Christmas Wines

Paul Fogerty, head sommelier at Ashford Castle, shares his recommendations for wine choices to complement many occasions and foods over the festive period - even if you’re not booked into Ashford Castle for Christmas! 

Choosing the right wines for Christmas can be a tricky business but, according to Ashford Castle's Head Sommelier, Paul Fogerty, the most important characteristic of any wine is its enjoyment.

Paul Fogerty believes that while there isn't always a correlation between how much you spend on a bottle of wine and how much you enjoy it, it's always nice to spend a little extra at Christmas for something special, if you can. One of the country's leading experts on wine, Paul and his team have recently been working on their wine pairings for the Christmas season at Ashford Castle, working closely with executive head chef, Philippe Farineau and resort executive head pastry chef, Paula Stakelum to create the perfect menu.

But if you haven't booked your place at the Ashford Castle Christmas dinner table fear not, as Paul has compiled a wine list that will help you navigate the festive season with ease. Traditional turkey, a spot of game, vegetarian or seafood, Paul has a recommendation to complement every dish.

APERITIF

It wouldn't be a celebration without Champagne and if you want to start off the day in style, Paul says that Rosé Champagne is a great option as it really opens up the taste buds in readiness for all the delicious food to follow.

Paul Fogerty recommends: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. Elegant, refined and showing great finesse, this Rosé Champagne is bursting with aromas and flavours of red berry fruits: delicate and crisp on the palate.

TRADITIONAL TURKEY

For those opting for the traditional turkey feast, Paul recommends a Burgundy Pinot Noir or, for something really special from Ashford Castle's sister property in South Africa, Bouchard Finlayson, Galpin Peak Pinot Noir.

A full-bodied Chardonnay is Paul's choice for white wine drinkers. "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."

Paul Fogerty recommends: Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir exuding all the finesse of a good Burgundy, but the fruit and finish of a New World wine. It packs a wonderful dark cherry flavoured punch, lingers on the palate and its own classic 'gamieness' makes it the perfect pairing for the festive bird.

SEAFOOD AND FISH

In addition to the more traditional fare, Ashford Castle will be offering guests a wonderful selection of seafood, fresh off the boats from local fishermen in Connemara. Lobster, crab and shellfish bisque will all have a starring role on the Christmas menu and Paul's pairings for seafood and fish dishes include:

Smoked Salmon: a lightly oaked aged Chardonnay

Oysters: one option only, Champagne such as Taittinger (who have recently established a vineyard in Kent, England)

Seafood cocktail: a dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc

BEEF

For many, beef is part of the great Christmas Day tradition and households across Ireland choose beef instead of or indeed, as well as the traditional turkey.

Paul Fogerty recommends: you don't necessarily need a big red wine to bring out the flavours of the beef according to Paul who recommends the earthy characteristics of a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon or one of Italy's finest – a silky Barolo. Beef, especially Roast Beef or Beef Wellington, loves the classical pairing of a great Bordeaux that is Cabernet Sauvignon dominated. Or why not try a full- bodied Malbec.

VEGETARIAN

Executive head chef at Ashford Castle Philippe Farineau and his team have developed special vegetarian and vegan menus for guests that include fabulous options such as Beetroot, Carrot & Date Galette and French Truffle & Potato Risotto and featuring seasonal ingredients foraged on the 350-acre Ashford Estate.

Paul Fogerty recommends: a Beaujolais Cru such as Morgon complements most earthy and mushroom dishes. Morgon offers aromas of black fruit and cherries, that follow through the rich, soft body of the wine. For warm, tomato-based dishes, Paul recommends Chianti, which, depending on how long it has been aged can evoke a sense of flowers and spices along with aromas of plums and dark succulent cherries.

DESSERT

Paul Fogerty recommends: Beaumes de Venise - a golden Muscat - one of the great classic dessert wines, and which is widely available from wine merchants and off licenses across Ireland. Paul also recommends Moscato D'Asti, a lower alcohol, sweet sparkling white wine with a lovely light finish

CHEESE

Paul Fogerty recommends: a Vintage Port - Neipoort Vintage Port 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

New Year celebrations offer the perfect opportunity to crack open a bottle of Champers and Paul's recommendation is Perrier Jouët - Grand Brut. But, says the wine expert, there are 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 a popular alternative to Champagne and Paul suggests popping a Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Santa Margherita, Italy. Characteristics include lovely aromas of pineapple and peaches, along with delicate florals, lively bubbles and a crisp, dry, yet sweet finish on the palate. 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.

Ashford Castle also offer a collection of special gift items, including a range of hampers. The mid-range Lady Ardilaun Gift Hamper, for example, is €75 (with free delivery in Ireland) and comes beautifully packed in a traditional lined hamper basket, while smaller items include Ashford Castle Luxury Crackers (€50) and an Ashford Castle Chocolate Box (€20).

You may be interested to know…..

16TH CENTURY CELLARS

Paul Fogerty and his team curate the carefully selected wines that are stored in the 16th Century wine cellars buried deep beneath Ashford Castle and unearthed during the renovations of 2013. The tunnels, formerly the old servant's entrance to the castle have been transformed and not only do hold some of the world's most exclusive wines, but they offer three very special private spaces for wine tastings and private dining experiences.

BOUCHARD FINLAYSON

The world-renowned Bouchard Finlayson winery is located in the internationally acclaimed wine region of Walker Bay in the Western Cape. The winery is owned by the Tollman family of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection and collaboratively run by Victoria Tollman and Peter Finlayson. Bouchard Finlayson wines are available in Ireland exclusively at Ashford Castle and sister hotel, The Lodge at Ashford.

 

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