Food and wine matching for Christmas

Sara Guy

Sara has been working as part of the Glengarry product team for 4 years. Needless to say, she doesn't mind the occasional tipple.

I can’t believe it, I’ve only just realised that the jolly man in the red suit and grey beard (no, not Grandpa Joe) is only 8 sleeps away. Whilst I’ve managed to secure the ham, turkey, bbq goodies, Christmas tarts (and heaven forbid I forget the presents for the kids) I’ve not even given a thought to the wine! Crikey.

Now the thing with my family is that everyone likes to think they know all about wine. So when it comes to matching the wines with our classic Anglo-Kiwi fare I thought that some solid advice would not go astray, and will certainly help if you’re like me and need to embark on that mercy dash to the local wine shop for some last minute supplies.

The problem I find is that there is nothing traditional about a Kiwi Christmas. Any style of food imaginable inevitably ends up on the table and how could one possibly try and match to them all? And no, Grandpa Joe, DB draught does not go with everything. So let’s look at a few of the basics to get started.

Bubbles are always a good starter for any, well, starters. For the extravagant approach (think smoked salmon and oysters etc) a methode or NV Champagne are always a good match, in fact, these can pretty much go with anything, including the carrot and celery sticks with dip that Aunt Mabel always brings around.

When the turkey and ham come out (often lined up beside the charred sausages and bbq steak), it’s a good time to look at some of those chardonnay that seem to sit in the fridge for ages without being touched. A bigger oaky style of chardonnay goes fantastic with roast turkey, choose a slightly lighter style (even unoaked) if you’re going for the roast chook approach. You can go either way with ham – red or white – Pinot Noir works well with hot cooked ham, or look at a charming Sauv Blanc or Rosé with cold ham. See, you can even match wine to leftover ham sammies!

Grandpa Joe and his DB draught aside (he’s the one standing by the barbie wearing a dodgy bbq apron and waving the tongs around), the wine options for bbq meats are fantastic. A good Australian Cabernet or Shiraz work well with Eye Fillet, crack open one of those amazing NZ merlots for the bbq steak, and for the lamb chops look at Pinot Noir. There are actually some stunning drops out there at quite reasonable prices. Or you can go international. Think Spain and Italy….Spanish wines are becoming increasingly available in NZ now, and go so well with almost anything. Try a Spanish Rioja with steak and you’ll be dancin’.

By the time dessert rolls around, everyone’s bellies are stretching and its time to roll out the Christmas Pud and pavlova. There’s a lot to be said for ‘stickies’, a classic match with anything of the dessert variety, and there’s a huge array of styles to choose from. You could really splurge and go for a Sauternes or Vin Doux Naturel (a rich fortified red wine from the Rhone Valley), they both work well with the rich fruit in both Christmas Pud and Christmas Tarts. Late harvest Rieslings are great with pavs and fruit salads as they are a lighter style, or try with an off-dry Riesling. Botrytis (go for a Semillon) will set the Christmas bells ringing.

Now I’m sure by this time my family are usually snoring on the couch, but for those of you with the stamina to go further, after dessert is a great time to pull out those cheeses you’ve bought from your local deli (in my case, with the aim of impressing with my vast knowledge of cheese to match that of my wine). Madeira, old tawny and vintage ports work especially well with blue cheeses, or go for gold with a Roquefort and Yquem combination. Dee-lish. Then lean back in your chair and relax.

At the end of the day there aren’t really any strict rules to matching wine and food, really it just boils down to you and what you like. But in general here are a couple of guidelines to follow:

  • Over the course of the day move from lighter dry wines and work through to the richer sweeter wines. Eg. start with bubbles/sauv blanc/aromatic wines, move through to the fuller whites (chardonnay etc), on to lighter reds (pinot noir/merlot), then bigger reds (shiraz and cabernets) and finish off with the dessert wines and ports.
  • You can go for the “like on like” approach to matching – choose wines with similar characters to the food eg crab and chardonnay, (both have a creaminess to them that works well), or charred steak and shiraz, (the richness and spiciness works well with each other).
  • Or you can go for the compare and contrast approach – that Christmas trifle or fruit salad with an off-dry Riesling.

But most importantly, just enjoy your day - experiment, find out what works for you, chat, laugh and relax….And maybe keep a few DB’s in the fridge for the likes of Grandpa Joe.

Frank’s top drops this week

Under $20
Castel del Real Tesoro Cava Brut NV $9.90

One of the benefits of dodging bulls in Pamplona or getting pelted by tomatoes is that having survived, participants can celebrate with Cava. Produced by the Méthode Traditionnelle it has yeasty, fruity aromas and flavours and a lively, fresh clean finish.
Bulls and Tomatoes aside, it’s the perfect start to Christmas.

Lake Chalice Cracklin’ Rosie $13.90
A vivacious Rosé, the perfect wine to enjoy slightly chilled with summer salads and barbeques. Delightfully fresh, with a slight crackly that lifts the berry flavours.

Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2007 $22.90

Yip, she’s a big style wine, deliberately so, and we are all the better for it. Luscious, layered and thickly textured, it’s a rewarding wine.

Wooing Tree Beetlejuice Pinot Noir 2006 $28.00

A beautiful expression of Central Otago Pinot Noir, stylish, flavoursome, and full of fruit. Named after a critically endangered beetle found only just out of Cromwell, it’s a wine with a conscience.

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $36.00

An opulent Cabernet, filled with sweet fruit flavours that linger endlessly. The nose is dominated by classic blackberry aromas supported by nutty nuances and some integrated toasty oak.

Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 2003 (375ml) $399.00
The ultimate splurge for Christmas, full bodied with rich fruit characters and a hint of pineapple, honey and apple pie. Gorgeous, intense and lively. Roquefort not included.

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  • Boks says
    Christmas is a great time to unwind and relax.Just remeber the old saying what you put in is what you get out !!!

    Merry Christmas guys
  • Paul says
    My xmas has already started, kick back an relax????
    Found a great red wine that you can chill in the fridge and then drink, goes well with great mates at a bbq,
    cheers all, have a great xmas, cheers
  • sarah says
    The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
  • Cindy says
    xmas is always a good excuse to over indulge especially in food, why not let you go for a bit...lifes too short!
  • cole says
    ye xmas is good and all, eat lots of food, drink lots of wine relax for days on end without a care untill we all go back to work. but i think we should all spare a thought for all those people who either, can't afford to have the luxury to take time off work or are stuck in a job where they have no choice. cause it sucks man!!
  • Nick says
    Awesome post - my friends are always looking for advice on wine - sharing this article.
  • bowering says
    Good article - I've always found that keeping things as simple as possible over the break is the best way to go. Some good beers for the hot days time (Grolsch is wonderful) and the real-deal Champagne for everything else. The only downside is the high acid levels in bubbly means either a supply of Gaviscon or - better - milk with the old splash of whisky!
  • colin says
    My experience is it is a waste of dosh to provide too many "good" bottles of wine as after the first 2 or 3 drinks no one really gives a hoot or can really tell the diff. any more.
  • 1234 says
    I worked at a restaurant and this was definitely the hardest part of my job.
    Had lots of tastings and teaching to get the head around it but this is a really good basic cover.
  • barnes10 says
    The Xmas and New Year is best for great food, wine and friends/family.
    For a nice red try Wooing Tree Pinot Nnoir, it's about $38 but worth it.
    The Lobster Reef is a nice Sav Blanc and about $17.00.

    or if you like Beer...I love Carlsberg, Crown lager and Steinie Pure goes down well with anything and everything.

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