Choosing the best wine for Christmas dinner can be tricky. After all, it’s the most important meal of the year. There are lots of different flavours to think of when picking your drinks: traditional treats like pigs in blankets, luxurious sides like dauphinoise potatoes and a roast bird big enough to feed the 500. Weeks of hard work go into planning the perfect menu, so why not put as much thought into what’s in your glass as what’s on your plate?
If you don’t know much about wine pairing beyond “red for meat” and “white for fish”, fear not. Our guide to Christmas wine pairing will help you have the best Italian wine on hand to complement all that cooking.
Start with a sparkly and special aperitif
Before sitting down at the table, it’s traditional to greet your guests (or treat yourself) to a little welcome tipple. And, because it’s Christmas, what better excuse to break out the bubbly?
For something light, we recommend Francone Antichi Poderi dei Gallina. It has a super low ABV (just 5%), so it won’t leave you feeling light-headed before eating. It’s highly aromatic and sweet, with notes of guava, pear, candy and just a hint of white blossom. The perfect alternative to a glass of Buck’s Fizz!
If you’re looking for something a little more gutsy, break out the Francone Valsellera Sparkling Rosé Brut. It’s made from pure Nebbiolo – the powerful red grape usually used to make the famous Piedmont reds, Barolo and Barbaresco. As a rosé fizz it’s dry and fresh, with notes of raspberry and wild strawberry underpinned by vanilla and toasted bread.
Light red and white wines for your Christmas starter
It’s best to begin your meal with lighter wines, slowly bringing out the big-hitters as you move through the meal. For meat dishes, kick off Christmas dinner with an elegant red wine such as Peter Zemmer’s Pinot Noir Rolhüt. Hailing from the Alpine vineyards of Alto Adige, this cool climate wine is fresh and bright with flavours of dried cranberry, raspberry and blueberry muffin.
Another excellent option is Rubinelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC, made at a boutique winery in Veneto. It’s aged in large French oak barrels which add subtle undertones of chocolate to the dominant flavours of rose, strawberry and fig.
Fish or veggie-based starters need white wines that won’t overpower the subtle flavours of the dish. If you’re serving the Pinot Noir with the meat starters, create a sense of harmony at the table by bringing out Peter Zemmer’s Riesling. This fresh and floral wine is packed with flavours of melon, yellow apple, bread dough and elderflower.
For something with a more delicate flavour profile, try Roero Arneis. This white grape isn’t well-known in the UK, but we think it should be. This organic white wine features classic notes of peach, white flowers and grapefruit. As half of the wine was aged in large oak barrels, it’s underpinned by flavours of bread, vanilla and honey.
The best red wines (and white wines) for your Christmas dinner main course
For the main event, it’s best to choose Italian wines that can stand up to the wide array of roasted meats and side dishes spread across your table.
If you’re serving turkey, team it with Massimago Amarone Conte Gastone. This organic, low-sulphite wine has a wonderfully complex flavour profile with notes of kirsch, tobacco, dried figs and cedar wood. Basically, it’s Christmas in a bottle. Another award-winning Italian red wine that goes with turkey is an amphora-aged Squarcialupi Chianti Classico. This wine is aged in terracotta amphorae rather than stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. As a result, it has the distinctive rich and crisp aromas of Sangiovese: fresh raspberry, strawberry and red cherry. Since this Chianti Classico doesn’t have any oak influence, it will be the perfect pairing for turkey.
Those taking the pescatarian route and serving baked salmon should reach for a premium Italian white wine, such as Siddùra Bèru Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. This barrel-fermented wine tastes like tropical and stone fruits, with vanilla undertones and an alluring smoky finish. Another fantastic wine for fish is Peter Zemmer’s Pinot Grigio Riserva Giatl. This wine is a far cry from the Pinot Grigio you’d usually find in the supermarket. A 2020 Decanter Gold Medal award-winner, this barrel-fermented Alpine wine is an aromatic delight filled with flavours of passionfruit, guava and elderflower.
Bold red wines for your Christmas cheese board
Now comes the cheese board – and the Super Tuscan wines. These bold blends of Sangiovese and international grapes are tough enough to stand up to the stinkiest of cheeses.
Gagliole’s Organic Super Tuscan 2016 comes from the heart of the Chianti Classico region, and is crafted from a blend of hand-picked Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Aged in oak for 18 months, it’s packed with flavours of coconut, vanilla and chocolate along with classic flavours of black plum, redcurrant and herbs.
Another fantastic option is Siddùra Fòla Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. This powerful red is made from 100% Cannonau, the iconic black grape of Sardinia. It has a strong taste, with pronounced aromas of ripe black plum, cherry and Sardinian dried aromatic herbs.
Sweet wines to drink with your Christmas pudding
Sugar tends to bring out the acidity and drown out the fruity flavours in most dry wines. A good rule of thumb is to serve something just as sweet as your dessert.
What better way to round off dinner than with Decanter’s Wine of the Year – Siddùra Nùali Passito? This unctuous wine is made in the Italian passito method, meaning the grapes are dried on the vine to concentrate the flavours. The result is a sweet wine with powerful aromas of mango, acacia honey, pineapple and caramel. As the grapes are picked early, there’s plenty of zingy acid to cut through the stickiest of puddings.
Or why not savour a Tuscan classic – Vin Santo del Chianti Classico? This wine from La Castellina is medium sweet, but ultra aromatic, and is bursting with fragrances of caramelized lemon zest, apricots, almonds and ginger.
Save the best red wine for last: after dinner drinks
Whether you’re planning to chat by the fire, watch some festive telly or break out the charades, we recommend doing it with a glass of something really special. For many Italians, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Barolo.
One of the best is Francone Barolo 2016, which took home a Decanter Silver medal at this year’s World Wine Awards. The grapes are grown in two of the region’s most prized cru areas, La Morra and Monforte. Expect flavours of sweet cinnamon, cloves, chocolate as well as dark fruits like blackberry and cherry.
Another fantastic Christmas wine to try is the ForteMasso Castelletto. A 2015 Barolo, it comes from one of this decade’s best vintages. This delicious wine tastes like black cherry, raisins, dried herbs and spices with notes of spicy clove, black pepper and savoury leather.
We hope you enjoy your Christmas wines
Whether you’re able to celebrate with family this year or are planning a peaceful meal at home, our Christmas wine pairing suggestions will make your day even more special.