November 28, 2023

How to pick wines for Christmas Dinner – Part two

This is the second part of  ‘How to pick wines for Christmas’. Part one was some inspiration for those seeking to choose wines for Christmas drinks events and for hosting gifts that you might give to someone when you arrive for dinner. This part concentrates on Christmas dinner. 

What you serve for dinner will very much influence your choices of wine. I would not suggest you serve a big bold red wine for raw oysters, nor serve a Pinot Grigio or a light German Riesling with your Roast Beef with rich onion gravy.  While so much of wine and food pairing is personal preference, here are a few pointers.

The Main Event – Christmas Dinner


Serving seafood as a starter or main? The rule of thumb here is to match flavour intensity. A too richly flavoured wine will overpower raw or lightly poached seafood.  Matching the flavour intensity is one of the most important rules of thumb to remember. 

Therefore, when seafood is involved, this is the time to turn to the white wines or sparkling wines as a safe match. If it is seafood served ‘au naturel’ or lightly poached then this is great for white wines. Those made from Semillon, Albarino, Chenin blanc and Riesling. Bordeaux blanc, a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Muscadet et Sevre et Maine sur lie are traditional match for raw or poached seafood. A sparkling wine will also work here. Go for a non-vintage fizz or a Blanc de Blancs. 

If the seafood has been grilled then a fuller flavoured grape is a great match such as Viognier, Fiano, Albarino or a lightly oaked white wine will be a good choice. Vintage sparkling wine or Champagne is also a safe choice here too. 


Champagne or traditionally made sparkling wine such as the Azabache Sparkling Tempranillo Blanco

Chan de Rosas Cuvee Especial Albarino

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier or for something even more special, the Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier

Talking Turkey…. 

Going traditional with turkey for Christmas dinner? As turkey is a flavourful white meat, if you are not serving rich trimmings, you can choose either an oaked white wine such as a Chardonnay from Burgundy or anywhere around the world. Most oaked white wines will be good here. As would a vintage sparkling wine or Champagne. 

However, if you are serving trimmings such as pigs in blankets or stuffing and heavily seasoned gravy, then you will also be able to choose a light or medium bodied red wine. The rule of thumb here is ‘robust flavours in your dish need robustly flavoured wines’.

Here either wines made from Gamay (Beaujolais is a good choice), Pinot Noir (don’t forget Burgundy here as well), or a Malbec from anywhere in the world. Even the medium bodied classic red wines of Rioja, either Juven or Crianza, or a red wine from Bordeaux or a Cotes du Rhone AC would work really well here. 


Cune Crianza or Reserva Rioja

Araldica Barbera

Zuccardi Q Malbec

And Chicken too …

What about Roast chicken, hot or cold?  A lightly chilled Chardonnay is a great place to start here. And the Festive season is time to extend the budget to get the highest quality you can whether that is something like the Montes Alpha Chardonnay, or something like a Tolpuddle Chardonnay from Australia or a Montrachet. Otherwise, a lighter red such as a Beaujolais can work too.

If you are serving up a special almond crusted chicken breast, then again, Chardonnay or a vintage sparkling wine is a sound match.

Cold chicken is an option too. A cold cooked chook is more traditional in my family for Christmas dinner. Here I would choose a Sparkling wine, either a Champagne, a Cava or an Australian fizz. One of the Arras range would be great (Click here to see latest reviews from Arras). Or try an Australian Prosecco.

Ham or Beef anyone? …

In the case of a Christmas ham, it is all about the glaze. Lighter reds such as Gamay or Pinot Noirs will be a good choice if it is not glazed. Also too, a lighter Sicilian red wine. A fruity glaze, or one with mustard, can work really well then with heavier wines such as a Syrah or Shiraz, and a Zinfandel from the USA or a red from the southern mainland of Italy. 


Pikes Luccio Novello (can even be lightly chilled)

Firriato Le Sabbie dell’Etna Rosso

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfindel

Or any Burgundian red wine, including those Gamay & Pinot Noir blends

Roast Beef? Then the heavier texture and more robust flavours need a bolder red wine. This will also suit a Syrah/Shiraz or a fuller bodied red from Southern Italy. Or a red Bordeaux wine. 


Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna

Any Chateauneuf du Pape or Hermitage

The sweeter things …

What about dessert?  This is where the sweet wines come into their own. There is an easy rule of thumb here that is ‘sweet foods need sweet wine’.  Even here though, matching the flavour intensity is key

For instance, a trifle loaded with cream and fresh fruit will match with a Moscato d’Asti or a medium sweet German Riesling. Or you could try a Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora too. Unless you have soaked the sponge in a very large glug of sweet sherry, then you could also pour a white Vins Doux Naturel from France or Sicily. Similar with Panettone, although here you could also match with an Extra Dry Prosecco.

Christmas cake or mince pies are good with a tawny port, Banyuls or a sweet oloroso sherry such as a Cream Sherry based on Oloroso sherry.  

And those deeper flavours of the classic Christmas pudding also needs a fortified wine. Try something such as a fortified Muscat either a Muscat Beaumes de Venise or an Australian fortified Muscat or Topaque.They are a great match. Or a Madeira, a PX (Pedro Ximenez) Sherry or Tawny port.

And that blue cheese … 

Finally, what could be a better signal for Christmas than the pot of stilton cheese or some Roquefort to complete your meal. The iconic matches for these wines is a sweet dessert wine, such as Sauternes, an Australian Botrytis Semillon or Botrytis Riesling, or any Vintage or Tawny Port or port style wine. Here, it is the intense saltiness as well as the creaminess and robust flavours that need to be considered. 

Here are a few more suggestions and tips for seafood, turkey & dessert: Christmas is in the air… but what is for dinner?

There are always differences in what people prefer because food and wine matches are uniquely based on a person’s own taste preferences, and at Christmas this may also be laced with personal traditions and emotional connections to foods and wines.  What is important though is with a little forward planning, the wines will make your dinner shine just that little bit brighter and will add that extra dimension.

Don’t forget if you are after wine inspiration to serve with drinks and for hosting gifts, please go back and read Part One.

Cheers to a great Christmas.

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