Fri 06 Dec 2013

Matching Brussels Sprouts With Wine?!


In a recent food and wine matching workshop, that was (surprise, surprise) themed around Christmas, the thorny issue of whether ‘to sprout or not to sprout’ raised its head.

Did you know that Brussels sprouts were named after the Belgium capital after becoming popular there in the 16th century? However, they are only recorded as having made their first appearance in Britain as late as the 19th. For better or worse, sprouts have become an integral part of Christmas dinner. In fact, Christmas dinner without sprouts would be like Father Christmas without the beard – just odd!

On this particular occasion, the question was which wine should be served with a sprout? (We had a rather nice sprout kebab, made up of sprout and bacon lardons; chestnuts would have worked well too.)

Christmas sproutsThe argument was rather theoretical, as so many are, as it is highly unlikely that even the biggest of Brussels sprout lovers will serve a dish of them on their own; often it is the trimmings that play more of a deciding factor when it comes to wine selection. Nonetheless, we endeavoured to find the perfect vinous match for this Marmite of the vegetable world, with some very interesting results.

Indeed, just as sprouts themselves divided opinion (unsurprisingly) on the day, so too was the choice of wine to pair with them, determined by whether the tasters were lovers of sprouts or not.

Those partial to the odd sprout found that chardonnay seemed to be the answer. The creaminess of The Society’s Exhibition Limarí Chardonnay matched brilliantly with what sprout lovers described as ‘the creamy, nutty flavours’ of the veg and didn’t overpower or fight with the flavours.

On the other hand, those who were not fans of the sprout, decided that riesling was a better match; on this occasion Toni Jost’s Bacharacher Hahn Dry Riesling 2011 shone through. This slightly richer wine took centre stage with the sprout as the support act, and as one member put it, ‘completely masked the flavour of the dreaded sprout!’ without clashing.

Ultimately, when looking for the perfect wine to match Christmas dinner, there are, of course, many other flavours, apart from sprouts to take into consideration. Once you have loaded your plate with turkey, goose, or beef, with all the usual Christmas trimmings you have some quite powerful flavours. The key is therefore to look for a wine which will match the overall flavour of the whole dish rather than the key components.

Rich chardonnays or white wines from the Rhône work beautifully for those craving a white wine with their Christmas lunch, whilst a generously fruited grenache-dominated red sets off the slight spice in dishes such as pigs in blankets, bread sauce, and stuffing to perfection.

I feel sure that there will be many people out there thinking we have paid far too much attention to sprouts; however to them I would say that if you can’t pay attention to a sprout at Christmas, when can you?

You can read more about wine matching at Christmas in my article on The Society’s website.

Emma Howat
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator

Categories : Wine Tastings


  1. Christopher Dolan says:

    Sprouts are wonderful but the wine must be red. What about a Loire – Saumur Champigny or Saint Nicolas?

    • Emma Howat says:

      Thanks for your comment, which I’ve been thinking about over the weekend. Whilst we didn’t actually try any Loire reds on the day, I’m increasingly inclined think they would be a great match, and would perhaps serve to bring out the red fruit in such wines. I’ll have to try the combination next time sprouts are on the menu!

  2. Michael Culver says:

    On the subject of sprouts choose small ones, blanch them, fry finely chopped shallots until brown then add finely chopped fresh ginger, sugar, salt and pepper and the sprouts and fry for ten minutes. A delicious starter!

    Michael Culver

  3. Michael Gray says:

    Great wine suggestions, but I have to say that if sprouts were to be the main event, I would be looking to a strong and hoppy beer as a perfect match. Perhaps a Belgian dubbel or trippel?

Leave a comment