Well, it’s that time of year again: Christmas is coming, and in Australia, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to bring out the barbeque, invite your friends and family over, and start thinking about how you’re going to celebrate with some top food, and some even better wine to go with it!
We love Christmas time for precisely that reason. There aren’t many other dates in the calendar when you can really go all out with eating and drinking. When the sun’s blazing down on your backs, the wine coolers are prepped and ready, and some modern classics are coming out of the kitchen, it’s time to show off your wine and food pairing skills with which to dazzle your gathered loved ones.
Here at The Wine Gallery, we want you to have an Aussie Christmas to remember. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to food and wine pairings for a sunny festive season… so charge your glasses, raise a toast to the end of the year, and start experimenting with our top tips for taste-matching success!
For most Aussies celebrating Christmas, there’s one ingredient sure to be on everyone’s menu: prawns. Big, juicy king and tiger prawns, tossed in chilli and lime, or tossed straight on the barbie where their flavours can explode on the palate.
What could be better? Well, as we all know, a fantastically-paired bottle of wine is sure to take that level of sensory pleasure to the next level. So which wines are going to boost your Christmas prawns this year?
The answer to this question depends a little on how you’re cooking them. If you’re cooking your prawns in an uncomplicated, homely and rustic way - by which we mean with no messing about, and with the shells still on, you’ve got a number of options open. If you want to keep things classic, reach straight for a Pinot Grigio - this is a wine which perfectly reflects that no-nonsense approach, and is a summer favourite for everyone.
Australia is producing loads of great Pinot Grigio at the moment, and if you wanted to branch out a bit, you could go for a northern Italian number, or even a French one from Alsace, where it will be labelled as Pinot Gris, and come in a lovely, tall, elegant bottle. This isn’t the only option, however. We love eating prawns alongside wines made from the Albarino grape - a classic Spanish varietal which has a cool, crisp, almost salty tang to it… and the slightly sparkling Portuguese wine, Vinho Verde, made with the same grape is if anything even better.
If your prawns are being cooked in garlic, then you’re better off going for a Sauvignon Blanc. This wine just loves being paired with garlic, and has the citrusy notes which are going to bring out all that lovely sweetness in the flesh. White Rioja and Italian Fiano would also go brilliantly with such a dish, too.
Lobster and Yabbies
Bringing out the big guns this Christmas when it comes to shellfish? For crustaceans such as lobster and yabby, you’ll be needing a white wine with a bit more weight and luxury to it. Chardonnay is the obvious choice, and we’re seeing some top-notch Chardonnay wines here in Australia at the moment that will pair gorgeously with that tender, sweet, succulent flesh.
If your shellfish has a bit of spice to it, why not try pairing it with a Gewurztraminer? This wine has the balance of sweetness and dryness you need hit all those right notes, and few wines work so well with subtle hints of heat from chilli and ginger. Of course, you could just keep things simple, and eat all of your shellfish at Christmas with a top bottle of Champagne or Prosecco - who could say no to that?
Few fish are as popular at Christmas in Australia as salmon - us Aussies just can’t get enough of that tender pink fish on our plates? Massively versatile, and fantastic cooked in almost any way imaginable, there’s no doubt that salmon steaks and fillets will be gracing the tables of partygoers all across the country this year.
When it comes to pairing salmon with wine, there are a few different routes to take. If you want to keep things local, eat your salmon alongside a glass of great Australian Semillon - few wines work so well with this delicate fish. However, an oaked Chardonnay or Viognier will be fantastic too, and bring forward that slightly fuller, more luxurious side of the fish. If you want to keep things light, however, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating salmon with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or bright, citrusy Vermentino to hand.
While not everyone’s first choice when it comes to Christmas dinner in the sun, plenty of Australians love to glaze and bake up a ham at this time of year. It’s easy to see why - you can really flex your muscles when it comes to flavour, and it’s the kind of easy-sharing meat that works well with the fresh salads we all crave when the sun’s at its hottest.
If you’re serving your ham hot, roasted and with a nice shiny glaze to it, then a medium-bodied red wine is going to be the order of the day. An Australian Shiraz usually hits the spot in this regard - you want a wine which packs in lovely, ripe, juicy red fruit flavours, and Shiraz does that pretty much perfectly.
Along the same lines, you could also go for Grenache, a Chilean Merlot or Carmenere, or a Pinot Noir, too. If you fancy something a little counter-intuitive, then we can tell you that Barossa Valley Semillon - with its pineapple hit of sour-sweet fruit flavour - can be a real crowd-pleaser in this regard!
Cold cuts of ham and ham salads, on the other hand, need something a little lighter and zestier to make the most of the meat’s natural sweetness. Australian Riesling is great for this, as is Moscato, Zinfandel and almost any rosé - perfect for Christmas lunch on your patio!
We’re not sure when mango became such a thing for Australians at Christmastime, but we’re damn well glad that it did - these juicy, aromatic and utterly delicious fruits really bring a touch of the tropics to our celebrations!
Whether you’re serving mango as it is, or as the key part of a regular or fruit salad, there are a couple of wines which go really well with this flavoursome fruit.
For savoury mango dishes, Pinot Gris really brings out the best of those sweet-and-sour notes, as does a young Riesling. For mango salads, you can’t go wrong with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. For sweeter dishes, try a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc if you can get your hands on one - it’s a fabulous combo!
Ah, Pavlova. Is there any dessert finer? It’s the centrepiece at the end of the celebration, a work of art that shows off what you can do with a some eggs, cream, sugar and fruit… and it’s bloody gorgeous to eat.
To make your Pavlova sing on the palate, pair it up with something sweet and special in a bottle. Something like a Sauternes is going to fall a little flat here - too sticky, too heavy - so instead, go for a late harvest Riesling, Semillon or Gewurztraminer to keep some of that freshness in. Moscato d’Asti is also a good shout, and in case all else fails, crack open the Champagne (as if you hadn’t already…)!
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.