In case you’re wondering what drink to serve with your Christmas dinner, there’s one obvious answer and it’s wine. Christmas is the perfect time of the year to open a special bottle of wine or champagne and celebrate with your friends and family. Wine is by far the best choice of drink to go with your festive dinner, but what wine to buy for your Christmas dinner and how to choose the best wine that would pair nicely with all the dishes traditionally served on the holiday table? Do you go for red? White? Rose? Maybe a nice sparkling wine?
In this post we’ll talk about selecting the perfect bottle of Christmas wine and also teach you the basics of pairing wine with the food you serve to make the task of choosing the best bottles of wine a bit easier.
What wine to buy for your Christmas dinner?
Cabernet is the most popular red around the globe, produced in many different countries each variation slightly different than the other. Traditional Cabernet Sauvignon can taste herbal with notes of ripe cherries or red currant and spices, although depending on the country od origin some varieties may taste fruitier than others.
A bottle of Cabernet will go well with just about any meat on the festive table but it’s a particularly good match for fatty meats and would be the perfect drink to have with some juicy ribs or tender lamb cutlets.
Amarone Della Valpolicella
Amarone is a rich red wine from Valpolicella in the Veneto Region of Northern Italy. Known for its powerful, intense flavour, it’s beloved by wine enjoyers around the globe. To be considered as an Amarone a wine must include a selected variety of grapes, including corvina, corvinone or rondinella.
Its full bodied and vibrant taste makes this Italian wine pair perfectly with hearty and rich foods such as red meats, game or stew. It would also be a great accompaniment at the Christmas dinner table for a charcuterie board with mature ripe cheeses.
Brunello Di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is an exquisite Tuscany red wine and one of the most popular Italian wines. Due to the fact it’s made in such small quantities this wine can be quite expensive which makes it perfect for special occasions such as Christmas dinner.
This bright ruby red wine has exceptionally bold fruity flavours with high tannin and acidity. Younger Brunello is a deeper red colour and features prominent notes of red fruit, berries, potpourri and liquorice, while aged Brunello has a brighter ruby colour with a more refined taste that features notes of dried fruit and delicate floral aromas. Age also brings out deep notes of hazel and chocolate in this type of red wine.
Brunello is a versatile wine and pairs well with a wide variety of foods on the Christmas table. It’s a particularly good wine choice to pair with heavy meat dishes such as beef roast, as well as tomato based dishes and powerful mature cheese.
Sauvignon Blanc one of the beloved white wines from the Loire Valley in France. Some of the most delicate Sauvignon Blanc wines come from the region around Touraine. As a white wine is quite fresh and delicate with a hint of citrus and steely dryness. Touraine Sauvignon Blanc on the other hand offers a richer and more aromatic flavour.
The fabulously balanced acidity and light body of this wine makes it a great match for white fish and shellfish, salads, asparagus and goats cheese.
By far the most popular white wine and for a very good reason! Chardonnay grapes are green-skinned and can adapt to various climates which means the wines they produce are also versatile. Chardonnay wine can taste anything from crisp and fresh to rich with oak influence, there’s something for everyone. As any good white wine it has a pale to deep gold colour.
A bottle of Chardonnay has a place on any Christmas table. Pure full bodied Chardonnay is a good pair for fresh cheeses, oysters and shellfish.
Gewürztraminer is one of the most distinctly flavoured German white wines. It’s a wine with lower acidity and a good amount of sweetness to it. With its pronounced aromas that range from floral petals to sweet apricot kernels, mixed with sweet spices and pepper this is an exquisite Christmas wine to put on your dinner table.
Despite the complicated flavour pallet of Gewürztraminer, it’s actually a very food friendly wine that goes well with foods from Asia or Latin America and could even be an alternative to rich silky red wines. As well as that it goes perfectly with different varieties of cheese. Its gentle sweetness also makes it a natural pair for fruit tarts and desserts with cinnamon or dried nuts and fruits.
This rosé is dry, fresh and crisp and is by far one of the most fabulous types of rosés. Made from a blend of grapes such as grenche or cinsault, it’s one of the lighter styles of rosé wines with a clean and fruity taste.
On your dinner table it’ll pair perfectly with seafood such as shellfish or fish as well as white meats.
Pinot Noir Rosé
Pinot noir is a very versatile grape that produces great rosés with a delicate dry finish and beautiful pink hue. Pinot noir is known for being used in rosé champaigns which are fresh, clean and fruity.
With its dryness and fresh notes it’s particularly good in combination with roasted white meat, chicken in particular, as well as rich fatty fish such as salmon.
Champagne and Sparkling
Brut is the driest classification of champagne, usually made with less than 12 grams of added sugar. It’s also the most common type of champagne found in shops, restaurants and more. Because of its low content of sugar, Brut is quite dry with the slightest hint of sweetness. It can also have notes of fruity or almond flavours.
The high acidity and dryness of Brut cut though rich, fatty flavours such as seafoods, cheese-based dishes or buttery pasta.
Blanquette de Limoux
This variety of Limoux is the most traditional and distinctive ones, composed mostly of mauzac grapes with a balanced mix of chenin blanc and chardonnay. The flavour palette of Blanquette de Limoux features freshly cut grass, crisp yellow apple and citrus zest.
Its light acidity and clean flavour are the perfect accompaniment for buttery fried dishes such as fried chicken, tacos or rich seafood dishes such as moules-frites for example.
How to choose wine depending on the food you’re serving
Smoked salmon is a popular choice for a Christmas starter. Served with creamy scrambled eggs, caviar or cream cheese on a wafer thin slice of toast or crackers, it’s always simply delicious, however, its rich and smoky flavour can make it tricky to find a pairing wine for it.
The best way to go about it is choose a crisp white wine to cut though the rich fat flavour. A Gewürztraminer could also be a good option as its spiciness can counteract the smoke.
Roast turkey is without a doubt the star of any Christmas dinner. Turkey meat has a tendency to dryness if you cook it even a bit longer than you’re supposed to. This is why you’re going to need a bottle of mouth-watering juicy wine to wash it down with.
A good match would be a young Pinot Noir which can add a bit of vibrancy to the white meat of the turkey, but won’t conflict with the side dishes. A young Amarone could also be a great wine pairing adding nice hints of cherry from the corvina grapes. This kind of wine would also go nicely with different side dishes such as roasted vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, cranberry sauce or bread sauce.
If you’re after a white wine option, your best bet is creamy, ripe-fruited whites such as Burgundy or an Australian Chardonnay, which have a more buttery texture to match the crispy skin of the turkey and the black pepper in the seasoning.
Lamb is often not to everyone’s taste, which is why it’s an uncommon choice at the dinner table on Christmas day, but if you do make the bold decision of having roast lamb as your main course the only way to go when pairing it with a wine is Rioja. Nothing can beat the combination of tender lamb with a bottle of Spain’s most popular velvety red wine.
If you want to fully escape the conventional you can choose a different type of mature red Iberian wine or perhaps even a heavy Douro red would impress your guests.
If you’re staying away from turkey and instead opting for a roast beef you can’t go wrong with a classic red Christmas wine to go with the hearty red meat. The best wines to match are finely aged cabernet sauvignon based claret or a red Rhone to add a hint of spice. A bold red Italian wine could also be a good pair. For a fancier touch to your Christmas day you can get a bottle of old Brunello is a safe bet.
A buttery roast goose just calls for a wine which can tune down the rich and robust flavour of the meat. The best wine for this could be a Gewürztraminer, which has the acidity to cut through the fat, as well as floral notes and ginger-infused warmness that can add a fragrant element to the otherwise heavy goose meat. Another good option could be a dry Riesling which also has the slicing acidity to add a bit of zest without compromising the complexity of such a full-flavoured meat.
Vegetarian Christmas meals don’t step down to meat ones in terms of flavour so finding a wine to bring out that flavour is just as important as with regular Christmas roast dinner. A good wine paired with herby nut roast, spiced veggie tart or any other vegetarian dish needs to do two thing; one add a bit of juice to a possibly dry meal and match the various textures of meat alternatives.
If your veggie dishes contain goat’s cheese a classic go-to is a crisp refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or a rich white Rioja, while mushrooms love a bright fruity Pinto Noir with an earthy tone to match the flavour of the mushrooms. Tomato based dishes and pasta go really well with Italian wines, in particular Brunello.
The general rule when it comes to cheese and wine pairing is – the harder the cheese, the better it can handle wines with higher tannins, and the softer the cheese, the more it can benefit from the acidity to cut through the rich flavour.
Some of the timeless parings include mature Cheddar with a fine White Burgundy or a bold red Claret, sharp blue cheese with Tawny Port and creamy cheeses with Sauvignon Blanc. A dry and crumbly cheese like Parmesan would go well with bold Italian red wines, while Munster requires the aroma of Gewurztraminer to balance its flavour.
Christmas desert usually differs from household to household. Some people go for a rich chocolate pudding such as a cake or a tart, others prefer a lighter fruity dessert and some stick to the classics such as mince pie or custard. It can be tricky to find a dessert wine to go with your Christmas pudding because sweet rich flavoured puddings will overpower delicate fresh wines, but you also don’t want the wine to wash away the sweetness of the dessert.
A rich red wine such as Amarone or Brunello can go well with rich dark chocolate desserts as it will cancel out a bit of the bitterness and bring out the cocoa flavour. The nutty dried fruit flavour of mince pies can benefit of a sweet oloroso, and lighter custard-based puddings go well with wines similar to Sauternes.