Wine expert Henry Jeffreys explains the perfect pairings for Christmas Day, from celebration fizz through to wine to serve with turkey, pudding and cheese.
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Glass of fizz at breakfast
A glass of fizz at breakfast is such a good way to start Christmas Day. Those bubbles always put me in a festive mood so much so that I find myself involuntarily singing along to Christmas carols.
You might automatically reach for champagne but be warned, all those expensive flavours will be destroyed by one teaspoonful of marmalade. So if you're having a sweet start to the day, try demi sec, off dry, champagne or sparkling wine.
Don't overlook prosecco; its gentle sweetness and low alcohol make it the ideal breakfast wine. It mixes with orange juice much better than champagne and is also markedly lower in acidity so won't have you reaching for the Gaviscon. Or not yet anyway.
Henry’s product pick:
Pasqua Prosecco Romeo & Juliet (Buy from Majestic Wine – £11.99)
Wine to serve with a seafood starter
Now would be a good time to get out the brut champagne. Or if that’s too extravagant, a clean fresh chardonnay is a great all-rounder with fish and seafood. The acidity cuts through the fattiness of smoked salmon but is also great with shellfish.
The classic choice would be an unoaked white burgundy such as a chablis but something crisp from Australia, Chile or New Zealand would work equally well.
A little oak would not go amiss either especially with smoked salmon, though you don't want an all-stops-pulled-out buttery Californian chardonnay (unless you’re lucky enough to be eating lobster). Chardonnay is so versatile, it’ll go with the turkey as well.
Henry’s product pick:
Chablis Premier Cru Montmains (Buy from Frazier's Wine Merchants – £22.50)
Wine to serve with turkey
In my family, my father would always get out his best claret or something similar for Christmas lunch but I don't think it really works with turkey. Dry, structured wines suit red fatty meat better. And then there are all those sweet things like buttered carrots and cranberry sauce.
For me, the wine that can take on all the trimmings and emerge victorious is something based on grenache, a grape that produces a wine with lots of soft raspberry fruit. You could try a côtes du rhône or push the boat out with a châteauneuf-du-pape or a gigondas. From Spain, look for a fruity garnacha, or a GSM (grenache shiraz mourvedre) blend from Australia.
Grenache, however, does tend to carry quite a bit of alcohol, so for a lighter option, try a pinot noir from New Zealand or Germany (where they call it spätburgunder), or nice ripe beaujolais.
Henry’s product pick:
La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo 2015 (Buy from Majestic Wines – £9.99)
Dessert wine for Christmas Day
The rule of thumb with dessert wines is that the wine should be sweeter than the pudding. Christmas pudding is not only very sweet but it's full of dried fruit and brandy whose flavours will overpower a sauternes or something similar.
Luckily there are wines that could have been custom-designed to cope with Christmas pud. From Spain there's pedro ximenez sherry, a wine made with dried grapes, or if you find that a bit cloying, try a sweet oloroso. From Portugal, a sweeter sort of madeira works well like a bual or a malmsey.
But my favourite Christmas pudding wine is an Australian liqueur muscat. The best come from Rutherglen in Victoria, and they are aged for years in hot sheds, not unlike madeira. They have a rum-like molasses flavour but with a floral orange character that makes them very fresh and drinkable despite being about the sweetest wines known to mankind.
Henry's product pick:
De Bortoli 8 Year Old Liqueur Muscat (Buy from Aldi – £8.99)
Wine to serve with a cheeseboard
It’s not just for reasons of tradition that people drink port with stilton. They really are the perfect match: the sweetness of the port complements the saltiness of the cheese. One encourages you to have a bit more of the other. Just what you need when you have nothing planned beyond a good sleep after the Queen's Speech.
Port is also magnificent with hard cheeses like mature cheddar or comté. I like a 10-year-old tawny port. It doesn't need maturing or decanting, and with its mellow nutty sweetness, tends to be popular with people who find vintage port a bit much.
If you want to try something different however, you could either go for a rivesaltes from the south of France, a similar mixture of fruitiness, sweetness and nuts, or an Australian tawny made in the same way as port but from grenache and shiraz grapes (the latter also tends to be excellent value for money).
If you are serving a soft goat’s cheese or brie, make sure you have some chardonnay left over from the fish course. They do not get on with port.
Henry's product pick:
Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Buy from Waitrose – £19.99)
Wine to cook with on Christmas Day
For making gravy, I much prefer white wine to red. It acts like a squeeze of lemon, lifting all those dark roasty flavours. A splash is also nice on the vegetables.
Wine writers will tell you that you should never cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink, but at the same time, you don't need to use your best white burgundy. And don't worry if it's been sitting around for a few days, just don't use anything that's corked or faulty in some other way.
The best gravy I’ve ever made was with flat champagne. Don't use prosecco though, as any sweetness in the wine will be accentuated when you cook it. I’m wary of very oaky wine for the same reason.
Clean crisp wines like Australian riesling, albariño from Spain, or a chardonnay are ideal, but the actual variety doesn't matter so much. Once it has been cooked, it will have lost all nuance.
Finally it's also good to keep some fortified wine around; a tablespoon of port, sherry, or madeira at the last minute does wonders for gravy.
BBC Good Food Wine Club
Wine expert Henry Jeffreys works with the BBC Good Food team to collate our exclusive BBC Good Food Wine Club cases. Make big savings on wine that's perfect with food – our cases work out at only £4.60 a bottle.
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This guide was last updated in November 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.