Having the best wine with Christmas dinner is a classic way to elevate your festive feast and increase the holiday merriment. In our Ask the Sommelier series, we put your wine-related questions to the world’s top sommeliers. In this instalment, sommelier, IWSC judge and DeFINE wine manager Andreas Rosendal gives advice on what to pour throughout the day at Christmas and which wines are best to serve for the main event: Christmas dinner.
‘Like a lot of people, I spent last Christmas away from my family; this year, we’re planning to make up for lost time with a big celebration. I’m in charge of selecting the wine. Which wines would you recommend to serve for each course of a traditional Christmas dinner and to ensure this year’s drinking is extra special?’
Frank from Oxford, UK
SOMMELIER ANDREAS ROSENDAL RESPONDS:
‘Many people will start their Christmas drinking alongside canapés. I’m from Sweden and my wife is Italian, so we’re going to have a mix of Swedish, Italian and English food this Christmas. We’re going to start off with an aperitivo as you would do in Italy – served with salami, cheese, bruschetta and focaccia. I always find that top-class, off-dry German Rieslings are surprisingly versatile and go very well with cheese, salami and many other canapés. Plus, these wines tend to be only 8.5-9% abv, so you won’t have to worry about making it through to Christmas dinner. Mosel in Germany is my go-to Riesling region. The Christmas wine we’re going to be opening is a 2018 Riesling Kabinett from a small vineyard called Wehlener Sonnenuhr and a producer called Joh Jos Prum.
‘Then we’re going to have something typical for Swedish Christmas dinner: gravlax salmon. With salmon, you need a wine that’s sharp and crisp to cut through the oiliness and cleanse the palate, so any kind of high-acidity wine like Champagne or English sparkling wine is perfect – it’s refreshing and allows you to taste more of the dish’s flavours. I am very fortunate to have a bottle of Jacques Selosse in my fridge. But if I didn’t have that, one of my favourite English sparkling wines is the Gusbourne Blanc De Blancs. For me it’s one of the best English sparkling wines out there, the price is reasonable and it would work equally well with smoked salmon making it a superb wine to have with Christmas dinner.
‘On to the main event: Christmas roast turkey calls for a classic Burgundy. When pairing wine, white meat needs something a bit lighter, less tannic and more delicate. In general, red Burgundy wines go really well with Christmas dinner turkey – it’s a wine that’s not too structured or tannic. I’ll be drinking Les Parcellaires de Saulx 2019 Volnay. 2019 was quite a warm year for Burgundy, so you get nice fruit concentration in this wine. It’s perfumed with a lovely red-fruit flavour; it’s also quite delicate and not too structured, so it shouldn’t overpower the subtleties of the meat.
Christmas roast turkey calls for a classic red Burgundy
‘If we were having beef Wellington for Christmas dinner instead, I would go for a 2016 Valpolicella Ripasso from Ca dei Maghi. Ripasso is the perfect combination of the rich flavours of an Amarone with the drinkability of a Valpolicella. It’s one of those wines you love to drink when its dark and cold outside.
‘If you’re having a vegetable Wellington or a similar vegetarian or vegan dish, you’re going to have much more sweetness from the vegetables, so I would go with a New World Pinot Noir – for example, Pinot Noir from Central Otago – as these tend to have a bit more weight and concentrated fruit flavours that mirror the sweetness nicely.
‘For dessert, we’re going to go for Christmas pudding and mince pies, but I have to be honest: I don’t really know how it tastes. I’ve been in the UK for 12 years now but this is actually going to be my first Christmas at home celebrating with family. I’ve always been working in hospitality on Christmas Day. I had to ask someone what they normally drink with Christmas pudding, and they said that Madeira works really well. The 2001 Henriques & Henriques Sercial Single Harvest Madeira is one of the best I’ve ever tasted and it’s not crazily expensive. It’s sweet, but it has also got an acidity that should work very nicely with dried fruits.’
Interview by Ellie Broughton