Posted On 11 December 2020

Christmas dinner for most of us is the perfect time to showcase our cooking skills and to declare ourselves as the best cooks in the family. Cooking the right dish might be easy but how well prepared are we when it comes to wine pairing? Choosing the wrong wine can destroy all our hard work and make our fabulous dinner a disaster. Below are some common Christmas dishes we can find in Cyprus along with their suggested wine pairing options.

Lamb Souvla

There is nothing more embedded in Cypriot culture than a traditional souvla. Souvla in Cyprus is pretty much cooked on any occasion. We usually choose pork for our Sunday lunch but we always go for lamb on a celebration like Christmas or New years eve. 

Lamb Souvla components: red meat, fat, proteins, smoke, salt, barbecue.

Lamb has plenty of proteins and fat but it is not as heavy as beef. Fat is the key ingredient for the perfect souvla, too little makes it boring and chewy but too much makes it heavy and off-putting. This shouts for a red wine with plenty of tannins. Wine tannins have the ability to bind with fat and proteins which therefore help us “clean” our mouth for the next bite.

Before choosing a wine we always need to take into consideration the cooking method. This often determines the wine we will choose. Souvla means big chunks of meat on the bone slowly cooked over hot charcoal with plenty of salt. The smoke from the charcoal always adds an extra layer of flavour and salt enhances all flavours. Salt is a friend of red wine; it helps decrease bitterness from tannins and increases the perception of body,  which means we are not limited to young full body red wines but we can also choose something lighter (medium body) or a bit older.

We recommend going with a young Cypriot Shiraz aged in oak barrels to match the barbecue smokiness, but with plenty of tannins and fruit to cope with our fatty lamb. An alternative wine would be a young blended, medium body red from Cyprus. 

Roast Suckling Pig

Whole roasted suckling pig is cooked in a traditional wooden oven for 6-8 hours. This mouth-watering dish is something many people in Cyprus associate with Christmas.

Roast Suckling Pig components: (light) red meat, fat, oil, salt, roasting.

Pork is considered a red meat just like beef and lamb but it’s much lighter in taste and color. This means pairing it with white, rose and red wines is easy. Pork prepared this way has a lot of fat even if it’s a small piglet. On top of that we usually accompany this dish with potatoes cooked in the dripping pork fat. All this fat coats our entire mouth and makes the experience unpleasant. What we need is a high acid wine that can cut through fat and clear our mouth. Do not worry about your wine being too acidic. A lot of salt is required for this recipe which in turn helps reduce the perception of acidity. If we choose a wine low in acidity, salt will make it feel flat. Rose wines with a good structure will be the easiest to pair with. Try out roses made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Mataro or Maratheftiko. For white wines we would recommend anything from a Cypriot Chardonnay up to a very acidic Riesling from Germany. However, if you are a red wine lover then go for something light or medium in body like a Pinot noir or a delicate Maratheftiko. Older vintages will be a better choice since they are gentler and much more complex. Roast Suckling pig recipe: click here

Roasted Turkey

A classic Christmas dish that has also found its way here in Cyprus and it is constantly gaining more attention.

Christmas Turkey components: White meat, low fat, low flavour intensity, stuffing, sauces (sweet or umami based).

Things are not as straightforward as with our pork and lamb dishes. The wines we choose here are mostly based on the stuffing and sauces we accompany the turkey with. Turkey is a very lean white meat with a relatively low flavour intensity but yet delicious. The lack of fat means that tannic young reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Mataro will not do well. Tannins feel aggressive and bitter when there is no fat to interact with them. Only older vintages that have smoother and more complex tannins will pair well, especially if our side dishes are fatty and our sauces fruity. Choose reds that naturally have less tannins and are medium in body. Good choices can be Carignan, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

The most important part of our Turkey dish is probably the stuffing. Stuffing is usually made out of  bread, butter, onions, celery, parsley, sage and chicken broth. All these create a rich, herb based umami delightfulness. Umami flavor can raise the bitterness and alcohol burn in red wines. On the other hand the herb flavours welcome white wines, like Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, and Grüner Veltliner, especially if they are made in an old world style. Full body whites like these pair excellently with turkey meat and cream based sauces. But it would be unfair not to mention Xinisteri, Cyprus’ favorite grape. Old vintages of Xinisteri offer immense complexity and have plenty to give even if they are 3-4 years old. Xinisteri might not be high in acidity but it will pair very well if our side dishes are umami flavour based. Umami has the ability to increase the perception of acidity so most Xinisteri wines will do just fine. Roasted Turkey recipe: click here

Article by Fikardos Fikardos

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Fikardos Winery.