Choosing your festive wines

WE spend a lot of time planning our festive meals for enjoying with family and friends so giving some thought to the wines to accompany them will create added value.

A useful rule of thumb when finding wine to complement a meal is to take the main ingredient and think of the flavours involved and their description will lead you to the type of wine that will best accompany it.

The old adage of drinking white wine with fish and red wine with meat need not be assiduously followed unless that is what you prefer. For example, if fish is prepared with a sauce that might include strong flavours based on tomatoes and herbs then red wines would be the best to drink with such recipes.

Alternatively, a robust meaty casserole packed with herbs and spices will need an equally robust full flavoured wine whether white or red. Conversely, a light fish or chicken salad with its fresh flavours and served with a vinaigrette dressing will be bet complemented by a tangy white wine or a light fruity red.

A glass of English sparkling wine or Champagne is a fun way to begin a special meal as an aperitif. At this time of year there are always many special offers around on these wines though there are some delicious sparkling wines offering better value than cheap Champagne, especially those from Tasmania, New Zealand, the Loire and Burgundy that are made using the same grapes as for Champagne and by the traditional method used in Champagne.

To accompany the first course you may like a light red or white such as a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Verdicchio or reds such as Beaujolais or Italian Barbera. These choices offer the opportunity to build up flavours through the meal and choose fuller flavoured wines to go with the main course. This is often the dominant course so wines should be selected to savour and complement them.

Traditional Christmas fare of turkey and all the trimmings provide a myriad of flavours to match with wine so why not try a red such as a Rioja with its soft velvety texture, ripe fruit and spice or perhaps an elegant Burgundy. White wine drinkers could try a New World rounded fruity wine such as lightly oaked or unoaked Chardonnay or a peachy tropical Viognier or Pinot Gris.

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Dessert wines make a great digestif when served with puddings or with coffee and cheese as an alternative to port. Traditional Sauternes and New Zealand dessert wines are ideal partners to puddings at the end of a large meal and Christmas puddings go well with the luscious PX sherries and rich Aussie dessert wines. Remember, too, that the texture of chocolate means that a red dessert wine or Pineau des Charentes will be best.

Just a thought... if you need inspiration for a present why not choose a bottle of wine? It makes an ideal gift and you can choose a special bottle to match individual tastes or to accompany a festive meal. Independent wine companies will arrange delivery too, in gift packaging including your personal message.

Happy Christmas!