From a food matching point of view,
the best way to pick a wine to go
with Christmas dinner is to think of
it as one more element – a sauce or
dish of stuffing – on the crammed
table. The turkey may ostensibly be
the centrepiece, but it's also a blank
canvas. It's the cranberries, the fruity
stuffings, the chestnuts, the spicy
sausage balls, the prunes wrapped
in bacon – all of the other brightly
coloured, joyful rattlebag of dishes
that need to get along with the wine.
Wines that will fall in with this crowd?
An aromatic white, such as pinot
gris; or a red with cranberry
sharpness and bright berry fruit,
perhaps a youthful pinot noir
(maybe from Central Otago or
Martinborough in New Zealand),
a Beaujolais Cru, an unoaked
carignan, a gaudy garnacha
from north-east Spain, or a carignan
However. unless you are particularly
in the mood for those wines, picking
one would be to miss half the point.
Christmas dinner is like the big box
of decorations in the cupboard under
the steps, filled with gaudy baubles,
tasteful baubles, ugly baubles, matching
baubles and clashing baubles: a big
hotch-potch of family tradition, colour
and whim. When you sit down at
the Christmas table, the first duty
of the wine is not actually to go
with the food but to go with your
mood: it must be festive and
celebratory. The best advice is
therefore to drink the wine you quite
fancy at the time. Maybe it's classic,
reassuring claret, or maybe it's a
sturdy, hairy Chilean carmenère.
A good balance between wines that
suit the food and the mood might also
be struck. How about a richly
Christmassy blend of syrah,
grenache and mourvèdre from
the southern Rhône, Languedoc,
California or Australia? Or an
Australian Bordeaux blend, which
will be more vibrantly fruity and
hedonistic than a real Bordeaux and so
go better with the fruity vitality of
stuffings and sauces. I love to drink
young nebbiolo (ideally a Langhe
nebbiolo) or sangiovese (in the
form of a Rosso di Montalcino or
Chianti Classico) on Christmas
Day, and often tweak the trimmings
in a more savoury direction to fit.
It's easily done: make stuffings more
herby (use thyme and rosemary) than
sweetly fruity; use raisins, cranberries
and dried cherries rather than apple
and apricots; put Parmesan and cream
in with the sprouts; and make sure
there are plenty of chestnuts, ideally
cooked with bacon; and there it is –
reimagined for Italian wine.
Author and wine
Daily Telegraph &
BBC Good Food
The Wine Dine Dictionary doesn't just help you to find
the perfect wine for dinner or the perfect dinner
for a particular wine – it also explains why certain
combinations work. More than that, it has chapters on
the psychology of taste and the language of wine, and
is peppered with enticing recipes that make you want
to drop everything and cook. Fellow wine and food
journalist Fiona Beckett said she didn't know whether
to keep it by her bed or in the kitchen as it's a brilliant read, and we agree.
We have negotiated a special price with the publishers Granta for members to buy The Wine Dine Dictionary (400pp/hardback) through Foyles online for £13 (rrp £20), a discount of 35%. Order before the end of December at foyles.co.uk using the following promotional code: WineSoc. Only valid on regular web orders, not on click & collect.
> For more Christmas foodie inspiration, take a look at our seasonal suggestions
> If you're looking for a specific food match for a favourite wine, let our online Food & Wine Matcher guide you
Aromatic pinot gris – the Trimbach family's always elegant Pinot Gris Réserve 2014 (ref N-Al13231, £14.95), would do nicely.
Youthful pinot noir – The Society's Exhibition Single Vineyard Otago Pinot Noir 2016 made for us by Prophet's Rock in Central Otago will hit the spot beautifully (ref N-NZ9771, £16).
Beaujolais Cru - the bright, ripe cranberry flavours of The Society's Exhibition Fleurie 2016 (ref N-BJ7281, £9.75) is a classic match.
Gaudy garnacha – ok, from Valencia not north-east Spain, but delicious none-the-less, Setze Gallets Garnacha-Monastrell, Valencia 2014 is a wonderfully individual wine made in clay amphorae (ref N-SP11971, £7.50).
Grenache-syrah/shirazmourvèdre – from the Rhône, look no further than The Society's Exhibition Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 (ref N-RH43971, £18.50), a Christmas classic if ever there was one. And if Aussie gSMs are more your thing, try The Society's Exhibition Mclaren Vale GSM 2015 made especially for us by Chester osborn at d'Arenberg (ref N-AU19671, £13.95).
Young nebbiolo – a baby Barolo, if you like, Langhe Nebbiolo Ochetti, Renato Ratti 2015 (ref N-IT24351, £16).
Sangiovese – Chianti Classico La Tradizione, Poggiopiano 2013 (ref N-IT24031, £16) from the makers of our Exhibition Chianti Classico comes this single vineyard beauty.