Last week we looked at what makes Italian wine a perfect Christmas present, so we thought we would change tack a little this week and examine the wine and food combinations that you should try during the course of the festive season.
A special occasion like Christmas deserves the right pairings, so it is important to get them right, especially if you are going to be hosting a meal this year. The key is to find wines and food that offer similar weights and a flavour intensity that doesn’t cause one to overpower the other.
We are willing to bet that many people reading this will already have a few favoured combinations, but here are a few more that you can experiment with.
The starter sets everybody up for the main course, so you will generally want to make it a fairly light snack that is complemented by a wine that is not too rich in flavour.
If you want to be a little unorthodox this Christmas, you could try offering a shellfish starter, such as shrimp. Be aware that these are generally fairly rich in taste, so they should be paired with a wine that is not too light, without being so strong that it overpowers the meal. We recommend a good Chablis. It may not be Italian, but it is an excellent choice for this type of dish.
If you are aiming for a vegetable starter, with the meat coming later on in the meal, asparagus is always a good choice. Try combining it with a rich Hollandaise sauce to create a starter that will be sure to tantalise the taste buds. As for wine, any white that includes a healthy percentage of Sauvignon Blanc will suit the meal, as well any type of oaked Chardonnay.
Of course, the feature attraction of any Christmas meal is the main course. While many will go for the traditional turkey for their meal, we will also look at a couple of other dishes that may prove popular amongst people who don’t enjoy this particular type of poultry.
Of course, turkey is the traditional Christmas meat, so there are going to be plenty of people looking for a good wine to go with it. As it is poultry, it is usually good form to choose a white wine, though you will need to ensure it is full-bodied in order to get the most out of the meal. A good Chardonnay or a strong Zinfandel make excellent choices here. If you prefer red you will need something that has fewer tannins, so look towards an aged wine that is not considered too complex when it comes to flavouring, so that you don’t overpower the meal.
Goose is another Christmas favourite that is often preferred by people who find turkey to be a little drier than they would like. As it offers a much richer flavour, you will ideally want to complement it with a red wine that it full-bodied and high in acidity. Aim for wines that offer notes of raspberry and cherry, such as a good Red Burgundy, and you will be on the right track. You may need to experiment a little here, as your wine shouldn’t be rich without overpowering the meal, while also offering flavours that complement the goose.
Assuming you have gone for a good, thick and rich cut of beef there can be no better wine for the job than a Barolo. Not only will the richness and complexity of the wine perfectly complement the flavours offered by the beef, but you will also have the opportunity of enjoying a true Italian classic with your meal. If Barolo is not to your personal liking, you should look for any other red that is both bold and has high tannins, as the richness of the beef will completely overpower any drink that does not offer its own richness in reply.
It is fairly rare to find venison on a Christmas meal, but the quality of the meat means that more people are looking to experiment with it. Though it is rich in flavour, venison is a lean meat so you will need to look for a medium-bodied red in order to bring out the best in it. Another Italian classic is perfect here, as Chianti offers the perfect complement to the flavours of the meat, without being so powerful that the flavours will be lost.
Desserts can often be broken down into two categories when it comes to Christmas – chocolate or fruit. This often applies, regardless of whether you are enjoying a cake or simply offering a fruit salad as the final course.
For fruit desserts you will want a wine that is not too rich in flavour, as you will lose the refreshing qualities of the fruit when consuming. A sparkling white wine, such as Prosecco, is often an excellent choice. The aim is to find something that is not overly sweet, as this will simply cause the flavours of the fruit to be lost.
Of course, chocolate is extremely rich in flavour, so lighter white wines will be completely overpowered by it. To avoid this, try an aged tawny port. This will offer the perfect complement to the dish as it is sweet enough to stand its ground without overpowering the chocolate. If you do want to go for a white wine, you must try to find the sweetest and most flavoursome examples in order to match up with the chocolate.
We hope that we have provided a few helpful recommendations when it comes to wine choices for this year’s Christmas meal. Practically all of the wines mentioned above can be found on our website and they all make for great choices during the festive season. Whether you’re buying the wine for the meal, or as a gift to somebody who is hosting it, this guide should give you all of the information that you need.