Pairing Christmas Food with Wine
As the days get unmistakeably cooler and Christmas emerges on the horizon, it’s time to cast an eye to your wine list. With all the work that goes in to planning festive catering, it’s important to choose wines that flatter your culinary creations as well as tickling the palate. While this might seem a daunting prospect at first, pairing wine with your Christmas dinner needn’t be a minefield, and F+R are happy to guide your choices – leaving you with one less thing to stress about. (If only we could do the same about the in-laws.)
In order to inform your wine and food pairings, we’ve provided you with four important pairs of features to consider when selecting what to eat and drink, along with a few choice recommendations that draw on some of our favourite wines and regions. So sit back, relax (preferably with a glass of wine) and allow FINE + RARE to guide you through your Christmas menu – from Cranberry stuffing to Cabernet Franc, we’ve got it covered.
Salty food clashes with tannins (the element that makes wine taste dry), so avoid passing out the salted peanuts with a glass of Barolo (which would, however, pair beautifully with roast beef). Instead, opt for a fruity, crisp white Burgundy or Sancerre. Or, even better, kick off the celebrations in style by popping open a bottle of dry sparkling wine such as brut Champagne; the natural bubbly sweetness will be an extra-refreshing match for the salt. In fact, you should always remember to serve a wine with greater sweetness than the food. Sweetness in wine also acts as a foil to rich foods (Sauternes and Foie Gras is a timeless, and very festive, example). Finally, seafood makes for a tasty crowd-pleasing Christmas starter and one that is easy to match well. Try out a mouth-watering smoked salmon and prawn starter with a dry Loire Valley white.
A Champagne such as the Tarlant Tradition could be a perfect option for pairing with salty starters
The Main Event
Here it is, the fruition of all your hard work and the most important part of your meal. When it comes to finding wine for the main course, the most important thing to consider is the two Ts: Texture and Tannins. These all-important aspects go hand in hand – the more texture in your food the more tannins should be present in your wine. For example, a warming glass of dry red. Those looking for a traditional and well-loved option need look no further than a classic Claret, but a full-bodied Tuscan Brunello would be equally delicious, drawing out all the taste of a delicious, fatty duck breast or succulent slab of Roast Beef. Similarly, wines Tannins are the sign of good wine, but they generally need protein to balance their dryness – all the more excuse to pile your plate high! The main course is also the best point to consider the body of your wine – full-bodied offerings go hand in hand with rich, red meat. If you’re leaning towards a more traditional menu, lighter wine with fruit-filled notes pairs excellently well with Christmas meats such as turkey or pork tenderloin.
All the Trimmings
There’s a reason that sprouts and pigs in blankets are indispensable from any traditional Christmas dinner. Tasty, festive and indisputable crowd-pleasers, the trimmings are often the things that take a Christmas meal to perfection. If you want to wow your guests and take a different approach to wine pairing, consider your side dishes. When serving particularly intense flavours – Brussel Sprouts being key offenders – remember to pour equally strong flavoured wine, in order to avoid either taste from being wiped out. For example, a steaming side plate of Roasted Brussels sprouts, pancetta and chestnuts would be delicious with a lush Barolo, as both are packed with spicy rich flavours. Meanwhile, if you’re leaning to something of the creamy, rich variety - a side of scrumptious potato gratin, for example – consider a white French Rhone.
A spicy , rich Barolo is an excellent choice to complement strongly flavoured side dishes
The Proof is in the Pudding
You’ve made it this far – two courses in and dinner is looking like a real success. Now it’s time to indulge that sweet tooth with a sumptuous festive dessert. When it comes to wine and desserts, the key thing to remember is that the sweetness in your glass should match or exceed that which is on your plate. Yule-time desserts such as a tangy chocolate orange bombe or decadent chocolate log would taste delicious paired with a sweet white Bordeaux. For true traditionalists, a full-flavoured Tawny Port or rich Madeira taste delicious with Christmas Pudding and Minced Pies and provide the perfect finish to your festive feast.
Once everybody has worked through dessert-induce stupors, and on the off-chance that someone might still be hungry, it’s time to produce the cheese platter. A classic duo, the wine-cheese pairing possibilities are endless, but there are some that are especially delectable for Christmas. Creamy, decadent cheeses such as firm favourite Camembert taste delicious with Champagne, while awell-aged salty Stilton is unbeatable when combined with Riesling. Finally, if you find yourself feasting on Brie, Cranberry and Turkey sandwiches for days to come, a Burgundian Chablis should be your first port of call.
So there you have it – FINE+RARE’s guide to making the most out of your cellar come Christmas. Follow this advice and you can be sure to impress even the most discerning of palates. Now all you need to do is work out who is on the guest-list…
If you would like more personalised advice on procuring the best wines in the run up to Christmas, please get in touch with one of our expert advisors. For more expert wine advice, be sure to check out our blog.