APART from the presents, the most important part of Christmas Day (at least for the majority of us) is the food.
Once you have chosen the meat, veg, sauces and all the trimmings, attention turns to the wine.
Don’t stress too much about this – it's a fact that most wine will go with most food for most people.
However, with a little bit of thought you can fine-tune those pairings.
To help us get it spot on this Christmas, Essex Wine School's Neil Bull has spoken to Fabulous and chosen some delicious, budget-friendly wines that you can pair with your special meal. He gives us the lowdown…
To start the celebration, we do love a glass of fizz.
We get through around 190million bottles of sparkling wine a year in the UK (most of which is Prosecco). However, for the special day, try a Cremant.
This style of wine is made throughout France and in the same way as Champagne but is invariably much cheaper.
Look out for Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut from Sainsburys, which is on offer for £10 until New Year's Day.
This blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay has lots of soft red fruit as well as citrus aromas and flavours – plus it is crisp and refreshing, making it perfect as an aperitif which will also go well with a seafood starter or smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis.
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Christmas dinner for most people will include turkey, traditionally served with roasted vegetables, pigs in blanket, gallons of rich gravy and cranberry sauce.
That means a lot of different flavours to consider but it is much easier to try to pair the wine with the turkey.
The problem with turkey is that it tends to have quite a dry texture once cooked (hence the gravy!) so it is a good idea to choose a wine that will counter that dryness.
The meat may be the star of the show but the flavour is quite mild so you need to make sure you don’t overpower it with the wine.
It can be tricky but, if you prefer white wine, then Paul Mas Picpoul de Pinet – £7.50 from the Co-op will make a good pairing.
It is made with picpoul, a traditional grape variety from the south of France and, as well a green apple crispness, the extra warmth from this region gives it lovely flavours of white peaches and nectarines.
It will not overpower or be overpowered by the turkey.
Rose is not just for summer! These wines are made in a number of different styles.
The lighter wines such as those from Provence go really well with fresher foods such as salads, grilled white fish or charcuterie, while the fuller-bodied rosé wines can stand up to the richness of Christmas lunch.
My choice would be Rustenberg Petit Verdot Rose 2019 Stellenbosch from Majestic for £5.49.
As the name suggests it is made from the petit verdot grape and has aromas and flavours of red fruits such as red cherries and cranberries making it a perfect match.
Plus, at £5.49 it's AMAZING value!
Both the white and the rose would be ideal to serve alongside a vegan nut roast. This dish can be quite rich with lots of flavour.
The crispness of the wines, along with their lovely fruity notes, will balance out that richness.
If red is your choice then I would go with one of my favourite wines Finest Peumo Carmenere, Cachapoal Valley, Chile 2019 £8 Tesco
Carmenere was originally a French grape variety and cuttings were taken to Chile in the 19th century where it was thought to be merlot – DNA testing in the 1990’s proved it to be carmenere.
So if you like merlot then give this a try.
It has such a beautiful, deep ruby colour with blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry flavours along with a real chocolatey character.
It's absolutely delicious and will go really well with your Christmas lunch.
Alcohol-free wines have really improved over the last few years.
The problem has been that once one of the components of a wine is removed, in this case the alcohol, the whole balance of the wine is upset.
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Better understanding and better processes have gradually helped overcome this issue.
For your celebration meal, try La Gioiosa Sparkling Alcohol Free, from Morrisons for £5.
It is made by well-respected producer of Prosecco and from the same grape variety, glera, as Prosecco so has those lovely ripe pear, stone fruit and apple characters that are found in the alcoholic version.
Neil is the Chief Tutor at Essex Wine School, and is running a number of online tastings (wine, gin and whisky) which can be enjoyed in the safety and comfort of your own home. They also make a fabulous gift for the wine lover in your life. For more details, click here.
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