Every year, during December, one might think that Christmas food and wine would be a trending topic, on and offline. However, the problem with that trending topic, with its smörgåsboard of suggested pairings, is that it may only serve to make the ordinary punter feel inundated and utterly confused.
So, whilst, later in this post I’m going to provide you with some suggested Christmas food and wine pairings – adding to and being ‘on-trend’ is not the purpose of my post.
In fact, I’m also going to suggest that you ignore the trends if you wish, and drink what you want this Christmas.
I’m going to suggest that you ignore the trends, if you wish, and drink what you want this Christmas #discoverwine #greenacresirl
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When you think of it, most of us will drink what we prefer anyway in the lead-up to the 25th. But on the Big Day we usually want to a) upgrade our taste experience, b) match the food with the wine, or c) impress the siblings/in-laws.
Pair the Wine with the Mood
So, let’s start with the scenario that you are the hosting family member this year. If you’ve done this before, you’ll know that the challenge is to match the food tastes AND satisfy the personal wine preferences around the table.
When you think of it, Christmas dinner is like that box of decorations you keep in the attic.
The old cardboard box is filled with a mishmash of colourful family decorations & traditions from over the years. Trying to use these (and not offend anybody by exclusion) and still make the house look somewhat co-ordinated is a challenge.
Similarly, if entertaining, matching the family’s wine preferences with food can be daunting (and divisive).
So, this year, I’m going to suggest that you, as the host, decide that the wine you choose is going to match the mood, in the first instance. That means – jolly, festive and celebratory.
I mean, if you know that somebody loves a white sparkling wine – let them drink it throughout the meal! Don’t force a red wine on them.
Also, don’t just go for a wine that you’ve read about in one of these blog posts – but have never tried! However if you do want a list, here are 12 Christmas Wines I recommended last year.
What I will do for the rest of this post though, is help steer those of you who would like to match a specific food serving with a wine that everybody should enjoy. I intend singling out the turkey and the ham for pairing first, and then give you a list of other suitable matches.
Christmas Food and Wine – Turkey
You’ve heard this before, but the toughest challenge with cooking turkey is its tendency to dryness, if it’s overcooked. That is why I’m going to recommend something juicy to wash it down. I have two recommendations 1) is a pinot noir from Burgundy (the younger it is, the more juicy it is) which will add that berry dynamic but won’t clash with the sides.
The second one you could try, for similar reasons, would be a Valpolicella from Italy. The grape here is the Corvina which is also full of red cherry flavours which will complement the cranberry sauce.
If you, or your guests, want to stick with white wine, go for a white from the same French region – Burgundy. So, Chardonnay, for instance, would be a perfect partner with its buttery texture and weight. Here’s a thought – if you love your stuffing – you could try a white Rioja for a change which will help with those ‘sides’ that you may be experimenting with.
Christmas Food and Wine – Ham
Ham, with its sweet-and-salty richness, pairs best with wines that have a touch of sweetness, plenty of acidity and bold fruit. Also, at Christmas there may be spice (cloves) in the glaze, which calls for a red with generous ripe fruit – in other words an element of sweetness too.
So, on the red side, the Pinot Noir mentioned above will still cover you, or I’m going to suggest a Rhone Valley red also (Syrah or Grenache). Syrah is another of my go-to wine varietals to pair with baked ham. Both of these can have bold flavour and earthy tones that mix well with the saltiness of the ham. Rieslings are a good choice for the white.
Christmas Food and Wine Pairings – Other Meats
Just a quick hat-tip to some other meats you might be serving.
If goose is your choice – it is, of course, stronger-flavoured than turkey – more like game, but quite a bit fattier. Therefore, we will need a wine that has a fair level of acidity. It also tends to be accompanied by powerfully flavoured sides so be aware of those influences also.
Goose – Reds = Italian Barolo or Barbaresco, French Pinot Noir or Spanish Rioja Gran Reserva.
Goose – Whites = Alsace Riesling, German Gewürztraminer.
If roast beef is your choice you can turn to classic Christmas reds: your best bottles of mature Bordeaux will never get a better showcase than at Christmas lunch, or turn to a spicy red Rhône.
If lamb is your choice, you really should steer clear of white wines that are too acidic and tart, such as Riesling. Stick with the Chardonnay already mentioned or for reds go for a Rioja Reserva is the ideal partner, or even a Chianti Classico.
Christmas Food and Wine – other pairings
1. Smoked salmon + champagne or sauvignon blanc
2. Oysters + Chablis or Picpoul de Pinet
3. Seafood cocktail + Riesling
4. Duck (or chicken) liver parfait + pinot gris
5. Roast pork + Côtes du Rhône
6. Baked salmon + white burgundy
7. Christmas pudding + muscat
8. Christmas cake + tawny port
9. Mince pies + cream or oloroso sherry
10. Chocolate Yule log + black muscat
11. Trifle + Moscato d’Asti
12. Stilton + vintage port
Christmas Food and Wine – Vegetarian
It would be remiss of me not to include vegetarian Christmas dinners here. Whilst not one myself, when I think vegetarian, I think of flavours such as herb-stuffed nut roasts, spiced root vegatable and creamy cheeses.
In these situations, finding a perfect wine match is just as important. As alluded to above a over-cooked (dry) turkey, or , I guess, a slightly-too-nutty nut surprise can tell you, your wine needs to do two things: add a bit of juice and match the varied delicious textures that the cooking invokes.
So, I’m going to suggest for
– Deeply savoury tarts and roasts (olives, mushrooms etc.) might be matched with a white Rhône or a Rioja. Choose a pinot noir for dishes that focus on the mushrooms.
– Dishes where fennel is the main attraction, pair with young reds or vibrant whites that have a herbaceous, peppery quality. Italian wines are great for this.
– For nut roasts look to the fruit forward wines of the new world – like a chardonnay or Syrah from South Africa.
– For cheese-based dishes you could just stay with the usual rules of cheese and wine matching.
Drink Whatever You Want
In many of my previous blogs I have stressed that pairing wine with food can be tricky even when a meal is simple. So, on an occasion like Christmas—when plates are packed with a profusion of mains and sides—picking an appropriate wine can be extremely confusing.
I’ve kinda taken two sides to this argument in my post above. In the first instance I’m saying match the wine with the Festive mood of your guests. But then I go onto providing some good food and wine pairings that will complement each other and hopefully improve the taste experience of the Christmas dinner.
If you were to stop me on the street and say – pick a red and a white that will cover most options – I would have to recommend a Pinot Noir (red) and a Chardonnay (white). However, my overall recommendation to you is to enjoy the family and friends time together and drink whatever you want.
If we can help you in any way with your Christmas wine choice, please pop in or give us a call. We have a wonderful Christmas Special Wine Sale on and Donal, Patrick, Jason or myself would be delighted to assist you.
We will have one more blog post before Christmas Day so until then, thanks for reading my piece and enjoy your Christmas Food and Wine Shopping.
Talk Soon – James.
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