Red or white? Pinot or rioja? Fruity or earthy? Choosing a wine to match your meal can often feel like pot luck, and the feast of different foods we tuck into at Christmas only makes the right wine choice more baffling.
Before you wear your eyes out squinting at wine labels trying to work out whether blackcurrant undertones or floral notes will go best with Christmas dinner, read on for our advice.
Whether you’re a turkey traditionalist, or branching out into beef, vegetarian or even fish dishes this Christmas, we’ve rounded up top tips from our panel of wine experts on the best food and wine pairings for Christmas Day. And fear not, we’ve got sweet treats covered too – from Christmas puds to fruity pavlovas.
If you haven’t got round to doing your food shopping yet, check out the best places to buy your Christmas turkey and trimmings
Best wines for turkey
If you enjoy the zing of cranberry sauce with your turkey, the key is choosing a wine that has a fairly high acidity without being overly sweet. This is to balance out the fruitiness.
This could be a young, ripe Californian zinfandel or a versatile pinot noir. We’ve tested a selection of wines for the 2019 winter season, and one of our experts felt a bottle costing just £5.99 would pair particularly well with turkey. Take a look at our best red wines for winter to find out more.
If you’re planning on serving your turkey with a more traditional accompaniment, such as bread sauce, then opt for a well-aged wine. These have fewer overbearing tannins so go nicely with meats with a low fat content.
A mature claret or even a rioja would be a good choice if you prefer red. White wine lovers should try a round, full-bodied glass (or two) of chardonnay.
Best wines for beef
Choosing a wine to go with your beef depends on the cut and how it’s cooked.
Lean cuts of beef, such as a filet mignon, need a lighter, less tannic red wine such as a pinot noir or merlot. Those who prefer white should stick with a chardonnay or (if you’ve got a sweeter tooth) a white zinfandel.
Any form of slow-cooked beef, such as a stew or casserole, needs to be matched with a bold wine to bring out the rich, earthy flavours of the dish. A full-bodied merlot would be a good choice to bring some fruitiness to the table.
If you really want to push the boat out, one of our expert wine panel suggested a posh beaujolais cru – though this may be one to save for when you don’t have to share it with a house full of guests.
Best wines for fish
The best wine to serve with fish is heavily influenced by what you’re serving it with.
A wintry fish pie pairs best with a chardonnay or dry rosé, whereas if you’re dishing up tuna or salmon you’ll want to serve a chilled, light red, like a pinot noir.
For cured or smoked fish the guidelines are slightly different. Dry sherry is your best bet, as its salty, slightly tangy taste works perfectly with smokier flavours. Serve it this chilled, if possible.
Best wines for vegetarian dishes
There’s a whole host of wines you can pair with meat-free options depending on the overarching flavour of the dish. As a rule, though, you’re best avoiding heavy reds and favouring fresher whites.
If you’re planning on cooking anything containing large amounts of chili, bear in mind that it acts as an irritant, making every flavour taste bolder than it is. For this reason, you’ll want to serve it with a clean, off-dry white such as a muscat or riesling. A rosé would work well too.
Anything with a green veg base pairs best with a slightly sweeter wine, such as a sauvignon blanc – those from Chile or the Loire Valley in particular. Lighter styles of pinot grigio or chenin blanc could also do the job, thanks to their crisp, fresh flavours.
To make your festive food shop that little bit easier, our food editors tried out almost 50 different plant-based products and picked out their favourite vegan Christmas eats for 2019.
Best wines for mince pies
If you find yourself reaching for a mince pie as a mid-afternoon snack or a substitute dessert, you’ve got a few different wine options.
The dried fruit flavours in a chilled, well-aged tawny port will complement your mince pie perfectly – especially if you opt for a pie filled with nuts. A sweet muscat is another good option, as it will balance out the high acid levels in the mincemeat.
For fans of bubbles, a sweet and fruity asti spumante could do the trick too, and its lower alcohol content might be an added benefit over the Christmas period.
If you’re on the hunt for a mince pie with delightfully buttery pastry and a juicy, fruity filling, look no further than our best mince pies for Christmas.
Best wines for Christmas puddings
Christmas pudding is a rich, hearty dessert, so you can go a little heavier with your alcohol selection. A light dessert wine, such as sauternes, might get lost in the spicy flavours of your pudding.
Cream sherry would be the ultimate (if unhealthy) luxury to pair with your pud, but may not be to everyone’s taste. A less filling alternative could be a nutty, treacly tawny port.
Don’t forget that Christmas puddings are already soaked in large amounts of alcohol, so you may even want to skip the booze for one course.
Aldi’s Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Pudding was named the best Christmas pudding for 2019 by our panel of experts, but find out which other Christmas puddings fared well in our taste test.
Best wines for fruity desserts
To balance out the flavour of fruity desserts, our panel of wine experts recommends choosing a slightly sweeter wine; else you could risk it tasting on the bitter side.
For strawberry-based goodies, a sauternes is an excellent pairing, thanks to its balance of sweetness and acidity alongside apricot, honey and peach notes. This is typically served chilled, but if you own a bottle that’s more than 15 years old, it should be served slightly warmer.
If you’re serving up anything containing raspberries, a riesling is the best choice, provided the dessert isn’t too sweet – this risks overpowering the wine. A super-fancy option would be a demi-sec champagne, as this goes beautifully with fruity flavours.
Best wines for anything with caramel
You’ve got a couple of different options to choose from to match caramel’s sticky sweetness.
Our experts suggested either a madeira or a tawny port, as these are sweet enough to compete with the flavour of caramel without being too overpowering.
For those who want to stick to wine, a late-harvest pinot noir could be a good choice, especially if the dessert also incorporates elements of chocolate. An Australian shiraz would do the job nicely too.