For some Christmas just isn’t right without perfectly paired wine, but with a wide range of new spirits on the market there is the opportunity to open the flavours of Christmas lunch to a whole new taste experience.
Here, two educators from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (Lydia Harrison and Will Lowe), share their top tips for Christmas food pairings whether you’re a traditionalist or after an alternative twist for your tipple.
If you’re looking for a gift for a drinks enthusiast, WSET offers globally recognised qualifications in wine and spirits through course providers across the country from beginner to advanced levels. The courses provide a hands-on approach to wines and spirits, exploring the main types and styles through sight, smell, and taste, while giving participants the skills to describe them accurately and understand the key factors affecting flavours and aromas. Upon successful completion participants receive a WSET certificate and lapel pin – and will obviously impress their friends with their knowledge. Visit WSET to find a programme provider in your area and check costs and availability.
Starter: Smoked Salmon
White Wine: Start with a pop and go with something dry, white and fizzy. Traditional Champagne or an equally light and bubbly English sparkling wine will cut through the oil of the fish.
Red Wine: If you insist on something darker, head to New Zealand and try a light Pinot Noir – delicate enough to match and not mask the fish’s flavour.
Spirits Alternative: Gin and Tonic! These two are a match made in heaven – you can even cure the salmon in your gin of choice, and bring in savoury herbs to the G&T to complete the picture.
Main: Roast Turkey With All The Trimmings
White Wine: An oaky Chardonnay from somewhere like California, will bring out the creaminess of the bird, whilst standing up to the bolder flavours on the table.
Red Wine: Splash out on a red Burgundy to complement the cranberry accents of the feast, with just the right amount of acidity to pleasingly cut through the fattier meat and potatoes.
Spirits Alternative: A fruity twist on a classic Collins would be great here to pick up on the cranberry elements in the dish and add something slightly sweet to match. Pour 2 parts cranberry juice, 3 parts golden rum, 6 parts soda water and a generous dash of angostura bitters over ice. Sweeten to taste with brown sugar and stir until thoroughly mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass and enjoy!
Dessert: Christmas Pudding
Fortified Wine: A Pedro Ximénez Sherry is a good match, as it has fruit flavours and treacle-like characteristics that compliment this traditional pud.
Spirits Alternative: An aged rum such as El Dorado 15 years is an excellent, rounded spirit with enough body and a dash of sweetness to complement Christmas pudding beautifully.
After: Cheese Board With Crackers
White Wine: Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice if goats cheese is your favourite.
Fortified Wine: A vintage Port is perfect foil for a stinky stilton.
Red Wine: For strong hard cheeses a tannic red like a big Argentine Malbec is great. The flavour intensity will pair while the salt in the cheese softens the feel of the wine.
Spirits Alternative: To France! Push the boat out with an indulgent Cognac such as the Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges, or discover the amazing value available in Armagnac (Samalens being one of my personal favourites).