Choosing wines for a Christmas meal neednít be a worry. The main thing to remember is that at Christmas the occasion and your family and friends are what matters; itís not about the wine.
If youíre unsure about what to serve or youíre not a big wine drinker yourself but you want to serve wines for your guests then here are some suggestions.
Aperitif wines. You cannot go wrong with fizz. Champagne is the quintessential celebratory wine, but has the drawback of being expensive and many people find it too dry. On cost grounds there are many alternative sparkling wines that are good substitutes, but they donít have the cachet of that famous name. A good alternative is Prosecco from Italy. Itís less expensive and less sharp. The best Prosecco comes from an area with a tongue-twisting name - Conegliano Valdobbiadene. That will please even the stuffiest connoisseurs.
Dinner Wines. Forget the old white wine with white meat Ďruleí if youíre having turkey or chicken. These meats also provide an ideal foil to red wines such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Zweigelt, or mature Cabernet or Zinfandel. For white wines remember youíll want one with a little oomph to counter the stuffings, gravy and sauces that accompany the meat Ė oaked Chardonnay, white Rioja or Australian Semillon should please.
If white fish is taking pride of place then a lighter white wine try Albarino, Petite Manseng or Gruner Veltliner. For salmon a Pinot Noir, lightly chilled will be perfect.
Goose can take a bigger wine, such as Malbec or Shiraz.
But if the above suggestions donít appeal, then choose what you like to drink. That way you know that even if others donít appreciate it, there will be one very important person at the table who does Ė namely yourself.
After Dinner Wines: Port is warming and traditional and Ruby Port is pleasing and remarkably inexpensive. But perhaps go for something a little mainstream. Madeira was once the height of vinous fashion but now is available for a song and has a great advantage of lasting in good drinking condition after being opened for almost ever. So if you have some left over it wonít spoil.
But both these wines are fortified, in other words they are up to twice as alcoholic as normal wines. So a naturally sweet wine might be more appropriate. Quady Wineryís Electra is a sweet wine made from Orange Muscat that has just 4% alcohol by volume. I also like Brown Brothersí Orange Muscat and Flora.
Whatever you choose, enjoy your celebration.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africaís Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.