First and foremost, happy Christmas! 2020 has been such an uncertain year. Celebrating family and the good things in life in any way we can is so deserved. With good wine and food, even more.
Whether you are planning to hold a small gathering with your closest ones (or your household), with safety, or doing Zoom calls, you can still enjoy playing with ideas to make the best out of pairings for Christmas.
Christmas foods to match with wine
Unlike Thanksgiving, for which we showed in a recent post that lighter wine styles could dictate its pairings, Christmas calls also for bolder varieties.
Depending on where you’re from, Christmas dishes heavily vary. So we’ll try to keep some all-rounder pairings.
When thinking appetizers, sparklings such as Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or general Crémant are good for both seafood openers, dips and smoked cheeses. Versatile and in style, huh?
Since cheese platters may vary a lot from place to place, it’s good to have some overall pairing notions so you can choose what will go best with what you got.
A personal favourite appetizer of many Christmas enthusiasts, smoked salmon canapes also call for some white wines with more acidity. Chenin blanc and Sauvignon blanc-led, such as Bordeaux’s, might do the trick.
Meanwhile, the richness of a roast salmon goes perfectly with more buttery chardonnay, complementing the oily flavourful fish.
For the main course
Here is where things get real:
For our good old turkey, a few different options: light-bodied reds Pinot Noir and Beaujolais (Gamay) is great for their acidity and mouthfeel, and are also versatile for side dishes with potatoes, much like on Thanksgiving. Grenache-based could also do. These are also good for roast duck.
More medium-bodied fruity Zinfandel also goes fine with both lighter or darker meats, but avoid oaky reds with more powerful tannins (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc) to avoid astringency.
Knowing that you should carefully roast your turkey to keep moist due to its low-fat content, whites that pair well are savory Chardonnay or potential more bodied alternatives, such as Viognier or Torrontés.
And what about ham? Classic Christmas dish, super versatile for pairings. Both Pinot noir and Grenache are great to counterbalance the classic glaze that many of us prepare for Christmas, while Zinfandel could come in with a dash of fruit. Want some light bubbles, acidic to the measure to cut through the fat? Higher-end Lambrusco or drier Provence rosé might do it.
As for prime rib or other red meat roasts, bolder and more powerful options are on the menu. Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, Merlot, Tuscan wines, Tempranillo… South American powerhouse blends, with Cabernet and others as Carmenère, Tannat or Malbec are a must with these roast dark meats.
As for the sides, creamy, mashed/gratin potatoes could do with Chardonnay, just as the classic feared-by-kids brussels sprouts. For these, better avoid too acidic. A rich wine, such as bolder red blends from Argentina/Uruguay, Chile and Tuscany, can go smoothly.
Vegetarians, you are not alone: some possibilities include soufflés, pies, lentil roasts… there are blue cheese, celery and leek tart recipes all over the internet, going smoothly with an unoaked Chardonnay or with a lighter Pinot noir or Beaujolais. Burgundy is our choice for this.
Oh, Christmas desserts… so many possibilities, such delicacies…
For Italian classic Panettone, some sparkling or fizzy brut whites and rosés go great with the dry fruit flavors of this slightly bittersweet classic bread.
Sauternes and Barsac, the Bordeaux goldens, go perfectly with rich, sweet desserts as crème brûlée, ice cream and others. Late harvests such as Tokaji or a fine Beerenauslese Riesling, sweet and acidic, complement richness and fruit-based tarts too.
As for pudding and mince pies, Tawny Port is always a great choice. But heck! Port is always lovely with chocolate-based desserts, while a good Port is good to celebrate all by itself!
Lighter puddings can go great with fortified wines. Honest suggestion? A muscat, such as Moscatel de Setúbal, or maybe a sweeter sherry, is a top-quality choice and not too overwhelming to complement its flavors.
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We hope you can enjoy your Christmas to the most, with due safety – and be patient! Surely 2021 will be better.
Until next time!