What to serve with Christmas dinner?

At this time of year, our Member Services team are asked this question quite a lot, so we thought we'd reprint this extract from Victoria Moore's new book The Wine Dine Dictionary on the very subject. The wine recommendations opposite come from our wine buyers

What to serve with
Christmas dinner?

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 from Chile.

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.

Victoria Moore

Victoria Moore

Author and wine correspondent, The Daily Telegraph & BBC Good Food

The Wine Dine Dictionary

Book offer

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

The wines

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).

SangioveseChianti Classico La Tradizione, Poggiopiano 2013 (ref N-IT24031, £16) from the makers of our Exhibition Chianti Classico comes this single vineyard beauty.

December 2017

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