9 Top Choices for Christmas Food and Wine Pairings

December 21, 2018

9 Top Choices for Christmas Food and Wine Pairings

Ladies and gentleman, Christmas is upon us! Friends, family, presents, dinners... it can all get a little overwhelming at times, and that's even before considering the wine. Every year our choices change depending on who's coming to visit and based on what we're cooking, but we've built a list of solid choices from a lot of experimentation, including as many disasters as successes! Without further ado, this is our tried-and-tested list of food and wine combinations that will grace our table this year:

Smoked Salmon with Sauvignon Blanc
Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Appetiser Bites paired with Sauvignon Blanc

Now, this is an appetiser that gets everyone's appetite going! Whilst the main meal is a little more set-in-stone, appetisers and snacks can be made according to taste and for us, we enjoy something light, tasty and healthy to combat all the hedonism that typically surrounds Christmas. Better yet, this is the sort of dish that can be served anywhere between brunch and supper, making it incredibly versatile and easy to put together. This year we're going to be making them once again, but following a recipe by Kristen at The Endless Meal, which incorporates some citric and herbal elements in to boot!

Now, the wine pairing with this sort of food can be tricky as you need it to be refreshing enough to cut through the cream cheese base, strong enough to counter the herbal flavours and yet not overpower what is essentially a fairly delicate dish. Our recommendation? Sauvignon Blanc. Naturally high in acidity, beautifully aromatic and with the right flavour profile to work with green herbs and vegetables, this is a wonderful combination. The only question is, which Sauvignon Blanc to choose? We're opting for Vacheron's steely, zesty Sancerre 2017 from the Loire Valley but also debated the weighty but fresh Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from Constantia, South Africa and the brilliant Greywacke 2017 from Marlborough, New Zealand. Try it and see!

Caprese Bruschetta

Caprese Bruschetta paired with Sparkling Rose Wine

Another easy-to-make snack that goes down well with everyone, whilst keeping it light ahead of the main courses. We've not met many people in the world who don't appreciate the tried-and-tested combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese, whether it be in a salad or served atop toasted, rustic bread. Their finger-food nature makes them ideal for parties, informal gatherings or just snacking whilst watching some Christmas television. This isn't a recipe we intend to play with, so we'll keep it classic with The Food Republic.

Pairing a wine with tomatoes is quite tricky as it's a food naturally high in acidity and requires something fresh, but ideally with a bit of texture, to pair with it. With it being the festive season, we're opting for sparkling Rose wine, or we should say 'Rosat' as we're actually going top open a bottle of Intens Rosat Brut Nature Cava 2013 from the brilliant Recaredo in Catalunya, although we could also be tempted to go French and pull out the 2008 Vintage of Moet and Chandon's Vintage Rose; a deliciously textured wine, with red fruit flavours and a savoury edge as it slowly evolves. Bubbles and Bruschettas? What's not to love?

Pigs in Blankets

Pigs in Blankets paired with Cru Beaujolais

Can it even be considered Christmas without at least one groaning plate of sausages wrapped in bacon? Now you can see why we intentionally saved room with our first two appetisers! If you put out a plate of appetisers, this is always the first to go and with good reason; it's absolutely delicious. They're easy to make and you really don't need many of them to fill you up! Keep them simple with The Spruce Eats

Wine pairings with fatty foods aren't usually very difficult, as the salty, savoury flavours work well with so many wines, particularly reds. However, we want to keep it fresh as well, so we're opting for Jean Foillards Cote-du-Py Beaujolais 2016, one of the very best of its kind and ideal for this sort of food, with soft, supple tannins, refreshing acidity and masses of red fruit flavours. Failing that, a Bourgogne Rouge from a top producer like Anne Gros would work wonders, as would a lighter Oregon Pinot Noir; think Seresin!

Turkey with Tempranillo

Roast Turkey with all the Trimmings paired with Tempranillo

Now we're onto it; the main courses. We'll look at different options but generally, Christmas is still a day for Turkey and lots of it! Cooking a Turkey for Christmas Lunch is a big task and there's no need to go overboard with it; we can guarantee that it'll be harder than expected, every single time! For such an important part of Christmas, we won't be taking any chances and will follow this simple but effective recipe by Jamie Oliver.

However, the difficulty in pairing wine with the main course isn't just the choice of protein, it's everything that goes with it. Stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, gravy... and everyone's table is set slightly differently! So, we need to find a wine that is versatile enough to match all the trimmings and side dishes, whilst working well with the Turkey itself. A medium-bodied, complex red wine.... Rioja! Specifically, we'll be enjoying a superb bottle of Vina Ardanza Reserva 2008 from the traditional La Rioja Alta in Spain with our Christmas feast! Vibrant and red fruited, with masses of complexity, freshness and savoury notes, this will work with a variety of dishes. We could also opt for a Ripassio della Valpolicella Classico 2013 from a top producer like Domaine L'Arco, or perhaps even a well made Zinfandel; Turley Rattlesnake Ridge 2015 would be our choice!

Roast Beef with Cabernet Sauvignon

Roast Beef with all the Trimmings paired with Cabernet Sauvignon

Another popular choice for Christmas Lunch is Roast Beef! It's certainly easier to cook properly compared to Turkey and makes for a slightly weightier choice as the centre-stage dish, but also has a lot of options in terms of flavour and presentation. We'll be cooking Turkey ourselves but we were sorely tempted by this delicious looking recipe by Olivia's Cuisine that looks at making a Rosemary and Garlic Roast Beef dish, with plenty of gravy and mushrooms. Mouthwatering!

Now, we need to get into something a little weighter for this and our first choice would be a powerful, full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. Schafer Vineyards 2013 in Napa, California would be perfect with its powerful fruit charge, heavy tannins and mouth-coating texture, or perhaps a little further afield with a bottle of Xanadu Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, from Margaret River, Australia. Not a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon? Argentinian Malbec from the Uco Valley would also be a treat, and we'd opt for Catena Alta Malbec 2014; a beautifully fresh, vibrant wine full of dark fruits and violets.

Roast Ham with Shiraz

Roast Ham paired with Shiraz

Before we move onto the sweets, let's take a look at another savoury, Christmas classic; Roast Ham. Glazed, roast ham is one of the most hedonistic, delicious items on the Christmas table and once you've had a bite, it's hard not to go back for more. Whether you like the roasted crackling, the soft meat or a combination of the two, we're with you! We're going to trust Jamie Oliver to steer us right once again, although do be aware, the following pictures may make you hungry!

Pairing a wine with ham isn't ordinarily that difficult, the combination of sweet and salty flavours in a roast, glazed ham makes life a little trickier. Ideally you want a wine that has rich, fruity flavours, soft supple tannins yet enough acidity to lift the dish up, rather than dominating it. For us, this sounds a lot like a good bottle of Australian Shiraz, in our case the beautifully peppery, lively wines from Langhi Ghiran in the Pyrenees of Victoria, Australia. Another good choice would be Grenache, perhaps a high-altitude bottling from Madrid, Spain; Jimenez-Landi's Sotorrondero 2015 would be lovely!

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding paired with Tawny Port

Christmas Pudding is something of a mountain to climb at the end of Christmas Lunch; dense, chewy, sweet and so moreish that you seem to grow a necessary second stomach just as you dig in. Whether yours is heavy and doused with brandy, or lighter and full of sweeter flavours, it's an inevitable tradition of Christmas! We'll be following Delia Online's recipe, which is very traditional and even includes an option for a gluten-free version!

Now, something to liven it up. With Christmas Puddings you're dealing with a lot of dried fruit, spice and sweet flavours, so whatever you choose has to complement that well. For us, it's a no-brainer; Tawny Port, preferably with a little age. In our case, we're opting for a 20 Year Old from Niepoort Vinhos, a producer specialising in older Ports, with all its caramelised dried fruits, sweet spices and high-toned flavours. You could also go for an aged Olosoro Sherry from a top producer like Valdespino, or perhaps even venture to the island of Madeira!

Mince Pies with Oloroso Sherry

Mince Pies paired with Oloroso Sherry

This is in our sweet category, but there's no reason why this couldn't be an utterly delicious snack, or even a form of supper! Mince pies are one of our favourite treats over the Christmas period, although it's hard to get them easily unless you live in the UK. However, don't worry because they're not nearly as hard to make as they look! We've been following Paul Hollywood's recipe and we're done in less than an hour. Delicious cold, but you should try them warm with a dollop of cream if you have the chance!

Similarly to Christmas Pudding, Mince Pies have that unusual combination of dried fruits, sweetness, spice and a touch of savouryness. As a result, it's hard to find the right pairing, especially as we need something a bit lighter than Port. A ha; Olosoro Sherry! This oxidative, beautiful wine from the south of Spain is packed with flavours of walnuts, caramel, toffee and works perfectly with these light, strongly flavoured pies. Our choice would be Valdespino's VOS (Very Old Sherry) 'Don Gonzalo', a brilliant example of just how good Sherry can really be. For something a little sweeter, try a Banyuls from the south of France.

Cheese Board

Cheese Board paired with Sauternes

Our final must-have food as part of the Christmas line-up is inevitably a beautiful cheese board, laden with salty, umami goodness to cap off an epic meal. Every European country has a good selection to choose from, and we find ourselves mixing and matching around France, Italy, Spain, England and Holland in particular, often buying far more cheese than we could ever possibly hope to eat! However, there's more to it than throwing together any number of cheeses and hoping for the best, and the lovely people at The Kitchn are here to take us through the steps of how to balance your cheese board properly.

In terms of wine pairings, it goes without saying that it largely depends on the cheeses you're eating. However, we adore sweet, white wines with strong, salty cheeses and Sauternes immediately springs to mind, with its rich, tangy flavours and persistent acidity that helps to cleanse the palate after so much fat and salt! Chateau Coutet 2010 will be the perfect choice for us, with its particularly tangy, fresh flavour profile, although a good bottle of Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2013 wouldn't go amiss either!

So there you have it, our top tips for on a Christmas feast laden with top quality food and wine to match! It's our favourite meal of the year and we do a lot of preparation in advance for it, but we hope there are some tips from here that you can use to add something new to your own celebrations this year. However you celebrate, we hope you have a wonderful day, surrounded by the people you care about most. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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