My rule is to serve what people like to drink. But it's good to consider wines that will enhance the food as well as please people. The challenge is that we tend to eat a huge variety of food on the day, whether it's a formal dinner or casual barbeque lunch at a bach. Here are suggestions just might work for you.
Freshly gathered shellfish or freshly caught fish, smoked or gilled, sea creatures often feature on the day as a starter. I would definitely serve a dry sparkling wine. It's Christmas after all. Under $10, you can't go pass Lindauer (Brut or Rosé). It's actually pretty good.
Try Twin Islands Brut NV ($25), Nautilus Cuvée Marlborough Brut NV ($39) or Quartz Reef Méthode Traditionnelle Brut NV ($30) if you'd like to try something stylish and refined. Then there are great value Champagnes under $50 – Lanvin Brut and Beaumet Brut (recommended last week) are two of the best.
If you don't fancy bubbly, go with sauvignon blanc, dry riesling or light-bodied chardonnay. Their crisp mouthfeel and vibrancy will match your seafood starter beautifully.
Now you need a wine with more richness. Roasting intensifies the flavour, and the stuffing adds extra dimension. Full-bodied chardonnays and pinot gris (not the sweet one) work well, and so do savoury pinot noirs. Pinot is actually brilliant with twice cooked crispy duck.
Waimea Nelson Chardonnay 2010 ($23), Seifried Nelson Chardonnay 2011 ($24) and Coopers Creek SV Limeworks Chardonnay 2011 ($22) offer bags of delicious flavour. And these pinot gris offer fruit intensity with rich texture – Anchorage Nelson Pinot Gris 2012 ($18), Mills Reef Reserve Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2012 ($25).
Not just because of the colour, but rosés do go very well with ham. The subtle fruit flavours in the wine matches beautifully with the sweetness in the glaze, and the salty tang of the ham. Also spectacularly good is medium riesling.
Terra Sancta Central Otago Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 ($27) and Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Rosé 2012 ($19) are two outstanding examples. For riesling with gentle sweetness, try Main Divide Riesling 2010 ($20) and Te Whare Ra Riesling M 2012 ($26). Both fabulously tasty.
That's me. That's us. This Christmas I am cooking lamb racks on the barbeque. I'll put on the usual garlic, rosemary and breadcrumb crust, which releases the most amazing aromas as it cooks, infusing the already flavoursome meat. I'll open pinot noir and cabernet/merlot, and simply enjoy the wine, food and family.
Omaka Springs Falveys Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 ($25), Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010 ($32), Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 ($45) will certainly do the trick. And equally satisfying would be Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2009 ($25), Te Mata Estate Vineyards Merlot/Cabernets 2010 ($22) and Trinity Hill 'The Gimblett' 2010 ($35).
Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and an awesome New Year.Sam Kim is a senior wine judge and author of Wine Orbit magazine. You can follow him via Twitter