Are you looking to take hosting Christmas to the next level by carefully curating your Christmas menu and wine pairing? Or are you looking to impress someone by bringing a particularly nice bottle to their soirée? Or perhaps you just want to start your wine connoisseur journey and don't know where to begin?
We've all had that moment where we've looked at a wall of wine and not known where to begin. Thankfully our knowledgeable hosts, wine merchants DBM Wines in Clifton, have put together this handy guide for buying wine for Christmas.
Pop by DBM Wines and enjoy one of their popular wine tasting experiences which are hosted throughout the year, their friendly independent shop on Princess Victoria Street is definitely the place to go if you're looking for top-quality wines.
We spoke to Leila Habbal from DBM Wines, and these are her recommendations for this year's best Christmas wines to enjoy. You can find all of these wines in store if one takes your fancy:
Something sparkling for the appetisers and canapés:
For canapés, smoked salmon, and fish starters you're going to want to go with sparkling wine for a number of reasons:
- Sparkling wines usually have a lower alcohol content (up to 12% ABV) so it's nice to start lighter and work your way up to a heavier wine as the meal goes on; this is the best way to enjoy each wine's flavour character.
- Citrusy sparkling wine with high acidity cuts through the flavours of smoked or oily fish to enhance both flavours.
- Champagne has more brioche/toast notes and complements creamy or pastry starters and canapés. The more vintage the Champagne the more toasty notes will come through.
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Rathfinny Classic Cuvee 2017, Sussex, England - £29.99
What to drink with turkey and chicken:
"The key to food pairing, in general, is to try and pair intensity," said Leila, "and it's not just intensity of the single element, it's the intensity of the dish as a whole."
Although turkey and chicken are delicate meats, they are often served with an array of sides that may overpower lighter wines. You can choose to enjoy either white or red wine with a turkey or chicken-based Christmas dinner.
- Avoid crisp and light white wines, instead, opt for a more robust and full-bodied oaky white. Classically, chardonnay pairs really well with Christmas dinner.
- The creamy lactic nature of chardonnay will pair especially well if you're fond of creamy sauces and will probably have lashings of bread sauce.
- If you prefer red wine, a lighter red such as pinot noir will bring out the flavours in trimmings such as cranberry sauce and pigs in blankets without tannins competing with the turkey or chicken and drying the palate.
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Domaine Gerovassiliou Chardonnay 2020, Epanomi, Greece - £19.99
What to pair with a vegetarian or vegan roast dinner:
Which wine to pair with vegan or vegetarian Christmas dinners really depends on what the main event on your plate is. If you're going for a chicken-style meat replacement then the above rules (see chicken and turkey pairings) will apply. If you are leaning towards a nut roast or full-flavoured Wellington you have room to play with heavier wines:
- Nut roasts or meat replacements that are heavy on the umami (strong savoury flavour) can withstand a more robust and fuller-bodied red.
- A fruit-driven blend with red berry or herbal notes would complement the salty, nutty and herbal characteristics of the dish.
- Bottles that say Rhône or Côtes du Rhône tend to be more fruit-driven wines. A GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) pairs particularly well, and you can find this blend in many different kinds of wine, but you want to make sure that you are selecting wine from a cooler region so that it displays those key red berry and herbal notes.
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages 2019, Domaine La Soumade, France - £16.99
What to enjoy if you're eating roast ham or gammon:
"I'd say the more you do to it [the ham] and the more spices you add, the more robust a wine that can go with it," explained Leila. However, she recommended that sticking with a lighter wine, such as pinot noir, which is fruit-driven with a higher acidity and lower tannins would complement gammon and ham perfectly.
- A pinot noir could be a good all-round table pleaser due to it's light, spiced, smokey herbal elements which complement many of the dishes found on a Christmas dinner table.
- Classically, Burgundy is a region renowned for its pinot noir but these wines are considered to be premium.
- New Zealand pinot noirs are known for their distinct smokey flavour. A New Zealand pinot noir is a good choice if you have a smoked ham.
- For a cleaner, more fruit-driven pinot noir stick to wine produced in cooler climates.
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Kaiserstuhl Pinot Noir 2017, Karl Johner, Baden, Germany - £17.99
Which wine to choose for duck, goose, and game:
When you think of duck, goose, or game in relation to wine intensity you're moving towards the more intense end of the spectrum. It falls after poultry and roast ham, but before red meat like beef and lamb. These dishes can withstand a more robust wine, but again this also depends on how you cook the meat:
- Look for a medium-bodied red with good levels of red fruit and acidity for this category- good acidity of wine is really important for cutting through fats and flavour.
- Italian wine is a good match with game, goose, and duck. Look out for grape varieties such as Barbera, Sangiovese, or Montepulciano are all medium-bodied with good amounts of acidity and bight, classic red fruit flavours which pair beautifully with duck and game.
- "I think Italy has so much to offer," explained Leila, "a lot of Italian varietals have a slight earthiness to them which really complements the game characteristic."
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Barbera d'Asti "La Villa" Tenuta Olim Bauda 2019, Piemonte, Italy - £14.99
This is how to choose wine for a cheeseboard:
Pairing wine and cheese is a whole subject unto itself. On a cheese board you have so many different varieties which all come alive with different types of cheese. For example, hard cheeses (such as cheddar) love a red wine with lots of tannins to bind to the proteins (similarly to how you'd pair red meat). If you're looking for a good all-rounder wine for a cheese board then you might want to opt for port:
- "The good thing about ruby port is that it can fight a lot of fires," explained Leila, "it not only has sweetness to balance out the saltiness and robustness of things like blue cheese. It has the acidity to cut through the creaminess of soft cheeses and it has the tannins to bind to the proteins in hard, mature cheeses to make them softer."
- Tawny ports are oxidised and have notes of caramel, nuts, baking spices and dried fruits, so they go well with nutty cheeses. However, if you are looking for a wine to pair well with a variety of cheeses a ruby or vintage port will do the trick. Vintage ports are by nature ruby ports, so the choice is yours!
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Graham’s Malvedos Single Quinta port 2010, Oporto, Portugal - £28.99
For Christmas pudding and mince pies, this is the wine:
When it comes to dessert you can only really go down the sweet route. Ultimately the sweetness of the dessert is always going to overpower the wine and make it taste dull and bitter; you need sugar to withstand the sugar.
- Christmas desserts often have a spice element to them (think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) so you want to source a dessert wine that has similar flavour characteristics to it.
- Sherries made with the Pedro Ximénez grape variety will carry notes of luscious and viscous dark spiced molasses, raisins, figs, dates, and dried fruit. Leila explained that wines made with this grape variety will essentially taste like Christmas pudding in liquid form and will be a really harmonious pairing.
☞ DBM Wines' recommendation: Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximenez, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Spain - £17.49
The simple rules to take away:
It's all about matching intensity with intensity, choosing flavours that live in harmony with one another, and making sure to pick acidity to counteract fattiness and tannins to soften high proteins.
Want to learn more? No problem! DBM Wines host tasting experiences that can take you from novice to expert in a couple of sips. There is something really empowering about understanding wine and being able to look at a wall of wine in the shops with purpose and confidence, and we hope this guide has offered you some knowledge to take away and do just that!