Curious about Christmas Wines: Perfect Pairings

Curious Christmas wines

Christmas is when many people treat themselves to something a little special in terms of wine. Possibly splashing out (yes, a pun, totally intended) on something a bit more expensive than usual for Christmas dinner, along with some treats for before and after. But that brings with it its own kind of pressure. You want to make the most of the wine and make sure you pair it with the right food. We’re here to help.

The first rule of Christmas wines is this: drink whatever wine you enjoy most. It’s Christmas, after all. Enjoy what you enjoy. Also, considering the frankly ridiculous range of food you’ll be putting into your food hatch, you can’t try to match each bite with a perfect wine partner. So don’t worry about it. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the wine. It’s all good.

That said, here are some tips to help you make quick pairing decisions when you are selecting bottles from the Curious Christmas case you ordered. (You did order one, didn’t you?)

Christmas breakfast wines

For most of us, Christmas Day is about the only day of the year when we can get away with having a drink before noon. It’s even acceptable to have a sip of something at breakfast.

Champagne is a popular choice. Rightly so. What better way to set the tone for the day than a glass of top-notch bubbly? But beware. If you’re a marmalade- or marmite-on-toast sort of person, go for a dry, Brut Champagne or Cava. They’ll stand up better to the potent flavours. You’ll also need something dry and acidic if you’re starting the day with a fry, to help cut through the fatty deliciousness of the sausages, bacon, black pudding and white pudding.

If you’re having porridge for breakfast, we salute you—but perhaps you missed the memo about Christmas Day being the mother of all cheat days?

Duval-Leroy's range of award-winning Champagnes

Is Christmas really Christmas without Champagne? (It is not.)

Christmas lunch or dinner wines

The timing of the main Christmas meal is one of the most hotly debated issues in Ireland. Before or after the presents? Early afternoon or early evening, or later still? But at least we’re fairly clear on the courses and main ingredients.

Smoked salmon is a popular starter, and we have some of the best in the world here in Ireland. If you’ve got a second bottle of Brut Champagne, you could try that. Or go with a flinty Chablis or a classic dry Sauvignon Blanc to cut through the fishy fattiness. But that’s maybe too obvious. Why not try a Picpoul or Verdejo instead? Or raise some eyebrows with one of the bolder rosés?

The main course for Christmas dinner (or lunch) is a hotchpotch of textures and flavours. You’re going to need something that will compliment the dryer white meat of the turkey and the spiced beef (or is that just us here in Cork?); the fattier, juicier meat of the ham and the darker turkey meat; the sweetness of the roasted vegetables; the starchiness of the roast potatoes; and the savoury gloopiness of the gravy. And we haven’t even mentioned the pungent, bitter-sweet crunchiness of the sprouts.

Surely no wine could possibly stand up to that kind of punishment?

You could opt for a muscle-rippling Bordeaux, which won’t be overwhelmed by anything on the plate. But that’s better suited if you are having beef instead of turkey. If you’re going for goose, a dry German Riesling or a Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris from Alsace are good choices to pair with the flavour and grease (so much grease) that you get with a goose.

For a traditional turkey dinner, try a Pinot Noir or a Grenache. A red Châteauneuf-du-Pape gets our thumbs up, which will have a decent splash of Grenache in it. Pinot and Grenache are able to play nice with most things you’ll find on your Christmas dinner plate. They’re not perfect for everything, but they make good all rounders. And Pinot Noir will also pair fabulously with a mushroom-based vegan or vegetarian bake.

Or… Just putting it out there because we know it has a solid following among Curious Wine customers, go for Sparkling Shiraz. In fact, Sparkling Shiraz is so versatile you could even have it as an accompaniment to your dessert course too.

Sparkling Shiraz from Bleasdale

Sparkling Shiraz is a versatile wine that can act as your Christmas Day all rounder

Speaking of which:

Christmas dessert wines

You won’t be astonished that dessert courses pair best with dessert wines. We could take the easy way out and say get a bottle of Sauternes or Eiswein (excellent choices, chef’s kiss), but not so fast. If you’ve got a Christmas pudding on the table, all that dried fruit and Brandy could be too much for Sauternes and Eiswein. Try a sweet Sherry instead.

If your dessert is chocolate-based, you have to try a Rivesaltes from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region. You won’t regret it. Rivesaltes also pairs well with softer blue cheeses like Roquefort or Cashel Blue.

If you’re having a cheese course before the dessert course, you have a few options, depending on the cheese you are serving. Port is a fabulous choice, especially if you are serving Stilton or any kind of strong hard cheese like Cheddar or a well-aged Edam. But if you are more of a goats cheese or brie person, we’d suggest a Chardonnay.

From here, it’s either on to the presents (finally) or straight into the traditional annual family argument about who’s stacking the dishwasher.

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