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What wines to drink at Christmas

What wine to drink at Christmas

by Fiona Beckett Friday, December 11, 2015

The turkey’s in the oven, the roasties are colouring up nicely, the sprouts are bubbling away – but what bottle of wine should you put on the table? Fiona Beckett shares her perfect festive pairings.

Fiona Beckett is an experienced, award-winning food and wine writer who has written for many of the UK's national newspapers and consumer magazines.

For many people, the choice of what to drink with Christmas dinner is the least of their priorities in the last frantic few days before the big day. Think about it now and get the bottles bought if you don’t already have them to avoid an extra thing to worry about while you’re cooking up a storm.

Turkey

It’s not just about the turkey, but everything that goes with it: the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the gravy, the veg. It’s a right plateful! Most people want to drink red and the style I think works best is a big ripe red from southern Rhône. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most famous example, but you could equally serve a Gigondas or one of the named villages of the Côte du Rhône, like Vacqueyras. Oddly, Chardonnay also goes well so I’d put a bottle of good white Burgundy on the table for those who prefer white to red. Meursault or a Chassagne-Montrachet would be perfect. Once the turkey is cold you can go for a lighter, juicier, less weighty red like a Gamay or a Pinot Noir – Beaujolais is the perfect Boxing Day wine!

Beef

Almost any medium-to full-bodied red you enjoy will match very well, but Christmas is a good excuse for cracking open a good bottle of Bordeaux – or a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot from elsewhere (I particularly like those from the Margaret River in Australia and the Stellenbosch region of South Africa). A Rioja Reserva always goes down well too.

Ham

Ham is all about the glaze, which is usually sweet, so again you need a big, bold exuberant red which can hold its own. As with the turkey, Rhone-style blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (sometimes known as GSM) work well, as does Shiraz on its own. You could also try a Central Otago Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s South Island.

Red wine
Medium or full-bodied reds such as Bordeaux work well with beef
Christmas dinner
Remember your wine must go with the entire roast dinner, not just the turkey

Goose

Goose is quite a fatty bird, so you need a wine with a touch of acidity to offset that richness. Italian reds come to the rescue here – a good Chianti Classico or a Barbaresco from Piedmont will do the job. A Barolo is perfect if you can afford a really good one, but beware; cheap Barolo is almost always disappointing. Riesling is also lovely with goose, especially if you’re serving it with apple sauce. The best come from Alsace, Austria and Germany.

Nut roast

 
 

Yes, we’re talking about nuts but you’re probably still serving all those sides so a similar red to the turkey will work fine. As you’re probably making it if you – or members of your family – are vegetarian, just check that the wine you choose is suitable for vegetarians and vegans (i.e. that no animal-based products have been used in the fining process).

Stilton

It’s hard to beat port with Stilton; try a ten-year-old tawny rather than a ruby port like a Late Bottled Vintage this Christmas. Or try – and this is surprisingly delicious, I promise you – sloe gin.

Smoked salmon

Smoked salmon is always associated with Champagne, which works well if you’re having it as a canapé. But if you’re serving it as a first course you might be surprised to discover that Sauvignon Blanc is an equally good match. Try it with Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire.

 
Stilton
Match Stilton with port or sloe gin
Mince pies
Mince pies and sherry make the perfect pairing

Christmas pudding

Not the easiest dessert to match, especially if you slather it with brandy butter, so go for a rich, orangey dessert wine rather than a lighter wine like Sauternes or Riesling. I particularly like Spanish Moscatels, which are incredibly good value, but Hungarian Tokaji is also a treat.

Mince pies

Mulled wine is the classic accompaniment but I absolutely love a glass of Madeira or sweet Oloroso sherry with a mince pie. As does Santa, of course!

More information

For more Christmas wine pairing tips visit Fiona’s website matchingfoodandwine.com

 
 
 

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