Wines at Christmas

One of the questions I get asked more than any other is ‘what wine should I order for Christmas?’.

There are a number of possible answers to this perennial question. Firstly, I would suggest that you should get what you like and what you can afford, please don’t be ‘bullied’ into buying something just to impress the family or neighbours. After all, it is you who is paying and you who is drinking. Probably the more helpful answer is that there is such a wide range of drinks that can work well with Christmas fare, there is bound to be something for everyone. This article will only be dealing with wines, but there are some incredible beers, ciders, spirits and soft drinks available at this time of year, many of which would prove to be excellent partners, but that is for you to research further elsewhere.

The structure of this article is to work through the Christmas period covering some of the key meals and occasions with recommendations and suggestions for each of them, so let’s start with Christmas Eve – often a time for socialising with neighbours and friends or family arriving early for the big day tomorrow. Plates piled high with sausage rolls, mince pies and a selection of those super cute little nibbles, sometimes referred to as party food, that seem to only be available at this time of year. Having browsed some of the major supermarket offers I have found the following delights … Mini Croque Monsieur Croissants, Lobster Thermidor Vol au Vents and Breaded Stuffed Olives. I must leap in here to say that I am NOT recommending any of these unusual combinations, I prefer to get in the kitchen and make my own, but let’s be honest they do save a LOT of time.
So what are we going to drink with this selection of tasty morsels? Most types of finger party food are based around pastry and tend to have quite rich and creamy fillings, whether it be Sausage Rolls, Mince Pies, Stuffed Olives or Crispy Duck Straws.
Bubbles could have been invented for party food to be honest, so depending on your budget Prosecco, Cremant, Cava or Champagne will all be perfect for these informal and tasty occasions. For myself, it will be a quality English Sparkling Wine, many of which deliver a far better experience than traditional Champagne, whilst reducing your wine miles.

Rising early the next day to see if Santa has visited, many people have adopted a tradition of having smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for brunch on 25th December and like a glass of something to celebrate the big day. It is probably the only time you will ever feel not guilty about drinking alcohol before 10.00 (except in an airport departure lounge on your way to a well earned holiday).
Again, Champagne or even better an English Sparkling Wine is a perfect partner for fish and eggs in the morning, but I can also recommend an excellent Sparkling Pinot Noir Brut from Gauchezco in Argentina as a delightful pairing. You can order it from Great Wine Online.

Assuming that your bubbles will last you through the morning, we now turn our attention to the major meal of the festive period, Christmas Dinner or Lunch. This is one of the most challenging meals ever invented to pair with wines for the simple reason that the plate has a myriad of different, often contrasting tastes, textures and flavours. Lightly flavoured turkey meat, salty pigs in blankets, sweet and caramelised parsnips, soft and crunchy buttery roast potatoes, tangy sweet cranberry sauce and we haven’t even started on the brussels sprouts with chestnuts, aromatic bread sauce, and goodness knows what else is piled onto your festive platter.
So where to start with wines. Keeping it simple, I would recommend either a full bodied white or a fruity red. Sorry folks but Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne simply will not work.
If you prefer a white wine, my all time recommendation would be a lightly oaked Chardonnay, in my personal case, a delight from Burgundy such as Puligny-Montrachet or a Macon-Charnay , but there are other great examples from all over the new world. A few that I would recommend would be Vondeling Chardonnay Barrel Selection or Ataraxia Chardonnay, both from South Africa or Gauchezco Reserve Chardonnay from Argentina.
Red wines offer a wide selection of options for your turkey dinner, depending on how heavy or light you like your red wines. For the heavier options I would suggest a Côte du Rhônes or a Chateauneuf du Pape, with excellent examples from Bastide Saint Dominique in the Southern Rhone. There is a similar blend with a complexity and depth that is superb made by Bodegas Volcanes in Chile called Grenache Petite Sirah Mourvedre that works a treat. If you prefer a lighter option, I would look to Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc, with great new world versions from New Zealand, Tohu Awatere Valley Pinot Noir or Gauchezco Reserve Cabernet Franc from Argentina.

Not everyone has turkey on Christmas Day, so here are a few suggested wine pairings for some of the more popular alternatives…
Goose – the acidity in Chianti is ideal for the fatty richness with a delicious one from Tenuta Il Palazzo.
Duck – stick to the Pinot Noir – see the suggestions earlier
Beef – time to pull the cork on a Bordeaux or other Cabernet Sauvignon based red. Great examples from Saint-Peyre or Château Cazeau.
Lamb – I would recommend Bodegas Garcia Figuero Ribera del Duero with three different styles all made from 100% Tempranillo grapes.
Ham – something bright and fruity such as Vondeling Baldrick Shiraz or Maspino Syrah from South Africa and Italy respectively.
Salmon – chardonnay every time with salmon – some great suggestions earlier
Mushrooms / Chestnuts – these popular non-meat options are made for Pinot Noir – see earlier

Once the main event has finished, it is time for the rich, decadent fruity nuttiness of Christmas Pudding, Stöllen or Christmas Cake and it is time to turn to the sweet dessert wines.
Tawny Port with its nutty dried fruit acidity is probably the best all round partner for these desserts with Fonseca 10 Year Old Tawny being an excellent example. Bastide Saint Dominique produces a first class example of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise for the lighter desserts such as Stöllen or Pannetone. From New Zealand, Tohu’s fresh honeyed Limited Release Noble Riesling is a delight with any pudding.

It now becomes easier because any of the wines served with pudding will work superbly with any cheeses that you are serving. Sweet wines are universally suitable for any style of cheese but another wine that fulfils this role is a quality Vintage Champagne. With a richness and complexity that suits soft, oozy and creamy cheeses such as Brie, Vacherin Mont d’Or or even a rich creamy blue, I highly recommend trying some Autreau ‘Perles de la Dhuy’ Grand Cru Vintage 2012 – it’s Christmas, treat yourself!!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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