Christmas is full of sweet treats. Who doesn’t relish munching on warmed mince pies, taking a big bite out of a slice of fruity Christmas cake or savouring a spoonful of spiced Christmas pudding?
However, these delicious joys of the festive season pose a serious problem – what should you drink to accompany these sweet delights?
So often, these cakes and puddings are served accompanied by nothing more than a cup of coffee. Perhaps if you’re very lucky you may be offered a liqueur. Enjoyable as these combinations are, however, could the experience be made even better by matching the festive desserts with a glass of white wine?
We are accustomed to enjoying many desserts accompanied by a glass of (usually sweet) white wine. The combination usually works well, bringing out the sweet flavours of both the dessert and the wine. Perhaps we should experiment this Christmas and offer guests a glass of white wine with their mince pie or Christmas cake or make a dessert wine available to drink with Christmas pudding. Imagine how much festive goodwill you will inspire with this act!
So now that you’ve decided to follow the white wine route to accompany your Christmas cakes and desserts the next problem is which wines to select. You could, of course, experiment yourself and try out a host of different white wines whilst enjoying your mince pie for elevenses in the run up to the festive period. However, a safer and less alcoholic bet is to stick to the classic sweet and dessert white wines such as Asti, Muscat and botrytized white wines.
Perhaps the easiest sweet white wine match is with Christmas pudding. For many of us eating even a small portion of Christmas pudding can be a feat of determination following the traditional turkey and trimmings feast. All too often we’re left sipping the remains of the bottle of wine selected to accompany the turkey whilst we eat our way gamely through the stodgy pudding.
However, try serving a glass of chilled sparkling Asti with the Christmas pudding and the transformation is almost miraculous. Asti is fresh and palate-cleansing and, by this stage of the meal, mercifully low in alcohol and is the perfect accompaniment to a rich, heavy traditional Christmas pudding. It is sweet enough to match the sweetness of the fruit in the pudding whilst the stodginess of the dessert is lifted by the Asti’s acidity and sparkle.
If you would prefer a still, more traditional dessert white wine with your Christmas pudding try an Australian Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat or a Moscatel de Valencia from Spain. The sweet orange, almond and floral characteristics of the Muscat grape act as a great complement to most sweet and sticky desserts.
So that’s Christmas pudding sorted out. What about all the cakes so popular during the festive period?
Mince pies are usually served with coffee or mulled wine but a sweet white wine can work very well with these sweet and spicy little cakes. The difficulty with mince pies is that not only is the mince meat filling extremely sweet, it can also be quite acidic. The best match is with a botrytized Semillon from Australia or alternatively try an aged Setubal from Portugal. Rich cream sherries also work well. If the mince meat isn’t too sweet then a light sparkling Asti can make a pleasant accompaniment.
A slice of rich Christmas cake before bedtime can be a perfect excuse to get the bottle of dessert white wine from the fridge. For a lighter style of sweet white wine try a Sauternes or another botrytized Semillon or Semillon blend. For a more substantial “sticky” full of the flavours of Christmas cake try an Australian Liqueur Muscat, especially from the Rutherglen region of Victoria, or a sweetened Oloroso or Amontillado sherry. Another option if you don’t want to go too sweet is a medium sweet Bual Madeira.
Dessert and fortified white wines are a great match for many other Christmas bakery products such as stollen, panattone and shortbread. The rich, buttery tastes of stollen and shortbread go well with the creamy honey, fruit and vanilla notes of Sauternes, or you could try an Amontillado sherry. A light, sparkling Asti would pair well with the light texture and flavour of panettone although if you add a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream to the fruit bread it could take a much sweeter and stickier white wine.
The key to pairing Christmas desserts and cakes with white wine is to make sure you match the sweetness and fruitiness of the dessert with the wine. Have fun trying out the various combinations before Christmas Day so that when the festive period arrives and your house fills with guests you’ve worked out the perfect pairings with which to impress them.
Image by Me!bourne Mermaid.