Top 10 Christmas food and wine pairings

December 2013

It is one of the great dilemmas of the festive season: which wine goes best with which Christmas dish?

There’s no point shelling out on a special occasion vintage if it simply doesn’t go with the goose – or the yule log. The wine might be great; the food might be great; but if the two don’t work together on the palate then it is a waste of money. And you will feel miserable, too.

Help is at hand thanks to University College Birmingham’s senior food and beverage lecturer and resident wine expert Amy Hollier.

Amy, who launched a wine app, called Wine Find with UCB last year, has a wealth of knowledge about pairing different foods and drinks.

You don’t need to break the bank to get some superb wines for those big family feasts like Christmas Day and Boxing Day. However, it is important to match the right grape to the right food. It’s got nothing to do with being snobbish. It’s just that some dishes simply clash with certain grape varieties and styles. It’s a perfect storm that can wreck both the food and the drink. If you follow some guidelines, you really can’t go wrong and you will find the overall dining experience is enhanced.

Amy Hollier, University College Birmingham’s senior food and beverage lecturer

Here are Amy’s Top Ten tips for delicious Christmas food and wine pairings. 

1. Smoked salmon:  New Zealand sauvignon blanc or Chablis. You need a  zesty wine with good acidity to cut through the oiliness of the fish.

2. Turkey (with all the trimmings): viognier or Rioja. Turkey can be quite bland so you need a wine that will pair well with all the trimmings.

3. Goose: Riesling or pinot noir. Goose is quite a rich, fatty bird so a white wine with good acidity, like a dry Riesling, would work, or a light red wine.

4. Beef – malbec or cabernet sauvignon. The perfect match for beef is a full-bodied red wine with medium tannins.

5. Whole poached salmon: godello or verdejo. A white wine with well-rounded fruit works well with poached salmon.

6. Cheese selection – 

Hard cheese: chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or port.

Soft cheese: chenin blanc, Vouvray or Sauternes.

Blue cheese : Sauternes, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise or vintage port.

Goats cheese: sauvignon blanc, pinot noir or tawny port.

Always try to match wine to the style of each cheese rather than the whole board as the flavours and textures vary so much.

7. Christmas pudding – Madeira, tawny port, Vouvray. Wines with dried fruit characteristics and a good level of sweetness pair beautifully with Christmas pudding, or a sweeter white wine.

8. Sherry trifle: oloroso sherry or Pedro Ximinez. Sherry trifle needs an unctuous, sweet style of sherry to ensure it is not overpowered by the dessert.

9. Yule log: black muscat or Rivesaltes. A great match for chocolate is a sweet, black muscat, preferably from California.  Dessert wines should always be slightly sweeter than the dessert.

10. Mince pies: Pedro Ximinez or Dornfelder. A sweet Pedro Ximinez is the perfect accompaniment to mince pies, or if you prefer a normal still wine, then a medium red wine like Dornfelder, from Germany, works well.