The wine pairing guide to Christmas dinner

“Some people like to stick with a safe bet, the ‘usual suspects’ if you will, when buying a bottle of wine,” says Andrew Smith, a sommelier at Veraison in Toowoomba. “But we’re finding people are now becoming a little more educated and starting to look to the left of field.”


“It’s always advisable to start with a sparkling wine,” Smith says. “We use it as a tool to refresh the palate. The bubbles are advantageous as they lift a lot of the heaviness off your palate. If you’ve just brushed your teeth or finished a cup of coffee, the sparkling wine will be helpful to clear a lot of that. It will also hone your taste buds as you look for the next desirable mouthful of nibbles.”

“A lot of people still refer to that as champagne, but technically we can only call it champagne if it comes from that specific area in France. In Australia we’ve gone with the very creative ‘sparkling wine’ moniker!” he laughs. “Our marketing department needs a little bit of work with that name.”


If you’re going for a traditional baked dinner, it’s all about the reds. “A lot of people will look towards the heavier styled reds, particularly if the dish has a big strong sauce,” Smith says. “People will look to shiraz, cabernet, merlot or a blend. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, a pinot noir might be a nice way to go.”

But Smith says in the heat of a summer lunch a big bodied red wine can be a bit overwhelming. “That’s where a sparkling shiraz goes down really well. You can have that with turkey, particularly if you’ve got cranberries or cherries. It can fit quite nicely with a cheese platter as well.”

If seafood is on your menu Smith says it’s time to go white. “The naturally high acidity level in white wine complements seafood. A lot of people would naturally reach for a sauvignon blanc. It’s a safe bet, and still the number one variety consumed in Australia. Personally, I love rieslings. The typical flavour characteristics with a riesling is lemons, limes, and ‘zippy’ citrus. We squeeze lemon across a piece of fish, and those flavours help accentuate the seafood flavour, it’s the same thing with wine.”

“Chardonnay would be more suited to richer seafood dishes, particularly if you’re using pastas and slightly creamy seafood dishes.It’s richer and not as ‘zippy’ as the other varieties.”


Smith says a moscato would be perfect with fruit salads. And don’t worry, he says it’s not too daggy to drink moscato!

“If you’ve got a pavlova covered in summer fruits you’ll want a good dessert wine. The sweetness is really intensified in the wine; ‘syrupy’ is a good way to describe it. The style of these wines varies quite dramatically. So you’re best to talk with your wine salesman who is familiar with the stock they carry. The wines often have a stone fruit character.”

If Christmas pudding is on your menu, Smith smiles – “this is where we start to head towards port and muscat. My personal favourite for Christmas pudding is tokay. The key flavour profile, and all reviewers say the same thing, is that a tokay is like ‘a Christmas cake in a glass’.”

One bottle to rule them all?

“It’s hard to throw a blanket wine across all dishes,” Smith says. “But if you were buying just one wine, I’d look for a lighter style red wine. A pinot noir or even a rose would cover a number of bases.”

“If you are doing a multiple course lunch, a simple order would be a sparkling wine, a white wine for entree – at the moment New Zealand sauvignon blanc is very popular because they are consistent wines – a red for the main, and then something sweet for dessert.

“We’re seeing a lot of people leaning towards Margaret River in Western Australia. It’s becoming a bit of a superstar of different varietals. They have bucked the trend over there and had stellar vintages over the last few years, whereas on the eastern side of the country the vintages have been up and down.”

One last drop

“Remember to stay hydrated,” Smith says. “It’s the middle of summer, and people are going hell-for-leather with the big extravagant feasting.”

“A jug of water with a splash of lemon or lime is great. Have some pre-chilled drinks of the non-alcoholic variety on hand, and most people’s heads will thank them when they’re sitting watching the Boxing Day test the next day!”

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