The big day is approaching, and I couldn’t feel more excited if I tried. As someone who loves Christmas food and wine, Christmas wine pairing is crucial to me. While I am by no means an expert in this arena, I have experienced a little training during my cabin crew days.
Wine pairing at Christmas depends on what you’re eating, the type of dishes you’re serving, and your guests’ preferences. While we all know that beef works beautifully with some red wines, you might struggle to find an appropriate white. However, fear not, because I am going to guide you through the wine pairing at Christmas process gently.
Wine pairing at Christmas if you’re serving appetizers
Crowd-pleasing isn’t a natural activity, especially when it comes to the festive period. Although I’m not a traditionalist in many areas of my life, when it comes to Christmas I am more Margaret Thatcher than Jeremy Corbyn. For my U.S. friends, I am so sorry if you didn’t get that reference.
What I mean here is this; I’ll only focus on traditional appetizers.
Anything that involves fish
Wine pairing at Christmas when your appetizers include fish is a dream for me. I love white wine, mainly dry white wine, above all other kinds. It’s on a big wine pedestal as far as I’m concerned.
If your appetizer involves salmon, go all fancy and serve it with Viognier. As for prawns, and yes I am referring to the ultimately retro prawn cocktails our grandmothers love to serve, aim for Sauvignon Blanc. Or Rioja, if you’re more of a red fan.
Pigs in blankets
Another explanation for anyone who is American: when we say pigs in blankets, what we mean is tiny sausages wrapped in bacon. They are an absolute dream. While I’m not usually a fan of Rose, if you can find one that’s dry, it’ll work perfectly alongside your pigs in blankets.
Christmas wine pairing for Camembert
Are you going to let things get messy and serve Camembert? Well, your Christmas wine pairing activities are about to get a lot more fun. You can combine yours with something sparkly and fruity; such as Moscato. Or, if you’re not in the mood for bubbles just yet, try a dark and rich Pinot Noir.
Finding the right wine for the main dish
I don’t know about everybody else, but I pretty much drink my way through the Christmas dinner making process. I tend to sip as I nibble along, which somehow results in me staying sort of sober while producing food that’s astoundingly edible. Especially when you consider the circumstances.
The main dish is where Christmas wine pairing becomes extra important. Again, as a traditionalist, I’m just going to stick with the main meats.
Christmas wine pairing with Turkey
My family almost always chooses Turkey as the main meat. Once, I tried to serve goose. I shit you not; my stepdad brought along his pre-cooked turkey anyway. That man doesn’t bend his will for anyone.
If you are serving turkey, the Christmas wine pairing process is relatively easy. Try the following:
- Red wine: A Syrah that comes with lots of peppery undertones
- White wine: My favorite of all favorites, Pinot Grigio
- Sparkling wine: Sparkling Pinot Noir. Yes, it does exist. It sort of tastes like Vimto, except you end up feeling drunk.
If you’re being brave and serving goose
One of the main reasons my stepdad hates goose so much is that it’s so difficult to cook. If you fck up that fat balance, it will come out of the oven tasteless. But, if you’re as brave as I am, you may want to try:
- Red wine: Pinot Noir. The lighter, the better.
- White wine: Chardonnay. While this isn’t often a favorite of mine, I can’t deny that it works brilliantly with goose.
- Sparkling: Cava, again, aim for one that’s relatively light.
For those who prefer to serve roast beef
This is where Christmas wine pairing starts to get tricky. Because beef calls for red wine and that is the end of that. However, if you’re taking the plunge, here are my suggestions:
- Red: If your beef is a good cut and particularly succulent, go for a Shiraz.
- White: It is next to impossible to find a sommelier who will happily recommend a white wine that works well with roast beef. The closest I could find was Riesling, which is of German origins. Venture towards it if you dare, but only to keep the red wine haters at your table happy.
- Sparkling: Now’s the time for you to indulge. According to the experts, Champagne is your best bet. Fortunately, if you’re on a budget, stores such as Aldi and Lidl always seem to have low-cost Champagne that comes from the Champagne region of France.
How about those desserts? And what if you’re serving a cheese board?
My guilty pleasure after filling my stomach beyond the point of reasonability is to eat sticky toffee pudding. In fact, I achieved this in September when I went to my best friend’s wedding, and the experience was equally delightful outside of the festive season. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that the ultimate wine pairing experience is a little bit Dot Cotton: sherry.
But, sticky toffee pudding isn’t the only Christmas dessert available. Here are three of my favorite traditional suggestions and their accompanying wines:
Classic Christmas pudding
Classic Christmas pudding isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but few desserts are so quintessentially British. Us Brits have been tucking into this festive delight since the 14th century, so I don’t see any need to abandon it just yet. As for that wine pairing, well:
- White: We’re back to the German Riesling here. Personally, Riesling is far too sweet for me. When it comes to white wine, I fall into “the dryer the better” camp.
- Red: Instead of opting for a red, head for a gentle serving of port.
- Sparkling: Here’s where we return to the sweet flavors again, try opting for Moscato.
A traditional boozy trifle
Okay, so trying the whole Christmas wine pairing thing with a dessert that already contains a lot of booze seems a bit odd. It’s not as though I’m trying to encourage you to get as smashed as possible. But, if you are serving trifle and you have your heart set on finding the right wine for it, I feel like I must point you in the right direction.
- White: Once again, Riesling is making an appearance. However, Prosecco is apparently an acceptable alternative. If you’re like me and you can’t stomach the thought of Riesling, just cheat and break out the Prosecco.
- Red: We’re heading back to sparkling red wine here but from the Italian region. Seeing as I’ve only ever consumed sparkling South African reds, I have no idea whether the Italian versions taste like Vimto with an alcoholic hit.
- Sparking: You guessed it, Moscato. It pretty much goes hand-in-hand with anything that’s sweet. However, if your trifle contains a lot of dark chocolate, you can switch to the snazzier side of bubbles and opt for Champagne or English Sparkling wine.
Christmas wine pairing and cheese boards
Finally, we have reached my absolute favorite. Christmas wine pairing is a treat when it comes to cheese boards because the range of flavors is so broad, you have a lot of opportunities to experiment. Or, seriously bulk out your alcohol cabinet.
Rather than try and produce a fix-all wine that doesn’t exist, I’ll just make a few suggestions for cheeses and wines you might want to serve with them. Before I begin, I’d like to push Port forward; during my flying days, it was rare that a customer would accept their cheese plate without a glass of Port to accompany it.
- Stilton: Stilton is packed with flavor, which means you need wine to balance it out. Although fruit wines aren’t often at the forefront of our minds, don’t dismiss the idea of trying elderflower wine. It’s just about sweet enough to complement Stilton’s strong flavor.
- Brie: While I can’t resist a good chunk of brie, with or without a cracker, I’m not too keen on the wine that goes with it. If you’re serving brie, you’re going to need some Chardonnay.
- Cheddar: Whether it stems from Somerset or it has a smokey taste, you can’t go wrong with Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Goat’s cheese: Here’s your chance to seize the opportunity to drink a nice Chenin Blanc.
If you’re super-organized, you might want to take a look at your Christmas meal and see if there are wines that could compliment each course. Of course, you can’t force your guests to drink them, and giving instructions is a little weird. But, a gentle hint won’t hurt.
Where to buy all of these wines
Unless you want to find yourself facing the mad pre-Christmas rush that comes in the week running up to the big day, I would suggest buying your wines in advance. Local supermarkets aside, you could also try the following treasure troves:
Aldi or Lidl
While most people know Aldi and Lidl for the weird foods available there, both stores often offer great promotions on wines of all kinds. Keep your eye out for prosecco or champagne bulk-buying opportunities.
A simple way to guarantee to get what you want is by buying your wines through Amazon Grocery. If you buy in bulk, you’ll make significant savings. Otherwise, there are opportunities to purchase single bottles.
During the build-up to Christmas, Groupon usually features offers that include mixed cases of wine. You’ll save a lot of money, but make sure the case you choose provides everything you need for your Christmas wine pairing adventure.
Overall, try not to complicate the process. It’s meant to be a day of fun and celebration, after all. Just absorb the joy and dedicate time to the people you love.