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Tips and tricks for accurate wine-pairing with Christmas dinner food choices

After a tough year, most people’s thoughts are moving towards Christmas and a bit of light relief. It’s always the season of eating, drinking and making merry and even in a pandemic, Christmas is still something to look forward.

And, of course, for the Ideal Wine team it’s all about the wine. The festive period isn’t necessarily a time to decimate your wine collection – remember to hold on to any bottles you want to sell later! But it is a time to have a good think about the ideal wines to wine-pairing with your Christmas dinner.

Don’t be intimidated by wine-pairing with Christmas dinner

Planning your Christmas dinner can be daunting enough, without worrying about which wines to choose. A basic rule of thumb is to be as inclusive as possible with your choices, so that everyone can enjoy themselves. At the same time, don’t get stuck in a wine rut and just choose the same one every year.

Understanding wine-pairing is a great way to turn a tasty meal into something exceptional and worthy of the season, especially with Christmas dinner. And it doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune on expensive wines.

Always check the label before you buy and read the front and the back. There is always a full description of the wine and information that can help you decide whether it’s what you’re looking for. The label on the back will have flavour suggestions, information on how dry or sweet it is and whether it has body (if it’s red).

How you serve the wine can also affect its flavour. We recommend pouring red into glasses and allowing it to breathe and soften for half an hour or so. White wine should be served cool and you should always leave a gap between the top of the wine and the brim of the glass. This allows aromas to develop and improves the flavour.

Ideal wines to go with starter, main course and dessert

Let’s start with the canapes. Not everyone goes to this extent even on Christmas Day but if you can’t enjoy a fancy canape at Christmas, when can you? If you are serving up some delicate pre-dinner morsels, then consider the following choices. They also work well with a light fish or salad-based starter course.

  • Veuve Monsigny Champagne Rose

Light, fresh and sparkly, this sparkling rose is ideal to go with light bites, and it gives a sense of fun. It has a delicate character with shades of French patisserie and is packed with light but distinct berry fruit.

  • Cremant du Jura

Another sparkler, but this time sparkling chardonnay, this wine is deceptively complex. It’s fresh too, with flavours of citurs and apple, and it goes beautifully with all kinds of canapes or starters if that’s your preference.

Meat, vegan and pudding choices

Whether you’re a traditionalist with your Christmas meal or prefer beef, pork or a vegan feast, there are plenty of wines to match. For roast turkey, you could try Gigondas, which is a lovely wine from the southern Rhone Valley. It’s made from a combination of Syrah and Grenache grapes and goes well with poultry, thanks to its peppery and dark fruity flavours.

If roast beef is on the menu, then you could try a French Rasteau, with its rich and deep blackberry notes. And for fish a Sauvignon Blanc always goes down well. Try Domaine Pieere Marchand Pouilly Fume, which is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Made on the banks of the river Loire, it’s both complex and light. Serve well chilled with your fish dish and you’ll have a delicious Christmas dinner.

Vegan mains go well with dry whites, so try Macon Villages for a distinctive flavour of peach and melon with underlying notes of white flowers and pineapple. Delicious and ideally balanced for vegan and vegetarian dishes, it’s a good choice for an alternative Christmas dinner.

If you have any room left and you’re looking forward to a cheese course or Christmas pudding, it’s always nice to have a dessert wine option too. Sauternes has a good mix of acidity and sweet that makes it a good match for sugary puddings, while for cheese and biscuits you can’t beat a decent Port at Christmas. Try Fletcher’s LBV 2016 Port for a reasonably priced version with black pepper, dark chocolate and ripe fruit combining to get the best out of your cheese course.

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