Choosing wine for Christmas

How to Choose the Perfect Wine for Your Christmas Dinner


Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners are special occasions where serving the right wine is important. With these special dates around the corner, let me give you some tips on how to choose the right wine. The first thing you need to think about is whether you want to choose the wine first and then match the food accordingly or vice versa.

Although different countries offer diverse traditional dishes for Christmas, most have a roast as part of the meal – from roast turkey in England or the US to roast lamb in Spain and Italy to roast beef in Germany and Poland – if you are serving any roast meats (or a type of blue fish like tuna or marlin), heavy powerful red wines tend to be the best match. New World Californian and Australian Cabernets and Syrahs are great options, as are Rioja and Bordeaux, if you prefer Old World wines

These wines are popular because they’re also complement Asian dishes like pho, spring rolls, bun bo Hue, and mildly spicy Thai food. They can also be paired with dishes that are usually associated with white wine like salads (specifically Vietnamese with beef or a Thai style with minced pork), or even smoked salmon.

If your party is not a traditional Christmas one, there are two key things you should consider before choosing the wine. Firstly, who are your guests, and secondly what is on the menu. For example, Western women tend to prefer white wines, at least to start the meal, while men, and most Vietnamese men and women, prefer red wine. So if you are going to have just one type of wine, red wine is likely to be more successful, however if the table is big enough, and especially if you have some wine lovers attending, open different wines, as people’s taste tend to differ.

If your meal is driven by the wine, Champagne and sparkling wine tends to be a great ice breaker when people arrive and while they wait for the food to arrive. If you are on a budget, look out for a nice Prosecco or Cava (the sparkling versions of Champagne from Italy and Spain). Freixenet is one of my favourites that’s available in Vietnam, very nice but cheaper as they are not so well-known.

If your meal has oysters or any kind of raw fish like salmon carpaccio or sashimi, a great match is a wine with high level of acidity like a Quincy (France) Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay.

Fish and seafood dishes can nicely be paired with white wines, but watch out for how you are cooking them: if you use cream or butter for the sauce, either Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay usually pair perfectly; dishes cooked in claypots or with heavy garlic content may go better with a Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), or if you are serving any smoked cuts, try a Viognier.

For poultry, again the sauce you serve it with could run the show, but a dry Riesling can go great with it, those from Alsace like Gustave Lorentz, pair fantastically.

What better way to finish a special meal than with something sweet and nice, try a vintage port or one of the many late harvest wines available in Vietnam which, although on the sweet side, will not over power the meal.

Experiment and try something different, you may be surprised. I recently was crazy enough to pair raw tuna with an Old World Rioja and it was the highlight of the night! 

Bio: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years, published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for bestwine education book. 

You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com

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