Christmas is a time of magic and a time to celebrate with family and friends. The traditions of Christmas have evolved over thousands of years and include many delicious sweet and savory foods that pair incredibly well with all kinds of wine. Meals tend to be richer and heartier during the winter season, and the wines we pair can complement those elements of the meal, or contrast. Some of the wines we pair for Christmas meals are fortified wines, like Port and Sherry.
Fortified wines are made by adding a distilled spirit, usually brandy to a wine. When a wine is fortified, it blends with the added spirit and is able to be aged for longer so that it can develop deeper and more complex characteristics. Port and Sherry are able to develop richer, deeper flavors due to being fortified, and the resulting wines balance flavors of rich fruit and spice with acidity. This makes fortified wines able to be paired with many different types of foods. While tantalizing sweets are the hallmark of Christmas with treats like cookies, gingerbread and the classic yule log, we’ll also cover the other Christmas staple, wine, and its pairings for dishes like oyster soup and the traditional Christmas goose. Let’s look at the classic flavors of Christmas and the wines that you can pair with them.
Gingerbread and Muscadet
The intense spicy sweetness of ginger and molasses make delicious quick breads and cookies, and you’ll want to pair these foods with a lean or acidic wine like a French Muscadet. Muscadet is known for its bright citrus flavors and acidity that cut the richness of the warm spices in gingerbread
Pairing Wine with Goose
A savory roast goose with its rich, fatty meat pairs well with the deep stone fruit flavors and tannins in an Italian Barolo. Barolo wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape variety and are known for their tobacco and tar-like flavors.
If you stuff or season your goose using herbs or other strong aromatics, consider pairing it with an equally aromatic wine like a Gewurtzminer from Alsace. Gewurtzminer is known for being highly aromatic and having a heavy, full body, which complements the rich taste and texture of the goose.
Riesling and Oyster Soup
The salty, sweet flavor of oysters mix with herbs, mirepoix and heavy cream to make this traditional Christmas soup, and it pairs exceptionally well with a dry German Riesling. German Rieslings have very pronounced floral flavors that complement the delicate salty/sweetness of the oysters while the high acidity lightens the richness of the heavy cream.
Port Paired with Mincemeat
Traditional mincemeat combines beef, dried fruits and brandy with the strong flavors of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, and often spirits, into a pie that has the rich flavor and the texture of "minced meat". These flavors and textures pair well with Port, which is a fortified wine, and has a fiery, smooth intensity that holds up well to the spices in mincemeat pies.
Fruitcake and Wine
Fruitcake is a moist, rich cake made from dried and candied fruits and nuts that are soaked in brandy or other liquors. While the liquor used to soak the cake can make it tricky to pair the dessert with a wine, a great pairing is the sweet Sauterenes from France.
Sauterenes is a sweet wine with concentrated flavors of dried sweet fruit, but it has a high acidity that brightens the flavors of fruitcake.
Pair Champagne with Yule Log Cake
Made with a deceptively light chocolate genoise or sponge cake and filled with chocolate or flavored buttercream, Yule Log cake pairs well with Prosecco or Champagne as the effervescence and bright flavors of the wine contrasts with the buttercream and the rich flavor of the chocolate.
Egg Nog also Works with Wine
The easiest way to pair a wine with the classic Christmas drink of eggs, cream and nutmeg is to add your wine to the eggnog. Classically, eggnog is made with brandy and bourbon, an aged port with deep honeyed flavors will make an outstanding and festive eggnog.
Shortbread and Sherry
The crisp, buttery, slightly sweet shortbread cookie pairs well with Sherry. Sherry is a fortified wine with deep raisin sweetness and a slightly sea salt flavor that complements the rich, buttery flavors of shortbread.
Pairing Wine with Prime Rib
Tender, juicy slices of prime rib pair well with red Bordeaux from Medoc France. Bordeaux from Medoc is a blend made using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Bordeaux is usually a very deep ruby color, highly tannic and has flavors of spice, coffee, vanilla and fruit.
Leg of Lamb and Chianti
Leg of lamb has a distinctive and hearty flavor, when roasted, it is often paired with rosemary, garlic, mustard and lemon; all of these seasonings and the meat pair well with a fruity Chianti Classico from Tuscany. Chianti Classico is made with 80% Sangiovese grapes and has a bright ruby color, fruity flavors and high tannins.
Wines for Ham
Ham is a sweet-salty and smoky flavor along with a tender texture that pairs well with Moscato. Moscato is a highly acidic wine with developed fruit flavors and sweetness that pairs well with the flavors of ham.
These pairings will ensure your hosted Christmas or holiday meal is a success. Wines bind dishes and flavors, providing a smooth transition between course.