Christmas is a time for enjoying all the good things in life — great company, great food, and great wine. And the food and the wine are important. Lots of us stress over Christmas dinner and getting it perfect, but we might not give as much thought to the wines we serve on the table with that amazing dinner.
If you want to experience something a little different with your Christmas dinner, you could consider trying out some unusual wines from around the world. To help you choose the best — and most unusual — international wines for your Christmas dinner table, I’ve come up with a list of wines that pair perfectly with the foods you’ll be serving this Christmas.
There’s no better way to start off your Christmas dinner celebration than with a small glass of port wine. Perfect as an aperitif, I have to admit to opening the port while I’m still cooking and preparing dinner. Produced in the oldest port house in the world, Kopke began its story in Portugal in 1638. Nicolau Kopke traveled from his home in Hamburg, Germany, to Portugal, where he settled and set up his port-making business. All the years of experience at Kopke really show, and this 10-year-old tawny port even tastes “old” with notes of apricot, raisins, and caramel. It’s not too sweet, like some ports, so it works really well as a before-dinner tipple. And it makes preparing dinner a little more relaxing!
A little pricier than the tawny port, the colheita port 1999 is richer and darker, and all around a more developed port. It’s still perfect as an aperitif, as it tastes fruity and festive by itself. There’s a lingering taste of dried fruit, nuts, and cherry in this port. It’s almost like drinking in the taste of Christmas, and it makes the perfect way to start off your Christmas dinner celebration. When you’re pouring this one, only go for a small amount. It’s strong and rich, and if you’re not careful, it can overpower the taste of the food to come. Sip it before dinner, or while cooking like I do, and you’re getting your Christmas off to a great start.
At some point in the day, you’ll be popping a cork or two. Personally, I like to do this with the starters, as it’s a great time to raise a glass and toast the meal to come. There’s no better way of getting the meal off to a bang than with a good champagne. It really sets the scene for the dinner ahead. With a Charles Heidsiech champagne, you’re assured one of the best you can get, with a side of fascinating history.
Charles Heidsieck began producing his champagne in 1851 in France. His uncle had been producing champagne for 37 years prior, and this inspired Charles — but Charles had a much bigger vision for his champagne. He traveled internationally and he took his champagne all over the world. Charles Heidsieck was the original “Champagne Charlie” who made champagne popular across America. These wines continue to receive admiration, and awards, today. I’ve chosen the brut reserve because of its complicated pastry notes. It goes perfectly with a light starter of melon or seafood.
For an alternative to champagne, or as well as, if you have a large party for dinner, you could serve a sparkling rose. The Knightor Classic Cuvée Rosé is a crisp, light sparkling rose wine that’s just right for starting off your Christmas dinner. Citrus and raspberry flavors come through in this salmon-pink sparkling wine, and the aroma is fresh and clean. Produced in Cornwall, England, with low intervention, this is a vegan-friendly bottle of tiny bubbles that goes perfect with a seafood starter or with pate.
If you’re including a fish course in your Christmas dinner, the Clarandelle Bordeaux Blanc is a lovely golden-still white wine with a lingering taste of ripe fruit. Clarandelle wines are young wines — the winery only being born in 2005 — and they are also regal wines. If you catch a taste of royalty in them, that’s because these wines have been created by Prince Robert of Luxembourg. The high acidity levels in this still white wine give it a reaching aftertaste that dwells on the tastebuds long after you’ve taken a sip. It’s the perfect wine to pair with fish, but it’s also a lovely wine to start off your Christmas dinner. Once you’ve made a toast with the champagne, this wine follows with its deep and intense flavors of pineapple and lemon.
If you prefer a rose to a white wine, or you want to try both, this works well if you have a large party for Christmas dinner. The Clarandelle Bordeaux Rosé is also a perfect still wine to follow on from the champagne. This is a fresh and tangy wine with a strong sense of grapefruit about it. The scent is strong when you uncork it and it instantly tells you this is going to be a very flavorsome wine. The wine is a soft salmony pink color, a lovey addition to your Christmas dinner table.
For the main course, you can’t go wrong with a good malbec. Most of us will be having turkey, and while white wine does go great with turkey, a good deep red — like the Luigi Bosca Malbec Seleccion de Vistalba — brings out the flavor of your food even more. If you’re having beef or pork, this is even better.
The Luigi Bosca winery has been producing wine in Argentina for 120 years, so they have the experience to make some incredible wines. This one is especially good when it’s been left open for a couple of hours before drinking. If you’re planning ahead, and I mean way ahead, buy a bottle for next year and cellar it for 12 months. It tastes amazing when it’s had some time.
Slightly less in price than the malbec, this Luigi Bosca Testimonio Red Blend is a combination of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, and tannat grapes. It’s a dark-ruby red wine that has a long-lasting taste and is quite intense. It’s high in tannins, so be aware. If you don’t do well with high-tannin wine, this one might not suit you. Some might also find that the high tannins overpower the taste of the food a little, so sip slowly and let this one take its time. But if you like a rich woody wine that’s dry and packs a punch, this is a great wine for your Christmas dinner table. It goes perfectly with turkey and really complements the flavor of roast vegetables.
For something a little different, try one of these premium ciders as a dessert wine. If you’re thinking cider isn’t wine, you might have to re-evaluate your position after trying some of these ciders. This is like no cider you’ve ever tried before, and it’s actually more like a liquor than a traditional cider. It tastes slightly of liquorice and a little like a sweet applesauce. You don’t need a lot of this unusual drink to finish off your meal, just a small amount as a digestif. It goes perfectly with ice cream desserts, meringues, and fruit desserts, as the rich sweet texture of the cider expertly complements these cool desserts. Produced in Spain by Riestra, predominantly a winery, Guzman Riestra Sidra de Hielo is unusual. It’s hard to believe this is an actual cider!
Brannland ciders are premium ciders produced in Sweden, showing that apple wine made in the northern hemisphere is actually extremely good. The Claim cider is a pale golden color that’s quite light and fruity to taste. It goes great with bleu cheese if you’re serving a cheese board at the end of the meal, and also with traditional Christmas pudding and fruit cakes.
The Cider Is Wine campaign is setting out to prove that cider is a more sophisticated drink than we might have previously thought, and this cider certainly does that. If you think about it, cider is actually wine. It’s made with fruit, and in a similar way, so maybe we should be thinking of these luxury ciders as wine, and not cider.
Although cheap wines can be harsh and bitter, you can certainly tell by the taste that they are cheap. Once you get over a certain price point, though, you probably can’t tell too much of a difference — unless you’re an expert. Mid-range-priced wines are usually very good, sometimes they’re even better than expensive wines, and they are certainly not noticeably worse. Look out for deals on wines that were mid-priced, and are now reduced in price, and you’re getting a great bargain.
For more information on festive foods and drinks, check out these articles: