Red or White for Christmas?

With the festive season fast approaching, our thoughts are turned to presents, house decoration and, of course, the culinary delights of Christmas. Even those who do not usually imbibe may crown the Christmas table with a decent bottle to bring out the best both in food and wine. But the plethora of Old and New World wines stockpiled by supermarkets and independent wine merchants may often present an unsurmountable challenge to the unsuspecting customer who, in this vinicultural jungle, may easily retreat by grabbing the nearest bottle.

So how can we insure that nothing goes wrong on Christmas Day? If paired cleverly, even the humblest wine and the simplest dish can be fantastic; but if you choose the wrong wine, both food and wine will taste disappointing. Matching food and wine, then, is undoubtedly worth the effort.

In the quest for the magic formula for rewarding combinations, the key principle is to match weight and flavour: light wines go with light food, heavier wines with heavier food.

The fine-tuning can be accomplished by choosing a wine which echoes the most dominant flavours in a dish. For example, pork cooked with apples is best matched by fruity white wine, whereas pork in a rich tomato and herbs sauce is best with a gutsy red. The gastronomic conventions of the wine regions which produce the wines may also be pointers to what goes with what. Likewise, the flavours and smell of a particular wine may suggest which food it might suit.

Wine is rarely served with soup, but if you prefer to have your soup with wine, choose a light dry wine or one that matches the dominant ingredient, e.g. chicken, mushroom or asparagus. Egg dishes are not great with wine, but if you would like to have wine, champagne or sparkling wine may be your best choice.

Ration your mint sauce, chutney, ketchup, pickles and mustard wisely as vinegar tends to make wine taste vinegary, whereas cranberry sauce strips wine of its fruitiness. If you like nibbles, choose wisely – peanuts are to be avoided with wine, although peanut sauces can be enjoyed with fruity wines.

The following pairings are generally considered to be safe and yielding a satisfying result, but they are not rules – just recommendations:
Champagne or sherry

Meat and game:
Game: Red Burgundy, Pinot Noir, Rioja (Reserva and Grand Reserva) and Shiraz

Turkey: Cru Beaujolais, Pinot Gris, Riesling, New World Sauvignon Blanc and Tempranillo

Duck: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir

Green: Sauvignon Blanc

Salads: Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling

Christmas puddings: late harvest Tokaji wines, Sauternes

Crème brulée: Tokaji Aszú, late harvest Tokaji wines, Sauternes

Puddings: Tokaji Aszú, Ice Wine, Sauternes and Monbazillac

Chocolates: Port, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

Fruits: Asti, demi-sec Champagne

Whether you want to create a harmony or a contrast of flavours, remember: food and wine matching, more often than not, is a matter of personal taste, not an elitist exercise. If you follow the basic guidelines and keep an open mind, a successful match is almost always guaranteed.

So, experiment and have fun!

Published by

Fred KuMesu Fred is a graduate of Napier University and as an electrical and electronic engineer he has worked in industry in the field of sales and marketing. He is enthusiastic about wine and throughout the years has gathered considerable knowledge about the wine trade. Now he runs two wine related businesses. Fred's hobbies include stamp collecting and cycling. He has also been involved in fundraising for Scottish and overseas charities. Fred's wish is to be able to spend more time with his wife Kati and their 3 children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *