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Merry merry Christmas - all you need to know about your favourite grape juice

Yes, we mean wine.
Dec 25th 2014, 10:00 AM 8,113 8

CHRISTMAS DINNER IS the biggest event of the year for many families and getting it right can be a stressful job.

Having to cater for the resident sprout hater, the vegetarian visitor, and that one relative who will always prefer beef, is a task that nobody can prepare enough for.

Such a special occasion deserves special wines to make it all a bit more bearable if nothing else. With our guide to the grapes, you can convince everyone that you are an expert this year and have something on hand to suit every taste bud.

shutterstock_150755498 Cheers. Source: Shutterstock

Know your stuff

The types of grapes used to make wine can be divided into two categories – native and international.

The grapes referred to as native are typically found in more obscure areas of the wine world and subsequently, these are used to make wine on a more limited basis.

International grapes are so-called because they are commonly found all over the world.

In recent years, with the wine evolution, some native grapes have become more common and moved into the international category.

International white grapes include the Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay varieties. International red grapes include the Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties. And some native wines that have recently become international would be the Pinot Grigio and Grenache varieties.

shutterstock_156728594 White wine on a vintage wooden table. Source: Shutterstock

The wine you choose to serve with your meal can make a big difference to the taste and overall experience. From texture to sweetness, here are some factors you should consider before hitting the wine shop this Christmas…

Intensity

If you are serving a flavoursome meal, the intensity on your plate should be reflected in your wine. A Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir will generally work well with strong flavours. You should also consider the fruit character of your wine, as something like a raspberry filled Pinot Noir will accompany your meat as well as a delicious fruit sauce.

Weight

Matching the weight of your food and wine is always a good idea. A full-bodied wine will work best with a heavy, rich meal.

Acidity

The acidity level of your wine can work in the same way as lemon or lime cut through grease. If your meat is quite greasy, your best choice would be a wine that is high in acidity.

Texture

Tannin is a term you will hear a lot in wine circles. It comes from the skins of the grape itself and is what gives your wine its texture and structure. Red wine will naturally have more tannin and this can be seen as sediment in the bottle.

The more texture your meal has, the more tannin you should have in your chosen wine.

Salt

While there is no salt in wine, you should consider the amount of salt in your dish when choosing the accompaniment. Salt will clash quite harshly with a very tannic wine so it is best to avoid this pairing.

Sweetness

As a rule, you should always serve a wine that is sweeter than your dish. Sweetness can act as a handy foil for a very rich meal.

Christmas table setting. Source: Shutterstock

Here are some suggestions for the perfect complementary wines this Christmas…

Starters

What’s the most popular Christmas starter?

Soup: For a French onion soup, a Beaujolais Nouveau or French Beaujolais will work well. For a more traditional vegetable soup or oxtail, if they are quite thick, you can afford to go for a richer wine like a Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.

Salmon: Smoked salmon is a medium-bodied fish with a rich taste and oily texture. A Champagne or Chablis will cleanse the palate nicely after salmon while at the same time complementing the smoked fish flavour.

Prawns: A light and somewhat oak flavoured Chardonnay will match the richness of a starter containing prawns or shellfish.

The Main

Turkey:  It has been the main of choice since Victorian times. The meat itself is medium in weight and has a low fat content, which is why it needs basting throughout the cooking process.

A full-bodied white or a young, ripe and fruity red will work best with turkey that is being served Cranberry sauce.

Goose or duck: Red wine works best with goose and duck. You can match the weight and balance any oiliness with a wine that is high in acidity and tannin. A Red Burgundy will be the perfect complement.

Dessert

Fruit cake or pudding: For fruit cake or pudding you are best to match the characteristics of the dessert to your wine. Fruit based cakes and puddings are medium in their sweetness and high in acidity. A German Riesling Spatlese will work nicely alongside this option.

Chocolate: Chocolate is tough to match in terms of wines. Your wine of choice needs to be very sweet and flavoursome to match the chocolate. One of the best options would be an Aged Tawny Port but if white is a must then a Muscat de Beaumes Venise should do the trick.

Christmas is a time of indulgence, be it in shopping, television, food or wine. Always remember to enjoy wine responsibly. Visit drinkaware.ie.

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Amanda Connolly

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