sparkling bubbles, with dominant flavours.
Prosecco is best enjoyed as an aperitif, which is an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite or recommended after dinner because it leaves a sweet after-taste similar to having a dessert.
Rosé wine is a must-have because it blends well with most foods, and the pink colour makes it perfect for this season. Rosé goes well with salad and red meat.
What wine should be taken a what time?
Champagne and sparkling wine are the best wines to be taken with breakfast since mornings are a bit chilly and champagnes and sparkling wine have to be served chilled.
During lunchtime, buy red wine, a Shiraz which goes well with buffets, steaks, and lamb. Around 3 pm serve the fortified wines but also you can serve them at night, according to your guest’s preferences.
Are there specific wines to accompany spicy food?
Shiraz, which is a red grape, has a spicy lingual effect behind your palette which I can recommend to serve with spicy food.
Between red and white wine, which one should come first?
Always serve white wines before reds during dinner because they are a bit lighter. There are two categories of white and red wines. The heavy white include Chardonnay which because of its texture it stays on the palate for a long time than the light wines. The light white wines include Riesling and Sauvingnon Blanc.
The light red wines include the Pinot Noirs, Pinotage and heavy reds are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon which are ‘mother of red wines’ because they are very heavy and tend to have tannins. They are not recommended for beginners.
Which wines are served with dessert?
I recommend the Port wines, they go perfectly with desserts and cheese. The secret to finding good wine is finding them at the wine shops and avoiding buying them in the supermarkets.