Ultimate Festive Food and Wine Pairing Guide
Well, it’s that time of year again: the festive season is here, and in Australia, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to bring out the barbeque, invite your friends and family over, and start thinking about how you’re going to celebrate with some top food, and some even better wine to go with it!
Whether you prefer a traditional Christmas feast or Australian Summer inspired spread, our friends at The Wine Gallery have shared their ultimate food and wine pairing guide for taste matching success!
Big, juicy king and tiger prawns, tossed in chilli and lime, or tossed straight on the barbie where their flavours can explode on the palate. Which wines are going to boost your Christmas prawns this year?
If you’re cooking your prawns in an uncomplicated way – by which we mean with no messing about, and with the shells still on, you’ve got a number of options open. To keep things classic, reach for a Pinot Grigio – this is a wine which perfectly reflects that no-nonsense approach, and is a summer favourite for everyone. We also love eating prawns alongside wines made from the Albarino grape – a classic Spanish varietal which has a cool, crisp, almost salty tang to it… and the slightly sparkling Portuguese wine, Vinho Verde, made with the same grape is if anything even better.
If your prawns are being cooked in garlic, then you’re better off going for a Sauvignon Blanc. This wine just loves being paired with garlic, and has the citrusy notes which are going to bring out all that lovely sweetness in the flesh.
Few fish are as popular at Christmas in Australia as salmon. When it comes to pairing salmon with wine, there are a few different routes to take.
If you want to keep things local, eat your salmon alongside a glass of great Australian Semillon – few wines work so well with this delicate fish. However, an oaked Chardonnay or Viognier will be fantastic too, & bring forward that slightly fuller, more luxurious side of the fish. If you want to keep things light, however, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating salmon with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or bright, citrusy Vermentino to hand.
Do you love to glaze and bake up a ham at this time of year? It’s the kind of easy-sharing meat that works well with the fresh salads we all crave when the sun’s at its hottest.
If you’re serving your ham hot, roasted and with a nice shiny glaze to it, then a medium bodied red wine is going to be the order of the day. An Australian Shiraz usually hits the spot in this regard – you want a wine which packs in lovely, ripe, juicy red fruit flavours. Along the same lines, you could also go for Grenache, a Chilean Merlot or Carmenere, or a Pinot Noir, too. If you fancy something a little counter-intuitive, then we can tell you that Barossa Valley Semillon – with its pineapple hit of sour-sweet fruit flavour – can be a real crowd-pleaser in this regard!
Cold cuts of ham and ham salads, on the other hand, need something a little lighter and zestier to make the most of the meat’s natural sweetness. Australian Riesling is great for this, as is Moscato, Zinfandel and almost any rosé – perfect for Christmas lunch on your patio!
Moscato d’Asti is also a good shout, and in case all else fails, crack open the Champagne (as if you hadn’t already…)!
Ah, Pavlova. Is there any dessert finer? It’s the centrepiece at the end of the celebration. To make your Pavlova sing on the palate, pair it up with something sweet and special in a bottle. Go for a late harvest Riesling, Semillon or Gewurztraminer to keep some of that freshness in. Moscato d’Asti is also a good shout, and in case all else fails, crack open the Champagne (as if you hadn’t already…)!
Whether you’re serving mango as it is, or as the key part of a regular or fruit salad, there are a couple of wines which go really well with this flavoursome fruit.
For savoury mango dishes, Pinot Gris really brings out the best of those sweet-and-sour notes, as does a young Riesling. For mango salads, you can’t go wrong with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
For sweeter dishes, try a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc if you can get your hands on one – it’s a fabulous combo!
TRADITIONAL BIRD & TRIMMINGS
If you’re going to imagine for a moment that your street is littered with snowmen and the mercury in your thermometer has plummeted, then red wines are going to be the order of the day.
To kick things off, it’s a great idea to have one of those all-day red wines, which is going to go well with pretty much everything you eat, and which is going to bring big smiles all round. A top-end Pinot Noir would be the one we’d reach for in this case. It’s the ultimate flexible red wine, capable of pairing with a massive array of festive treats, and which is also probably the best wine to choose if you’re looking to make mulled wine, too – a traditional winter treat across much of Europe.
CANAPES, SNACKS & NIBBLES
For the party snacks, nibbles and canapes, you’ll be wanting a white wine with plenty of brightness and freshness. Something light-hearted and vibrant, yet not too heavy. Few wines fit the bill quite as well as a Muscadet; lemony, zingy, and a great wine for sipping all day long. (Our Dec/Jan Discovery Box will sort you out on the food front here 😉 ….it’s not to late to order for those Summer parties and Australia Day gatherings)
What celebration would be complete without the pop of a cork, bursting from a bottle of sparkling wine? There’s no doubt about the fact that fizzy wine is a cornerstone of Christmas, whether traditional or not… but which is the right one for this special day?
If you’re going for a light-hearted day with plenty of fun and frolics, then there’s nothing wrong with getting in some great bottles of Prosecco. However, for many people, this fizzy wine is a touch too fruity for an old school Christmas day. Cava has had a brilliant few years, however, if you’re really looking to impress, and show your savoir faire when it comes to great twists on tradition, go for one of the alternative Champagne blends out there. For us, few are more evocative and seductive than a Blanc des Noirs – a traditional Champagne made with only the black grapes in the original blend. Utterly delicious, and more than a little sexy.
Snide jokes aside, there’s no argument regarding the fact that 2017’s sparkling wine crown has belonged to the Brits. English sparkling wine has stormed the international wine awards this year and last, and even though it’s irritated the French no end, this relative newcomer to the fizzy wine scene is difficult to resist!
It’s strange how often sweet and dessert wines are overlooked, but it’s at this very time of year they really get a chance to shine.
If you want to go all-out Christmassy, then an Eiswein (ice wine) from Germany, Austria, the US or Canada is about as festive as it gets. These are wines made from grapes which have frozen on the vine in the harsh northern winters, and the result is a concentration of sugars inside the fruit that leads to deliciously complex flavours of honey, nuts and candied fruit.
Also in this league, it’s impossible not to mention the classics of the dessert wine world: Sauternes from France, and Royal Tokaji from Hungary. This historic wines are made from rotten grapes (honestly, they taste better than they sound…) and have an unforgettable flavour that has delighted Europe for centuries. What’s more, few wines go better with a Christmas cheeseboard or a traditional plum pudding!
As for fortified wines, both Port and Sherry are the traditional festive options. Interestingly, Australia produces one of the oldest Ports in the world (100 years old!), but if you fancy something a bit more affordable, go for some of the 30 year vintages that have been released this year. 1987 was regarded as an amazing year for both of these fortified wine styles, so if you can get your hands on a bottle, you’re in for a treat.
“Here at The Wine Gallery, we wish you a very merry Christmas, and a bright and exciting 2018… let’s hope it brings some more fantastic wines to try!”
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