Last weekend I offered two of my friends – one of whom is a pescetarian, the other a vegetarian – some mince pies after dinner. Somewhat unpredictably, they both looked at me in horror and said, Shakira, why on earth would you offer us meat? What’s wrong with you?
They were even less amused when I doubled over in laughter. Once I had recovered, I clarified that, contrary to their belief, mince pies don’t actually contain meat. The “mince” comprises of fruits, spices and sugar in indulgent measures. My friends were both embarrassed by their blunder and intrigued that the possibility of Christmas indulgence had widened to include festive desserts previously considered out of bounds. They graciously accepted my offer of mince pies and one of them is now unabashedly addicted to the delicious dessert.
I perhaps should not have laughed so hard. A bit of research later that evening taught me that mince pies traditionally did contain meat. According to Wikipedia, which we all know is a wonderfully credible source of information, the mince pie (sometimes referred to as ‘mutton pie’) can be traced back to the 13th century, typically containing minced meat, fruits and spices. I also discovered that consuming mince pies on Christmas day is illegal – turns out this is just an urban myth (and if it weren’t, I’d love to know the Met’s strategy of enforcing this law).
All this talk of the holy mince pie and its constituent ingredients made me ponder – what wine would you pair with it? Christmas desserts are notoriously difficult to pair with wine, in part because they tend to contain lots of competing flavours and added alcohol.
A highly regarded pairing is mince pies (note the plural…who stops at one?) and Madeira. This is a fortified and virtually indestructible wine originating from the Portuguese island of Madeira. There are several different styles, ranging from dry to sweet, but in general you can expect flavours of caramel, toffee, marmalade and raisins.
If you don’t happen to have a bottle of Madeira kicking around the house, Port is a fabulously festive choice. I’m also a fan of Sauternes with mince pies – its acidity does a great job of cutting through the huge dollop of cream that invariably finds its way onto my plate. There’s just something so opulent about it.
Traditional Christmas pudding – as much a symbol of Christmas as tinsel – is heavenly with a sweet Muscat. In particular, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise – a sweet Muscat-based wine produced in the Rhone Valley of France. If that doesn’t float your boat, feel free to revert to Port again.
Chocolate yule log is slightly harder to pair with. The general rule is make sure the wine is sweeter – or as sweet, at the very least – as the dessert. Tokaji aszú is a good choice. I know it sounds like I have shares in every Port manufacturer in the world, but I also think Port is a delicious choice with chocolate.
Key takeaways from this article? Firstly, mince pies don’t contain meat – although they used to, and secondly, choose a sweet wine to pair with Christmas dessert – and if in doubt opt for Port.
Image sources: giphy, someecards, learntocook
This blog post is part of our Christmas series #FeelingFestive – great recipes, festive-themed wine pairings and a whole lot of indulgence. An update to the app (www.grapefulapp.com) is available for Android and iOS devices, showcasing our fabulous Christmas content and enabling you to easily select wine during this incredibly boozy time of year…we got you covered!