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The drinks to pair with your favourite festive foods this Christmas


Christmas - as you might have twigged by now - is a time of over-indulgence. First of all, there's biggest meal most people will eat all year, consisting of dishes that we only cook once a year, and not to mention the endless puddings and nibbles. And that's before we open up a bottle of fizz, wine or any of the other drinks - port, sherry, maderia, endless wine - we use to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

It all goes to say that it's a time that requires special attention to your food and drink. While the idea of pairing food and wine might seem too specialist for the rest of the year, Christmas is one of those times you need to get it right (particularly if you have guests to impress). The richness of many Christmas dishes, from a special morning brunch to mince pies and brandy butter, mean that whatever alcohol you pair with it will have an impact.

Pairing food and alcohol is about identifying the key tastes that define each dish or drink, and finding its perfect match. For example, it's identifying that full-bodied red wines, for instance, can drown the flavour of the turkey you've spent all day cooking, but a subtle low-tannin red will keep everybody merry. But it doesn't stop at just wine - it's possible to match the right ports to your dessert and the right fizz to your breakfast - and later on, the right cocktails to your New Year's Eve canapes.

We've researched the best pairings for Christmas dishes with the help of wine experts and present your Christmas day drinking guide - cheers!


Breakfast spread

All that's missing? Champagne

A Christmas brunch is an indulgent beginning to a day full of cooking and hosting. And, if like a lot of us, you want to start a day of celebrating right, what better than a glass of fizz? But do you want prosecco, champagne, cava or even English sparkling wine?

Pair Prosecco or Cava with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. "The bubbles deal with the one of the perceived problems with matching eggs and wine - the way the runny yolk coats the palate and can make still dry whites taste thin and sharp." - Fiona Beckett, wine expert for The Guardian

Pair champagne with bacon and sausages. "Champagne is a great pair with anything that's salty and oily. The high crisp acidity makes a great balance with the richness of bacon and sausages. Plus, nothing wakes us up better than tiny little bubbles dancing in your mouth" – Sandina Chang, Bubbledogs

The main event

Christmas dins

Turkey, turkey. In between gulps of delicious festive fodder, a nice glass of wine goes down a treat. With all the rich side dishes from bread sauce to roast potatoes, picking whether to have red or white can be a nightmare, so it can be safest to have a few bottles on offer so people can choose. But of course if you eschew the turkey on Christmas day, the roundabout begins again...

Pair turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce with Cabernet Sauvignon. "For a red option to pair with rich Christmas dishes try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia- it will always be a crowd pleaser. Rich ripe fruit and a hint of spice makes for a perfect pairing with game dishes or anything with earthy undertones." - Emma O'Bryen, Alliance Wine

But match turkey and bread sauce with full-bodied Chardonnay. "If you prefer your turkey with traditional English accompaniments (bread sauce and chipolata sausages) then a full-bodied Chardonnay is a good choice for white wine lovers. Their roundness and weight will match the smooth sauce and the bird’s weight." - Wine merchants Berry Bros and Rudd

Roast beef works with a full-bodied red, like a Malbec, Shiraz or Zinfadel. "Roast beef oozes with juices and has a wonderfully rich flavour so team it with a big red such as a New World wine filled with the flavours of rich, spicy black fruits" - Graham Nash, wine buyer for Tesco

A Christmas ham is best paired with a Riesling. "The wine’s acidity will cut through the flavor of a honey glaze to cleanse your palate, and the wine’s rich flavors of apple and peaches and orange rind will work wonderfully with the flavor of the ham and spices such as cloves." - Wine columnist Victor Panichkul

Or if you've splashed out on duck or goose, try a Pinot Gris. "As Christmas fowl goes, goose is quite a rich meat and as with Turkey, I would lean towards white before I picked a red. A wine with body but enough zest to cut through the fattiness of the goose is required, and New Zealand Pinot Gris is a bold – if esoteric – choice." - Ruari Cathmoir, Majestic wines

Cheese course


As the French know, cheese and wine are a match made in heaven. There are so many amazing pairings that it's difficult to narrow it down, but we've tried a few classics...

Pair blue cheese with sweet white wine like Riesling or Sauternes. "Their inherent sweetness balances the '[saltiness' that is present in blue cheeses." - cheesemongers The Cheese Course 

Pair soft cheeses like brie or camenbert with Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. "Rich, creamy cheeses blend seamlessly with buttery, oaky white wines, creating a truly harmonious palate sensation" - Meg Houston Maker, wine writer

Or, try aged champagne with aged cheese. "A high quality vintage champagne like the Charles Heidsieck 2005 is bursting with warm autumnal notes of praline and lightly toasted hazelnuts making it ideal to serve it with aged comté cheese, parmiggiano reggiano" - Tori Eeles, Liberty Wines


Christmas pudding

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or perhaps in what you serve it with. Both Christmas pudding and Christmas cake are traditionally cooked in a lot of alcohol, so this is the time to get out that once-a-year dessert wine or port you've been saving to match, and serve it up.

Pair Christmas pudding and brandy butter with tawny port. "If you can't resist the brandy butter try a 10 or 20 year old tawny port which is slightly less sweet than a ruby port like a Late Bottled Vintage and I think the nutty, treacley flavours work better than brambley ones. Serve it as they do in Portugal, lightly chilled." - Fiona Beckett

Mince pies and Christmas cake work perfectly with Rutherglen Muscat. "This is a melt-in-the-mouth Australian dessert wine, made with Muscat grapes. It’s a winning combination with mincemeat and dried fruit puddings because it tastes of dried fruits itself, but it also has luscious flavours of caramel, toffee and honey. It’s a gorgeous way to end a meal." - Stylist's wine expert Jane Parkinson

Or if you've got a Yule log, a Ruby port will match the sweetness of the chocolate.  "We have a fantastic Chocolate Ruby wine which would be great paired with a Yule log. It’s an opulent ruby red dessert wine with luscious berry notes layered with chocolate flavouring – perfect for all the chocoholics out there!" - Emma Dawson, M&S wine buyer

New Year's Eve


Whether you're going to a New Year's Eve party, or hosting one, it's fairly inevitable you'll come face to face with tiny versions of your favourite dishes in the form of canapés. As you may have gathered, canapes get the entire taste of a dish across in one bite, so they are best paired with spirits, cocktails, and - you guessed it - more champagne.

For cheesy canapés, try Sauvignon Blanc. "Not only is Sauvignon Blanc a grape that makes crowd-pleaser dry whites, but it’s actually really versatile with food. It can work with fish, white meat, salty food, tomatoes and is the perfect match with common canapé ingredients like goat’s cheese and feta. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are the subtle versions of Sauv Blanc, South African ones are a little richer and New Zealand or Chile are the most full-on." - Jane Parkinson

For fish canapés or sushi, gin and tonic is a perfect match. "A good cold gin and tonic is exceptionally refreshing with fried dim sum such as prawn toasts and spring rolls although you could equally well serve a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine" - Fiona Beckett

Bitter cocktails like a Negroni or an Old Fashioned make an ideal accompaniment to meat-based canapés. "A bitter Negroni is great for cutting through the tasty fat of cured meats and cheese. Both the drink and food are enhanced through the pairing." - Emma Dawson

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Rex Features



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