Work out your festive food and wine matches

How do you choose the right wines for Christmas?

How do you choose the right wines for Christmas? - Credit: Archant

In spite of coronavirus, Christmas plans are still being made and menus planned for festive meals including selecting suitable wines to accompany them.

Whether the choice is for traditional or experimental choices all choices should follow a general rule of thumb. Remember to match the dominant flavours of the food with complimentary ones in wine to drink with it. Here’s a few thoughts to tickle your taste buds.

Festive fizz is a great place to start – Champagne may be top of the list though there are alternatives many of which are of great quality having been made by the same method and the same grapes – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Why not try the delicious Jansz from Tasmania or Cremants from France or English sparkling wines that are winning awards such as those from Langham Estate in Dorset: the current Best Sparkling Wine Producer in the World?

Turkey is still the favourite for Christmas lunch served with a mélange of flavours from cranberry sauce, bread sauce, roasted vegetables and stuffing. Try a classy wine from the Rhone Valley or Rioja where the tannins are less obvious with age and time in oak or a vibrant fruity red wine such as Barbera from Italy. This grape ages well and tastes of vibrant red currants, black cherries and a touch of spice. These are delicious with beef too. Alternatives include Spanish wines made from the Mencia grape produced in Bierzo or modern Pinotage from South Africa.

For white wines Chablis, lightly oaked is ideal with fragrant aromas and ripe rounded fruit with a hint of honey. Other Chardonnays that are minerally and textured from careful oak aging would be great with a great festive meal too like those from Chile or an aromatic stylish Torrontes from Argentina. Chenin Blanc with lightly oaky flavours from South Africa or a rounded fruity Vouvray from the Loire would make a great alternative too. These are also great with vegetarian dishes like mushroom risotto and creamy pasta sauces. Tomato based dishes need a vibrant fruity wine and here a Chilean Pinot Noir with fresh fruit, ripe tannins and light pepper & spice would be a great choice.

Some often forgotten wines, such as those from Alsace, are ideal with the many and varied festive meal flavours such as a rounded Pinot Gris with floral and spice aromas and flavours. Another forgotten region is the Beaujolais where the Gamay grape makes vibrant fruity wines like Fleurie or deeper styles such as Moulin a Vent and Brouilly.

Most of these will also be great with goose or duck though a richer style of wine like a New Zealand Pinot Noir or a Grenache/Syrah-based wine from the Rhone can be an easy match with these meats. If your favourite festive meat is beef try some classic wines from Bordeaux with a dark blackcurrant, berries and tannic structure or experiment with a wine from the Languedoc such as those from the Terrasses de Larzac or Montpeyroux would make a delicious match.

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Dessert wines are great with puddings and cheeses because of their innate rich unctuous character that is soft and silky and easy on the palate at the end of a meal. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise from the Rhone Valley in Southern France, luscious New Zealand Semillon or a classic Sauternes are excellent examples. The final piece in the meal’s planning is Port or even Madeira to savour at the end of the meal, perhaps even with cheese?