Wines for the festive starter

It is always a matter of conjecture when planning the wines for your Christmas festivities – I am always tasked with the job by my dad and have to take into account some of the family aren’t big sparkling drinkers, another doesn’t like white wine so trying to get something that suits everyone is often an impossible task.

So use the below loosely – as suggestions if nothing else – as to which of your bottles to open and when:

Seafood starters

Prawn Cocktail – yes it’s old-fashioned (although I like to look on it as being retro!) but is always a favourite on our festive table and I usually opt for a light bodied white wine with good acidity.  A Riesling for example works nicely.

Smoked Salmon – the fish is very rich and quite powerfully flavoured, so I’d look to a high acid wine to cut through the fattiness. A Riesling or a dry Sauvignon Blanc perhaps one with a smidgeon of oak.

if you are feeling decadent and Oysters are more your thing, then Champers is a good bet, but I think a great match would be a Muscadet or a Picpoul de Pinet.

Scallops – these are quite sweet when pan fried and have a hint of nuttiness, so I’d look to a good quality Chardonnay as a match.

Infact, as a rule of thumb if you think about the wines and where they are from it can help you decide – for example wines such as Muscadet, Rias Baixas and Picpoul de Pinet all come from regions close to the coast and have that slightly saline minerality to them that works so well with seafood.

Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

Meat based patés

Paté is generally quite rich and fatty so again, you’d be looking for a high acidity wine to cut through the fat.  Also, as we are talking red meat here, a red wine is a better bedfellow.  Something with bright crunchy fruit – I’d look to a Barbera (for a duck pate for example) or Valpolicella from Italy. A Cabernet Franc would work well too, perhaps one from the Loire (ie Chinon).


A bit tricky! A lot depends on how rich and weighty the soup is and how strongly flavoured it is. For example a rich creamy mushroom soup would work well with a chardonnay (not too oaky though).  If the soup was less cream and more about the mushroom then a grape that always matches up well to mushroom is Pinot Noir.

Generally though lighter soups, think light wines: Pinot Grigio, Grüner Veltliner, Albarino.  Creamier soups can move to weightier wines: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc etc.

At the end of the day, you drink what you enjoy, it matters not a jot as long as you enjoy it, but I can say that learning about food and wine matching has really made my wine drinking (and eating) a more pleasurable experience. 

Footnote: I was going to continue these festive blogs up through Christmas Eve but in light of Boris’s rather un-festive announcement at the weekend which has wrecked so many plans, I don’t have the heart.  If anyone has any questions about food and wine matching please do drop me a note or reply to this post and I will get back to you.

Please do enjoy the Christmas period wherever you are in whatever ways you are able.  Let us hope 2021 brings us a lot more joy and happiness than 2020 and that we can celebrate the end of COVID with loved ones in the not too distant future.  Take care one and all.

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