Matching Your Christmas Starter to Your Wine

Christmas dinner is undoubtedly one of the most important meals of the year. While you may have decided what wine to serve alongside your classic turkey dinner, starters offer more variety and therefore more trouble. With so many options to choose from, it can be a bit daunting to find a wine to match. At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve compiled a list of perfect starter and wine combinations that’ll earn their place at the Christmas table.

Ideal Wine Company Christmas starters and wine
Here’s how to match your Christmas starter to your wine.

Smoked salmon and Riesling

A classic choice for a Christmas starter, this option pairs well with a light crisp white wine. Try pairing with a dry Riesling. Its vivid green apple flavour works especially well with the fish. The sweetness of a Riesling highlights the smoky taste. Acting as a palate cleanser between bites, the natural acidity of the wine counterbalances the fat content of the fish. A good tip to remember when buying a Riesling for smoked salmon is to avoid sweeter or medium dry varieties. The smoky flavour can overwhelm these options, while a dry Riesling softens and rounds these flavours perfectly.

Roasted pumpkin soup and Chardonnay

A hearty soup is a real crowd-pleasing favourite. Taking the flavours of the season, this creamy starter offers strong and rich flavours. With pumpkin soup, try offsetting this velvety starter with an oak-aged Chardonnay. A medium-bodied option should provide a bright acidity to contrast the soup. The layered light fruit and toast character of the wine provides a refreshing note. This stops the creaminess of the soup from becoming overwhelming, without overpowering it. A perfect pairing for a festive feast.

Grand Marnier paté and rosé

Featuring pork, duck and chicken liver and finished with an orange liqueur and orange slices, this paté packs a lot of flavour. With so much going on, it can be difficult to pair this wine with one specific wine. For this reason, we suggest going with an option that combines elements to fit the variety of flavours. We recommend trying this paté with a rosé wine. Look for a medium bodied variety that has the refreshing texture of a white wine, while also bringing a somewhat deep flavour that is more typically found in a red. This hybrid wine perfectly matches the rustic and hearty offering of paté.

Beef carpaccio and champagne

At Christmas, don’t be afraid to try something a bit different for your starter. A fresh tasting salad made from beef carpaccio is a perfect solution if you’re looking to make a change. With its slightly salty taste and leafy greens, this is a light option. For this reason, it’s best not to choose too strong a wine. Try a Champagne or similar sparkling wine, as these pair surprisingly well with raw beef. Its natural sweetness perfectly brings the entire dish together. What is Christmas without a glass of Champagne?

There are plenty of starters you can bring to your table this Christmas, with an endless variety of wines to pair them with. We recommend choosing lighter options for the first course, to bring a subtlety to a traditional rich meal.

The Perfect Wines to Pair with Your Seafood

Many wine lovers enjoy a glass of wine with their fish dish. The common pairing of white wine and fish is thought to bring balance and supply a palate cleanser between each delicate bite. While many of us think we should avoid red wines and stick to a light and acidic wine with fish. Ideal Wine Company is here to make pairing wine with your fish simple.

Ideal Wine Company seafood and wine
What are the perfect wines to pair with your seafood?

A guide to fish pairing

Fin fish can be categorised into four major groups, by texture and flavour. While there is a general rule that white wine pairs well with most fish, certain white wines work better for each category.

  1. A lean and flaky fish – usually defined by its mild flavour and thin white fillets. Seabass and haddock are key examples of this type of fish. To pair with this, a zesty and refreshing white wine is best to balance the delicate fish flavour. Try Chardonnay or Vermentino as a standard for this variety.
  2. A medium textured fish – firmer and thicker but still flaky, such as trout and red snapper. For this group, try a medium-bodied white with high aromatics. Good examples of this include a Semillon or a dry Riesling.
  3. Meaty fish – firm and with a steak-like texture. This category of fish includes salmon and swordfish and pairs best with a rich white with lots of flavour. Red and rose wines also provide a nice alternative. A white Pinot Noir or an oaked Chardonnay is a good starting point for meaty fishes.
  4. Strong flavoured fish – characterized by their salty taste, these fish are unmistakable. Including anchovies, sardines and mackerel, this strong fish pairs with strong, yet complimentary, wines. Try a Pinot Noir, to match the bold flavours, or Champagne, to bring a fresh note that will cleanse the palate.

Dishes to try

  • Salmon and Pinot Noir:

This meaty fish is adaptable, suiting white, red and rose varieties. Try a Pinot Noir, as the smoothness of the wine perfectly match the earthy flavours of the fish. We recommend that you look for a variety of Pinot Noir that has low tannins as this will compliment but not overpower the salmon.

  • Halibut and Gewürztraminer:

Halibut is mild flavoured with a firm but flaky texture, allowing it to be one of the most versatile and popular fishes available. This allows it to pair well with a wide range of ingredients and wines. Gewürztraminer is slightly sweet and aromatic, bringing fresh notes to the fish. As well as this, the wine acts as a palate cleanser to bring a lightness to any halibut based dishes.

  • Lobster and Chardonnay:

Undoubtedly, lobster is a luxury that must be the star of the dish. When you serve a fresh from the sea lobster, we advise pairing with a less bold wine, as it will be in a supporting role. There may be no better choice than a Chardonnay, as it is light and well-balanced. Look for light and crisp options, as these won’t muddle the flavour of the rich grilled lobster.

  • Scallops and Sancerre:

Scallops defining feature are their sweetness and buttery texture. With this in mind, try pairing them with a medium to full-bodied white, such as a Sancerre. Characteristically citrusy and acidic, the roundness of this wine pairs well with the simplicity of the scallops.