So, Christmas time is almost upon us… and despite the fact that the sun is blazing at its fullest, there’s something magical about this time of year. Indeed, there’s something in the air that makes many of us crave snow-filled views, the idea of wood fires burning, and the sound of jingle bells ringing over the rooftops. Wouldn’t it be nice to pretend - just for a few days - that we’re somewhere cold?
For those of you who like to celebrate Christmas in the Old-World way, this is the perfect excuse to gorge yourselves on hearty, home-cooked, multi-course dinners. It’s a time for luxuriating your senses, spending time with friends and family, roasting a beast of a bird and cracking out some fantastic wines to pair with all that lovely food.
If you’re tempted to party this year like it’s England in 1895, and want impress your friends and family with all the trimmings (or if you just fancy getting in touch with your roots and having a great homely Christmas), then The Wine Gallery has all the answers you’re looking for. Christmas dinners are supposed to be about excess, warmth, and more than a touch of showing off… so what better way to achieve that than by sorting out some amazing wine pairings for a traditional festive fiesta?
If this sounds good to you (and to be honest, we can’t see why it wouldn’t…), then check out our ultimate traditional Christmas wine and food pairing guide. See you under the mistletoe!
OK - let’s get one thing straight. If you’re going to imagine for a moment that your streets are littered with snowmen and the mercury in your thermometer has plummeted, then red wines are going to be the order of the day. After all, what’s more cosy and warming than a top bottle of red?
To kick things off, it’s a great idea to have one of those all-day red wines, which is going to go well with pretty much everything you eat, and which is going to bring big smiles all round. A top-end Pinot Noir would be the one we’d reach for in this case.
It’s the ultimate flexible red wine, capable of pairing with a massive array of festive treats, and which is also probably the best wine to choose if you’re looking to make mulled wine, too - a traditional winter treat across much of Europe. Either go for a Pinot from its spiritual home in Burgundy, France, or keep things local and check out some of the amazing Aussie reds that are stunning the world at the moment.
What would Christmas dinner be without a roast turkey, goose or chicken? If you’re going down this traditional route, and want to serve a bird with all the extras, then you’ll be wanting a special red wine which matches those savoury flavours perfectly.
In our opinion, there’s probably no better fit for roast turkey, potatoes, veggies and gravy than Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This legendary French appellation has been knocking it out of the park for centuries, and while it isnt the cheapest vino on the shelf, it’s one which is going to take the party to new heights of luxury.
For many of us, one of our favourite things about Christmas food isn’t the turkey dinner or the puddings… it’s what comes the day after. All those lovely leftovers, cold cuts of meat, bits and pieces laid out on the table to nibble on: it’s absolute bliss. If you’re into this kind of thing, too, there’s no reason not to have a great wine to pair with it all.
We’d recommend an Italian wine for this side of the festivities - laid-back, tasty, perfect for drinking alongside a more casual eating experience. Why not go for a Dolcetto or Nebbiolo - either from their home country, or from one of the many Australian wineries now experimenting with these grapes?
You know one of the things we love most about Christmas day? It’s one of the few days of the year when you can crack open a bottle before lunchtime, and get that first glass of wine in nice and early. When the guests start turning up and the presents are being opened, a nice glass of Riesling is probably the way to go. Light, refreshing, reassuringly low in alcohol, it’s the perfect wine to kick off proceedings.
Also, if you’re getting a Riesling from Germany’s Mosel Valley, you’re tapping into the very home of Christmas traditions… how festive is that?
For the party snacks, nibbles and canapes, you’ll be wanting a white wine with plenty of brightness and freshness. Something light-hearted and vibrant, yet not too heavy. Few wines fit the bill quite as well as a Muscadet; lemony, zingy, and a great wine for sipping all day long.
No traditional Christmas is complete without a fish course. In most of the world, starters on this special day feature salmon - either smoked and deliciously oily, or baked, roasted, cured or steamed. Scallops, lobster and other shellfish are commonplace too, and provide the perfect appetizer before the main event.
When pairing with these foods, you want something substantial and elegant - a Bordeaux Blanc would do very nicely indeed. This year, Bordeaux Blanc has had a stellar year, so there’s never been a better time to check out this blended white wine from a traditionally red wine region.
What celebration would be complete without the pop of a cork, bursting from a bottle of sparkling wine? There’s no doubt about the fact that fizzy wine is a cornerstone of Christmas, whether traditional or not… but which is the right one for this special day?
If you’re going for a light-hearted day with plenty of fun and frolics, then there’s nothing wrong with getting in some great bottles of Prosecco.
However, for many people, this fizzy wine is a touch too fruity for an old school Christmas day. Cava has had a brilliant few years, and if you’ve not taken the time to rediscover this Spanish classic, there’s never been a better time.
However, if you’re really looking to impress, and show your savoir faire when it comes to great twists on tradition, go for one of the alternative Champagne blends out there. For us, few are more evocative and seductive than a Blanc des Noirs - a traditional Champagne made with only the black grapes in the original blend. Utterly delicious, and more than a little sexy.
Snide jokes aside, there’s no argument regarding the fact that 2017’s sparkling wine crown has belonged to the Brits. English sparkling wine has stormed the international wine awards this year and last, and even though it’s irritated the French no end, this relative newcomer to the fizzy wine scene is difficult to resist!
The Sweet Ones
It’s strange how often sweet and dessert wines are overlooked, but it’s at this very time of year they really get a chance to shine. Christmas is all about the sweet treats… so why not up your game a bit this year and give your Christmas puddings and cakes something delectable to pair with?
If you want to go all-out Christmassy, then an Eiswein (ice wine) from Germany, Austria, the US or Canada is about as festive as it gets. These are wines made from grapes which have frozen on the vine in the harsh northern winters, and the result is a concentration of sugars inside the fruit that leads to deliciously complex flavours of honey, nuts and candied fruit.
Also in this league, it’s impossible not to mention the classics of the dessert wine world: Sauternes from France, and Royal Tokaji from Hungary. This historic wines are made from rotten grapes (honestly, they taste better than they sound…) and have an unforgettable flavour that has delighted Europe for centuries. What’s more, few wines go better with a Christmas cheeseboard or a traditional plum pudding!
As for fortified wines, both Port and Sherry are the traditional festive options. Interestingly, Australia produces one of the oldest Ports in the world (100 years old!), but if you fancy something a bit more affordable, go for some of the 30 year vintages that have been released this year. 1987 was regarded as an amazing year for both of these fortified wine styles, so if you can get your hands on a bottle, you’re in for a treat.
Okay. So now you know what you're cooking and pairing, it's time to sort out all your wine gifting needs. Check out all our options for the wine lover in your family at our gifts page here.
Here at The Wine Gallery, we wish you a very merry Christmas, and a bright and exciting 2018… let’s hope it brings some more fantastic wines to try!