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Matching Christmas food and wine

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There are myriad things to think about at Christmas. From gifts to the three-course (minimum) feast, there are lots of spinning plates (figuratively and literally). We explore the best wine pairings for your Christmas meal, so you can tick that off your seemingly endless to-do list

With all the work that goes into planning festive catering, it’s important to choose wines that flatter your culinary creations. While this might seem a daunting prospect at first, matching Christmas food and wine needn't be a minefield. So sit back, relax (preferably with a glass of wine) and allow us to guide you through your Christmas menu – from cranberry stuffing to Cabernet Franc, we’ve got it covered.

The best wines to pair with starters on Christmas day

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.

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, festive example).

Finally, seafood makes for a tasty, crowd-pleasing Christmas starter and one that is easy to match well. Try a mouth-watering smoked salmon and prawn starter with a dry Loire Valley white.

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Top wines to pair with the main course

When it comes to finding wine for the main course, the most important things to consider are 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.

Those looking for a traditional and well-loved option need look no further than a classic Claret. 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.

Tannins are often 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 wines with fruit-filled notes pair excellently well with Christmas meats such as turkey or pork tenderloin.

All the trimmings wines to pair with side dishes

Tasty, festive and indisputable crowd-pleasers, the trimmings are often the things that elevate 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 Brussel 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 Rhône.

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The best wines to complement your Christmas pudding

Two courses in and Christmas 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 mince pies and provide the perfect finish to your festive feast.

Our wine recommendations to pair with your Christmas day cheese course

Once everybody has worked through dessert-induced stupors, and on the off-chance that someone might still be hungry, it’s time to produce the cheese platter. Wine-cheese pairing possibilities are endless, but some are especially delectable for Christmas.

Creamy, decadent cheeses such as firm-favourite camembert taste delicious with Champagne, while a well-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, our guide to making the most out of your cellar this Christmas. Follow this advice and you can be sure to impress even the most discerning of palates.

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