Guess who’s coming to Christmas Dinner? Oh, it’s wine. Again. Yes, even in the most typically sober families, wine makes a dramatic appearance on the dinner table at Christmas time when only the best will do. But if you’re only drinking wine this occasionally, how can you be sure that you’re serving your guests the right stuff?
The answer is that you can’t. The degree to which that matters is of course, highly variable. Whilst the true connoisseur will screw their face up even to good company, many will simply not realise what they’re missing. However, if you’re preparing for a Christmas dinner you know full well that it’s one of the most stressful times of the year, and arming yourself with the facts about every little aspect can put your mind at rest. Thankfully, with wine at Christmas dinner, the challenges are actually quite simple.
The Basics and Wine Accessories
Christmas dinner is a great time for doing something a little more ostentatious, though you may want to put the brakes on some of the more outlandish or space-hogging elements of wine serving if your guests are already knocking knees under the table. At the very least, you will probably want to get out your best glassware for the occasion. But remember the basics of wine glass usage:
- Red wine glasses have short-stems and a bowl-like shape. The wide bowl aids aeration and the short stem encourages heat retention in the hand of the drinker;
- White wine glasses have long stems and a narrower shape. White wine is served slightly chilled, so the longer stem prevents you from heating up the contents;
- Rose wine is typically served as if it were a white wine;
- Champagne glasses are usually tall narrow flutes (with shorter stems than your white wine glasses). Their height aids carbonation.
You ought also to serving up your wines at Christmas with appropriate tools. Not having a corkscrew in the house may leave everyone wineless, obviously. But for a little extra style, there are a number of tools at your disposal. A champagne sabre will thrill your guests if you’re proficient in its use. Consider also having a stylish decanter on the table in amongst the other pieces of impressive glassware: put some red wine in your decanter and it will fill the room with pleasant aromas whilst aiding ‘aeration’ and bringing out its best flavours.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The process of cooking and even serving a meal is lengthy, and it pays to get everyone up the table early. To get them in the mood for celebrating and talking, a glass of champagne will do the trick. Or rather, any reasonably priced sparkling wine will do – remember, champagne is a drink that is tightly controlled and you often pay for the name. The tastes of these wines tend to pair less favourably with the already rich tastes of a Christmas dinner, so give adequate time for their consumption (and give your guests smaller glasses).
Guests at Christmas will often want either white or red wines, and for most dishes, there is a wine that would be a fine match. Consider:
Though the most common meat at Christmas (less so in the United States, due to Thanksgiving), plenty of people have a good grumble about Turkey’s lacking taste (and you success in pairing will be limited if the Turkey isn’t cooked optimally). But Turkey can actually be paired with a great number of wines. However it shines with certain varieties: a common choice of red to pair with Turkey is Pinot Noir. Such medium bodied red wines tend to fare well with a Turkey roast. Fruity flavours with some hint of a secondary non-fruity flavour work well. Consider also Zinfandel, Shiraz and among the white wines, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Less common but always coveted as an upmarket gesture, the popularity of the Goose roast is something that comes and goes. It isn’t cheap, and the last thing you want to do is ruin it with an unsuitable wine. Goose suitable wines can be more expensive too: the sophistication of Italian Nebbiolo goes well, as do red Burgandies and the ever so slightly more affordable Spanish Tempranillo wines. Suitable white wines include Chardonnay and, again, Sauvignon Blanc (the truth is perhaps that these are two of the least exciting wines, but if they work, they work!)
An affordable, intensely tasty alternative to Turkey and Goose, pork is familiar territory for most cooks. It pairs well with Pinot Noir, Rioja and Chianti. Try Riesling if you’re going to slap on the Apple Sauce.
Christmas dinner ought to cater to all tastes, and the nutroast is typically the mainstay for vegetarian diners. For non vegetarian hosts, providing a wine to match a dish they’ve possibly never eaten themselves isn’t easy. Nut Roasts actually have quite powerful flavours. Good wines to serve include Medium Bodied, Dry Chardonnays and Medium to Full bodied reds, particularly those from Bordeaux.
Steph Wood is a copywriter and blogger on a range of subjects, working for Forever Crystal Wine Accessories and most definitely now thinking about Christmas dinner.