Christmas Day is, for many, the most important feast of the year. Everyone has their own traditions, of course. Some of us lean towards a “Mod Oz” or pan-Asian style of luncheon, with lighter, fresher, cold foods. Then again, even if, as the poet said, they say it’s gonna be a hundred degrees - that won’t stop the roast. Besides the question of who’s going to make the gravy, what wines might best suit a Christmas menu is another thing you might find yourself pondering. Here, a beginners’ guide to what wine goes with the food you’re most likely to serve on Christmas Day.
Prawns, smoked salmon, oysters… these treasures from the sea are in incredible demand during the festive season – indeed, 40 per cent of Australia’s annual prawn consumption occurs at Christmas (that’s some 6 million kilos). But what to drink with our little shelled friends? Well-chilled fino sherry is the connoisseur’s choice when it comes to prawns. Try La Goya or Tio Pepe from Spain, or Pennyweight from Victoria. Smoked salmon, with its omega-3 fats, likes something that cuts through, such as riesling – the Jim Barry Watervale would be ideal. And oysters au naturel want chardonnay in the Chablis style, where the minerality in the oyster is matched by the minerals in the wine. Oakridge Guerin Vineyard Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley is suitably elegant and restrained.
Turkey and chicken
Whether it’s slow-roasted in a kettle barbecue over charcoal, or roasted in the oven and served cold, turkey and chicken lead us to Burgundy’s uber grape: pinot noir. Pinot is red wine’s most naturally aromatic varietal. Its lighter body also suits our warm summertime Christmas, and its natural, refreshing acidity is a good foil for chicken’s slight fattiness. Pinot’s flavours of strawberry, mulberry and violet and its hints of mushroom and forest floor also suit the mood and the food. De Bortoli Windy Peak from the Yarra Valley is a bargain; the Mornington Peninsula’s Stonier Pinot Noir is all class and, at the upper end of the price range, there’s Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg, from New Zealand’s super-groovy Central Otago region.
Glazed, smoked, hot or cold, ham demands the wonder grape of the southern Rhône – Grenache. We make it here best in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, where it runs the gamut of flavours from raspberry to cherry to plum and liquorice. d’Arenberg The Custodian is a benchmark for the style, while the S.C. Pannell Grenache is a masterclass in poise, balance and structure. Or go to the Barossa for the rightly famous Henschke Johann’s Garden, showing depth and controlled power.
Eye fillet browned, roasted and rested, and served with Yorkshire puds and horseradish cream is a classic combination, and it gives you the chance to drink cabernet sauvignon. Wynns Black Label is a Coonawarra icon, with minty blackcurrant fruit flavours and just a whiff of oak. Every wine snob loves it. From the Margaret River in WA, Xanadu Next of Kin is a bargain beyond belief, with impeccable length and rounded tannins. Still in the west, the Frankland River region gives us Cherubino Ad Hoc Avant Gardening Cabernet Malbec – the malbec in the blend lends cabernet’s more linear minerality some supple fruitiness.
Finally, the feast’s crowning glory: Christmas pud with custard and brandy butter sauce. This is easy: tawny port. Seppeltsfield Para 21 Year Old Tawny is an Australian classic. This legend has intense, long hints of spice, dried fruits and citrus peel – a bit like the pudding itself.
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