The Best Fine Wines To Pair With Your Christmas Dinner This Festive Season
When it comes to Christmas Day, celebrate with something a little extra
Whatever form this season’s entertaining may take, Christmas is the perfect occasion to enjoy some really special bottles.
Here’s a selection of outstanding wines to accompany your Yuletide feasting, and some suggestions for the kind of festive foods for which they make perfect partners.
We’ve all had to be more imaginative in recent times when sharing experiences with loved ones whom we’ve not been able to see in person. Arranging to join friends and family online to drink the same celebratory wine is a great way to enhance feelings of togetherness at a distance.
All of the wines featured here can be purchased online for delivery throughout the country. A number are also available overseas; just contact the winery for details of international distribution.
1. Huia Traditional Method Marlborough Blanc de Blancs 2017, $45
A rich, stylish and dry local sparkling wine from meticulous organic Marlborough winery Huia. Aged on its yeast lees for 32 months, it’s a veritable vinous mille-feuille, layering notes of delicate white fruits, praline, and sweet pastry laced with fresh lemon.
Festive food match: A great sparkling wine like this made using the high-quality traditional method covers many bases on Christmas Day. Pop the cork to enjoy not only as an aperitif, but also as a marvellous match with smoked salmon and Christmas Day canapes.
2. Rippon Mature Vine Lake Wanaka Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018, $65
Made from biodynamically managed older vines overlooking Lake Wanaka, the current 2018 vintage is built on a firm foundation of fine structuring tannins and propelled by an exhilarating line of acidity that gathers notes of red cherry, earth, savoury herb and rock that build to a deep crescendo. Rippon also has a library release of the 2012 vintage of this wine available ($130), which has become softer and more perfumed with age.
Festive food match: When it comes to Christmas turkey and all the trimmings, red wines with fine tannins and bright fruit, such as pinot noir, are the best. Pinot noir is also an infallible pairing with duck, and sings with mushroom-based dishes.
3. Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2019, $39
One of New Zealand’s top sauvignons, the wildness of this wine is down to its fermentation by wild yeasts in-barrel, which combined make for a richer, more textural style. It’s a complex example with a taut acidity and flinty minerality, and nutty and savoury undertones in which notes of zesty grapefruit and succulent papaya are infused with nuances of lemon thyme.
Festive food match: Sauvignon is wonderful with less-weighty proteins such as shellfish, fish, chicken, tofu and lighter vegetarian dishes, especially when fresh herbs are in the mix. Classic matches are soft cheeses — especially goat’s — and asparagus, with richer, barrel-fermented versions like this able to handle hollandaise and creamy sauces. They’re also sublime with smoked salmon.
4. Mission Jewelstone “Antoine” Hawke’s Bay 2019, $50
This cabernet-dominant wine, with a dash of merlot, is the flagship Bordeaux blend from historic Hawke's Bay Mission Estate. Hailing from the warmer Gimblett Gravels subregion, the Jewelstone Antoine is full-bodied, with a concentrated but refined core of ripe and fresh dark fruit, with lifted notes of violet, black olive and liquorice. It has a lovely savoury dimension, and is underpinned by fine velvety tannins.
Festive food match: If roast meats, such as beef, lamb or venison are gracing your festive table, a serious cabernet-based blend, with its weight and structure, is a good option. This style also suits hard cheeses.
5. Pegasus Bay Waipara Valley Riesling 2009, $40
There’s something particularly special about celebrating with an older wine, although many of us lack the space (or patience) to cellar enough great bottles. Thankfully, some wineries are doing this for us, such as Pegasus Bay, which makes periodic releases of library wines, such as this glorious 12-year-old riesling. Positioned in a delicious phase that combines youthful freshness and rich maturity, it counterposes zesty grapefruit, mandarin and lush nectarines with honeyed and gently toasty characters. Its soft sweetness is beautifully balanced by mouthwatering crispness and a bright mineral note.
Stockists: Pegasusbay.com; Pegasus Bay Cellar Door
Festive food match: An off-dry riesling is an incredibly versatile wine to have on hand to accompany the varied fare of the Kiwi Christmas. With a crispness suited to tangy salad dressings, it also cuts through the richness of duck, pates, and all things porcine. A touch of sweetness also means it can handle the glaze of the Christmas ham and complement vegetables that have some sweetness, such as onions, squash and carrot. It’s also awesome with dishes containing Asian spices.
6. Te Mata “Bullnose” Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2019, $75
Te Mata’s flagship syrah is an excellent expression of this spicy variety from a top vintage. It’s attractively aromatic, with fresh plum and red cherry threaded with notes of five spice, black pepper, and earth, with a savoury twist of soy, and grounded in ripe powdery tannins.
Festive food match: A spicy, youthful syrah like this is great with top cuts of beef, such as steak, rib of beef and wagyu, and also pairs well with venison and other game meats and vegetarian roasts.
7. Neudorf Home Block Single Vineyard Moutere Nelson Chardonnay 2020, $85
Neudorf’s 39th vintage of its top chardonnay is a pure and poised example that juxtaposes intensity and finesse. A bright-line saline minerality and lemony acid courses through the palate, joined by currents of delicate white peach, apricot and citrus fruits, hints of blossom, a touch of creaminess, and a gently toasty, nutty undercurrent.
Festive food match: A chardonnay like this with a delicacy and understated richness from barrel fermentation means it can run the gamut from prawns, shellfish and fish — including sashimi and oysters — to white poultry, such as chicken and turkey breast, and creamy sauces.
8. Mas d’en Gil “Coma Vella” Priorat, Spain 2014, $76
Spain’s Priorat region in Catalonia is home to some of the boldest and most complex garnacha-based wines in the world, in this example partnered with a little carinena and syrah. At seven years old, it’s a treat of a mature wine, drinking perfectly for the big day. While retaining its rich core of dark berry fruit, it’s mellow, textured with lovely aged notes of cigar box, liquorice spice and prune, plus nuances of meat, earth and mineral.
Stockists: Stvincentscave.com; Hamilton Wine Company; Regional Wines and Spirits; Vetro Mediterranean Foods
Festive food match: A powerful red like Priorat is made for grilled and roast meats, especially lamb, beef and boar. It also goes well with slow-roast cuts of lamb, and braised dishes, such as rabbit.
9. Johanneshof Cellars Noble Late Harvest Marlborough Riesling 2018, $36
Luscious and unctuous, this delicious dessert wine pays homage to the fine trockenbeerenausleses of maker Edel Evering’s German homeland. Wonderfully intense, its sweetness and rich fruit flavours of baked peach, dried apricot and orange curd sprinkled with baking spice, are perfectly offset by its vivid lemony freshness.
Stockists: Fine wine outlets; Johanneshof.co.nz
Festive food match: The sweetness of a noble riesling, combined with its crispness and fresh fruit flavours, makes it a great companion to fruit-based desserts featuring the likes of apples, berries and tropical fruits. It’s also a go-to wine with pavlova.
10. Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $75
The lighter profile of tawny ports, which can even be lightly chilled, are more suited to our summer festive season than heavier styles. This is a delicious example, redolent of fruit cake with its notes of walnut, cinnamon, orange peel and raisin, with a balanced sweetness and nutty, spicy finish with a hint of tobacco.
Stockists: Selected wine retailers nationwide
Festive food match: This is the fortified to accompany all those festive desserts containing dried fruits: Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies. It’s also great with chocolate and cheeseboards.
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