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Traditional VS alternative food and drinks pairings for Christmas

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For some Christmas just isn’t right without perfectly paired wine, but with a wide range of new spirits on the market, there is the opportunity to open the flavours of Christmas lunch to a whole new taste experience.

Here, two WSET educators share their top tips for Christmas food pairings, whether you’re a traditionalist, or after an alternative twist for your tipple.

Lydia Harrison MW, a WSET Wine Educator offers the more traditional wine and food pairing options, while Will Lowe, a WSET Spirits Educator and winner of the Future 50 Awards, suggests a more unconventional spirits option...

Smoked salmon starter with Champagne or Pinot Noir

Lydia (traditional):

White: Start with a pop and go with something dry, white and fizzy. Traditional Champagne or an equally light and bubbly English sparkling wine will cut through the oil of the fish.
Red: If you insist on something darker, head to New Zealand and try a light Pinot Noir – delicate enough to match and not mask the fish’s flavour.

Will (alternative):

Gin and Tonic! These two are a match made in heaven – you can even cure the salmon in your gin of choice, and bring in savoury herbs to the G&T to complete the picture.

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

Lydia (traditional):

White: An oaky Chardonnay, from somewhere like California, will bring out the creaminess of the bird, whilst standing up to the bolder flavours on the table.
Red: Splash out on a red Burgundy to complement the cranberry accents of the feast, with just the right amount of acidity to pleasingly cut through the fattier meat and potatoes.

Will (alternative):

A fruity twist on a classic Collins would be great here to pick up on the cranberry elements in the dish and add something slightly sweet to match. Pour 2 parts cranberry juice, 3 parts golden rum, 6 parts soda water and a generous dash of angostura bitters over ice. Sweeten to taste with brown sugar and stir until thoroughly mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass and enjoy!

Christmas pudding with Sherry or rum

Lydia (traditional):

Fortified: A Pedro Ximénez Sherry is a good match, as it has fruit flavours and treacle-like characteristics that compliment this traditional pud.

Will (alternative):

An aged rum is an excellent, rounded spirit with enough body and a dash of sweetness to complement Christmas pudding beautifully.

Cheeseboard with crackers and Sauvignon Blanc or Cognac

Lydia (traditional):

White: Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice if goats cheese is your favourite.
Fortified: A vintage Port is a perfect foil for a stinky stilton.
Red: For strong hard cheeses a tannic red like a big Argentine Malbec is great. The flavour intensity will pair while the salt in the cheese softens the feel of the wine.

Will (alternative):

To France! Push the boat out with an indulgent Cognac, or discover the amazing value available in Armagnac.



Why not give the gift of knowledge? For a gift that lasts a lifetime, signing up your friend or loved one for a wine course is a great way to show you care, and could even be a wonderful experience for you to share!
Available online, or in-person, click here to find the right course provider for you.

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First published: 01/12/2016