Nut roasting and wine pairing
A nut roast is the classic vegetarian alternative to Christmas turkey or beef, and it is easy to see why. With its dense nutty texture and umami flavours, it works well as a substitute to meat.
And when it comes to pairing it with wine, keep in mind that the flavours found in a dish are often complemented by similar flavours in a wine.
Drawing on those savoury flavours in a nut roast, an orange wine would seem a perfect fit. From a country with a long history of orange winemaking, the Georgian Dakishvili Family Selection, Qvevri Amber Dry Wine 2015 has ‘scents of nuts, mushrooms, plant sap and sweet curds’ and ‘a wealth of walnut and apricot’, characteristics often found in nut roasts too.
Due to extended skin maceration, orange wines tend to be fuller bodied and textural, meaning they can stand up to strong flavours in a dish.
If you – or your guests – want something a bit more traditional, Fiona Beckett said in her 2008 piece for Decanter magazine ‘nut roasts don’t pose too many problems at Christmas as they’re generally accompanied by the same sort of sides as turkey, so again think in terms of vibrant, Rhône-ish reds.’
If you’re after a change from a nut roast, then a butternut squash and mushroom wellington is another popular pick.
Any mushroom-heavy dish is going to pair well with the often-overlooked Vin Jaune wine style from the Jura region, in France.
Made from 100% Savagnin, these wines undergo long ageing in old barrels under a veil of yeast, often giving oxidative nutty, salty, spicy flavours to the wine.
The Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot, Arbois Vin Jaune, Jura 2010 is a prime example. With its ‘woodland savoury’ notes of ‘forest mushroom and simmering stock’, this intensely flavoured wine will stand up to such an intense dish.
Wines from the Jura tend to retain naturally high acidity too, which counters the richness of buttery pastry and gives much needed freshness.
Alternatively, if you still want a slightly oxidative style but a little less intensity, a Chardonnay made in a similarly traditional way will give the same nutty nuances; the Domaine de Montbourgeau, Cuvée Spéciale, L’Etoile Vin Jaune 2014 will do the trick.
These two wines will pair especially well if your wellington is laced with Vacherin, a full flavoured creamy cheese from the Jura region.
Another idea when pairing with something mushroom or truffle based, is to go for wines with some bottle age that will mirror those earthy flavours, as the experts suggest in our wine and truffles guide.
You will be able to please the red wine drinkers this Christmas as well, because these dishes can easily stand up to a range of red wine styles.
Go towards a herby style of wine to match the herby flavours of the nut roast or wellington. A red blend from the Rhône or the Languedoc-Roussillon, such as Les Clos Perdus, Mire La Mer, Corbieres 2013, will work perfectly, as it shows those classic rosemary and thyme notes of the garrigue.
If you want to go for your heavier reds – Bordeaux, Napa – or have some carnivores around the table too, Beckett recommends your vegetarian dish to have ‘palate-coating alternatives [to animal proteins that help carry tannin] in the form of sauces, purées or other ingredients such as cheese or pulses that will build a bridge to your red.’
And if nothing else… Champagne
If you are feeling adventurous, and have a penchant for bubbles, then these vegetarian dishes will also pair well with an oxidative style of Champagne.
With its hazelnut, bread and quince characters, the Charles Dufour Bulles de Comptoir #7 Assemblage will provide complexity as well as ripe citrus freshness to the dishes.
Champagne can be versatile, and there is most likely a Champagne that will sing with every single course! If ever in doubt; Champagne. A robust motto to live by.