The Yuletide festivities are fast approaching and with not long to go until the big day, many people are already thinking what to have for their dinner. Whether you’re a traditional turkey fan, want to try something different like lamb or beef this year or you’re a vegan, one thing is for certain – you’ll need the right wines on your table.
Our top six Christmas food and drink tips
1-Plan your Christmas meal well beforehand so that you can begin exploring the best wine choices. Are you going to have a different wine with each course? Or are you going to save those bottles for the when you dish up the turkey?
2-Order enough wine. Well, we would say that but it’s important to ensure you have enough to go round. Add an extra bottle or two, just to be sure!
3-Prep beforehand. Christmas day can be pretty hectic so a bit of pre-planning and preparation should take the pressure off. Put out the glasses, plates and cutlery the night before. Whatever you can make beforehand and freeze ready to go, will also make a difference.
4-If you’re doing the cooking, put a bottle aside for yourself so you can have a quick slurp or two before the food gets dished up. That’s the least you deserve.
5-Move your red wine out of the kitchen – it can get hot and steamy in there while you’re preparing the meal. Reds should be served at room temperature so leaving them near the cooker can affect all that scrumptious flavour.
6-Finally, take your time eating. In the UK we tend to wolf down our food but Christmas dinners should be leisurely affairs. Leave some time before each course so people don’t feel too full early on. And of course, to enjoy it too!
Ideally this needs to be something light but memorable (and simple to make). The good news is there are plenty of different options out there if you want something out of the ordinary. A nice mackerel pate, or smoked salmon would be a solid start or you may want something light and fruity like melon which will also work for any vegans you have at the table.
Because you’re starting with something light and flavoursome, we suggest beginning with a nice chilled white or sparkling wine. The pop of a sparkling wine cork at the start of the meal is a great way to get the festivities off to a flying start. Plus, bubbles pair perfectly with smoked salmon, seafood and more. They are very versatile!
Chill in the fridge overnight and don’t open until you are ready to go with your starters. One glass each should suffice. It’s a great way to break the ice and clean the palate for the next course.
Main course wines
The main course will be the stage when most of your wine is on show. A lot is also going to depend on what you are serving. Traditional turkey can be taken with both red and white but if you are having something like beef or lamb, then you may want to keep predominantly to the red for this course.
A medium bodied Pinot Noir is a pretty good all round choice and goes with this light flavoured white meat as well as the sprouts and roast potatoes. Some people prefer white to red, however, so you may also want to put a bottle of white Burgundy on the table or any other full-bodied white wines.
An increasingly popular alternative for Christmas dinner, there are also plenty of choices for wine to go with it. We suggest a Bordeaux that’s rich in fruity flavours or a smooth Rioja - the ultimate pairing: dusty tannins crave the tender fat capped meat.
This is another good choice and a big favourite for the festive period. We’d say a nice Shiraz will go down well with your topside or a plump and fragrant Cabernet Sauvignon.
Foodwise, the default for a veggie main course used to be the archetypical nut roast but there are a lot more tasty options out there now. The number of vegan reds on the market has improved dramatically over the last decade and there’s a wide range to choose from whether you want something light and dry or more full-bodied. Check out our selection online here. For nut roast mentioned above, a medium-bodied red or a full-bodied white would also be nice choices.
Ensure any white wine is chilled to perfection before it hits the table. Reds should be opened before the first course starts and left to breath. How long should you let a wine breath depends on the grape. Rule is 30 minutes for a medium-bodied red like a Pinot Noir against 1 hour for a robust, full-bodied wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Should you decant your wine?
It often comes down to personal preference but if you have a busy dinner table you may want to give it a miss. Check out our advice on when to decanter here.
Wines for the cheeseboard
Once the cheeseboard comes out, you’re on the home straight. Cheese can be a little difficult when it comes to wine. There are so many different styles of cheese (400 different varieties produced in France) ranging from light to very powerful.
For example, a nice port wine goes well with blue cheeses, while a Chardonnay works better with gruyere. A sweet and spicy Malbec is a good all round choice if you don’t want to get too specific.
Again, open up before the starter course begins so that your wine is ready to serve.
Wines for dessert
Last but by no means least, we come to dessert. While many people may have lost their appetite by now, some will surprise you. Christmas puddings and the like can be fairly heavy so pairing them with lighter wines can make all the difference. A crisp Chardonnay is certainly one choice that is easy on the palate. You might even want to try a refreshing sparkling rose.
Of course, by this time, your guests may just be thankful for a nice coffee! However, if your family craves for sweet wines with desserts or chocolates, sherry, port and muscat wines are perfect to serve. Port wines also pair well with caramel sweets.
Serving tips: As with any white or sparkling wine, make sure it is chilled well beforehand.
Glasses for your wine
Finally, if you are planning to go the whole hog and deliver a Christmas wine feast, the glass type is going to be a relatively important. Some people will think this may be a step too far but should you be a perfectionist it pays to know your flutes from your pinot noir glasses. There’s a quick guide to glasses on our blog
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