If you’ve followed the Xtrawine blog for a while, you’ll know that as Christmas approaches, we have a tendency to share recipes and information about a lot of traditional Italian foods.
We’re sure to keep doing that this year. But for this post, we figured we’d take a slightly different approach.
Instead of looking at Italian Christmas dishes, we’re going to take a look at some of the dishes that traditionally get served up in the United Kingdom.
And to add out own little twist to proceedings, we’re also going to recommend an Italian wine to go with these dishes.
Now, when it comes to the main course itself, people in the UK don’t vary too much from the rest of Europe in terms of what they serve.
So, we’re going to focus on the desserts. These are the gorgeous sweets that you have to try if you want a taste of the UK for Christmas. And for each, we’re going to recommend the perfect Italian wine to go with the dessert.
Dessert #1 – Christmas Cake
You will not find a British household that doesn’t serve Christmas Cake during this time of year. Even in the homes that aren’t particularly keen on the dessert, it’s still almost guaranteed that you’ll find this cake stashed away somewhere.
There’s no denying that Christmas Cake is a bit of an acquired taste.
It’s a fruit cake at heart, though the fruits are often soaked in brandy or rum for a good while before being baked into a cake. This is also a very spicy dessert. There’s a certain tinge that comes with every bite that adds to the flavour. But this is a complex dessert that may take a little while to fully wrap your head around.
So, what Italian wine goes with such a rich and spicy dessert?
This is a tough one. The first instinct is to go for an equally complex red wine, however, that risks overpowering the dessert.
But why not go for a sparkling red instead? We think that a Bracchetto d’Aqui is the perfect choice. You get a nice and fruity flavour combined with the lightness that we’re sure you’re going to want after eating such a huge meal.
Dessert #2 – Mince Pies
Despite what the name may imply, mince pies are not all about the meat. In fact, the pies mix up minced meat and fruit to create a concoction that doesn’t sound like it should work. But after a single bite, you’ll find yourself hooked.
The pastry also has a healthy coating of sugar, which lends an additional bit of sweetness to the spicy and savoury flavours of the filling. So, much like Christmas Cake, you have a fairly complex mix of flavours. However, mined pies are a little easier to get to grips with and aren’t quite as rich as they last dessert that we looked at.
We think that a more intense sweetness works best here. And that means going down the fortified wine route. Ports work especially well with mince pies. If you’re looking for the Italian equivalent, we think that the Porto Tawny DOC is the right way to go. The stronger alcohol percentage goes really well with this classic dessert. Plus, the sweetness of the drink takes a little bit of the edge of the spiciness of the mince pie.
Dessert #3 – Trifle
There’s so much variety that you can find with the classic British trifle. Depending on who you’re talking to, a trifle could contain any number of fruits, in addition to alcohol, cream, and a gorgeous but of sponge.
This dish is just a cacophony of sweetness, fruits, and rich creams. Throw some custard into the mix and you have a wonderful mix of flavours that goes down an absolute treat. Add a few sprinkles on top and you’re in British dessert heaven.
Again, we’re looking at a dish that has a big mix of flavours here. However, the good news is that they all veer towards the sweeter side of things, which means you don’t have to worry about accounting for spices and savoury flavours with the dish.
There’s more good news too.
The British already have a drink that they enjoy with trifle. So, if you’re going down the traditional route you absolutely need to eat trifle with a glass of sherry. Of course, you have plenty of options for British sherries. But if you want to go down the Italian route, we recommend Piedmont’s own Sibona Grappa Reserve Sherry.
Dessert #4 – Scottish Shortbread
We travel further up north for out final British Christmas dessert. Scottish shortbread is essentially a buttery biscuit that’s covered in a coating of sugar. It’s as simple as they come, especially when compared to other delicacies on this list. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely popular in the UK.
Of course, you’re going to find it all over the shop if you visit Scotland. But Scottish shortbread has such an amazing reputation that it often finds its way onto the menu throughout the UK.
Now, this isn’t a dessert in the same sense as the others on this list. You likely won’t eat it as a specific course that’s part of the main Christmas meal. Instead, what’s more likely to happen is that somebody will crack open a tin when everybody’s lounging around after stuffing their faces. And despite the protestations of “I’m too full to eat anymore”, that tin will be empty by the end of the night.
The perfect wine to pair with shortbread is one of the most popular around. We’re talking about a classic Chardonnay, of which there are plenty that come from Italy.
The Final Word
If you want to have a decidedly British Christmas, these are the desserts that you absolutely need to have available.
Try them all this Christmas. And of course, we’re here to help you with all of the Italian wines that you need for pairing.