Recommending wines for Christmas is a tricky business. First of all, there is the traditional meal. It can be easy to choose a wine to complement the turkey, but will it go with the ham as well? And what about the trimmings? The stuffing, the sprouts, the sauces, particularly cranberry sauce, can be difficult to match with wine. What if the dinner is totally different, goose, beef, or vegetarian?
Traditionally wine experts recommend a good Riesling for the white wine, and a Beaujolais, Burgundy, (Pinot Noir), or Zinfandel for the red.
I would not put you off pairing the dinner with a good Beaujolais Nouveau, which becomes available around this time of year, although most wine snobs would! The best wines from Beaujolais come from one of ten villages such as Morgon, Julienas, Fleurie and Brouilly. Good Beaujolais is light, fruity and fresh with a low alcohol content, and also has the added feature of not being as expensive as a good Burgundy.
My Riesling selection below reflects my old world prejudice, but there are plenty of excellent Australian versions around. You might also consider looking for an Austrian white such as Gruner Veltliner, which can offer great quality and value.
I would suggest opening a special bottle of white for the starters, and then moving on to a fine bottle of red from your own favourite wine region, be it Spain, Italy, Argentina and so on. I personally think the best and most complex wines are from the Bordeaux region of France, and the selection below reflects this. Good Bordeaux, like good Burgundy, tends to be expensive; on the other hand, it is Christmas, so the wines are a bit more pricey than I would normally recommend. When choosing a Bordeaux, keep in mind that wines from the right bank of the Gironde (most famously St Emilion and Pomerol, are Merlot dominated, while those from the famous towns on the left bank are predominately made from Cabernet grapes. The very finest left bank areas are Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac, and St Estephe.
My own personal favourite red? There was a tiny bistro called Le Villaret on the Left Bank in Paris, which served beef marinated in wine from the small area in the hills north of the town of Bergerac known as Pecharmant. Sadly the restaurant is gone, but the memory lingers and I am always on the lookout for the lovely claret-like wine whose name translates as ‘charming hill’. Some thoughtful neighbours were on holiday in France this summer and brought me back three bottles of fine Pecharmant, one of which is unlikely to survive the Christmas season!
Enjoy, and Happy Christmas to you all.