Celebrating Christmas with Wine

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, everyday more civilised” – Andre Simon

 As I contemplate on Christmas, a day that is nigh, so many thoughts are intruding, and the deepest have to do with the ‘long’ year we have just had. Don’t get me wrong, it is not long as in length, but long in the uncertainty, tedious of the news and unending conspiracy theories on what the world has been facing.

 Christmas is a joyous time for family, friends, love, generosity, joy, forgiving, reconnections… the list is endless. I have always tried to describe the Christmas feeling and all I can come up with is, the little girl or boy in all of us longs to come out and play. How do you celebrate Christmas? Is it waking up to planned celebrations, going to church and celebrations to follow thereafter, or perhaps it is a day that goes unnoticed. Whichever way defines your day, it will be a time to put everything on pause and let Christmas day steal the limelight. What wines will be speaking to you this Christmas? Where will you be drinking your wine and with whom? Christmas time is a time to be merry and wine away.

On our African continent, from the Cape to Cairo, Southern Africa to northern Africa, various dishes have over the years become favourites, from restaurants to homes, throughout the year. Various Christmas traditions have found a home in many households. Christmas is special and the highlight emphasizes on togetherness. With various wines available and a plethora of food dishes, that grace our tables, how does one truly know what wine to have? To add to your festivities this year, a guide on how to select wine for food and styles of wine available for you to make a choice from is at your service. 

Food and wine truths

I know you may have all read or heard that red wine pairs best with red meat and white wine with white meat. The answer is yes, but it goes beyond that, I always take it a step further to ask where a vegetarian would stand. It’s fitting that we briefly go through a few pointers, on where and how to start.

Weight

The secret behind weight is to ensure that the body of the wine is a close match to the weight of the food. A wooded white wine versus a light white wine, exude different weights, the former being heavy and the latter being light. In that same vein, a beef based dish versus a fish dish certainly show a difference in weight. An imbalance between the two will result in one of the two being overburdened. A personal favourite when it comes to dishes is the rich and soulful stew of oxtail. The only justice in terms of pairing it would be an equally matching robust red wine, and my choice is always a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Flavour Intensity

It’s all about taste. How much flavour a wine or dish displays is important. If the flavour profile of your wine is intense, like you get in some aromatic wines like Riesling, then it should equally be matched with a dish that is highly aromatic, like the famous Tagine, a dish hailing from Morocco, in North Africa. It is a slow cooked stew of either meat or vegetables with an assortment of appetizing aromatics drawn from their traditional seasonings and spices used. The reverse is true when the flavour is less intense.

Think Key Tastes!

Because of their importance, the taste sensations of acidity, saltiness, sweetness, bitterness and umami, which is more of a savoury nature, they are present in food as well as in wine (sweetness, acidity and umami) and a mismatch of food and wine in this case can prejudice, the food and wine experience.  With food rich in sweetness, for example, the wine served ought to match the food or be sweeter, but not any less as the wine will appear unpleasant. Foods high in acid, if paired with a wine low in acid will result in the wine appearing flabby and flat. White wines take the spot for acidity and common choices are Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. Foods with a saltiness presence have an affinity with wines that seem sweet and this can be due to their fruity nature. So every time you have a taste of your food, think of the taste and it will guide you to the suitable wine.

Your choice of wines!

Sparkling wines

Nothing spells celebration like a bottle of sparkling wine or what people simply call bubbles. There are various methods used to make sparkling wines and the main difference is in the way the gas came to be confined in the wine. Sparkling wine is a wine that can be white, pink or red, containing carbon dioxide that has been dissolved under various amounts of pressure, such that the minute you open it, bubbles instantly fill your glass. Sparkling wines are best served cold, with lots of family, friends and laughter.

Our pick: Graham Beck Brut

wine 1

White wines

These are wines mostly made from light skinned grapes (white grapes) though; dark skinned grapes (black grapes) also produce juice that can be made into white wines. They are mostly made as dry, semi sweet and sweet and served chilled. Common examples of grape varieties to look out for are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sémillon, Riesling and Viognier. If your party takes you to the poolside, white wines will add that spark to your party.

Our pick: Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc

Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc

Rosé wines

If wine could be called attractive, then this style would take the cup. These wines of varied shades of pink are often called pink wines. The shades of pink are as a result of brief skin contact from dark skinned grapes with the juice, giving that colour. Prolonged skin contact, results in a deeper shade of pink. There is a belief that all Rosé wines are sweet, when in actual effect, most of them are actually made dry.  Best served chilled, this wine is often a perfect match for warm weather and lighter moods.

Our pick: Backsberg Pinotage Rosé

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Red Wines

Though the colours vary, you can get this style of wine from a lighter kind of red to a deep dark opaque red. Grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz (Syrah), Pinotage and Pinot Noir are amongst some of the most common red grape varieties. With certain factors considered, some of the most age worthy wines are found among red wines. Reds have a way of capturing the moment of pure joy.

Our pick: Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvigon

5

Sweet wines

These are a wine prescription for the lovers of the sweet side of love.  Some of the most exceptional wines produced in the world are sweet wines, made in various ways throughout the world. Levels of sweetness referred to as residual sugar, which is the natural sugar retained from grapes, and methods used in production are what distinguish them from one another. High residual sugar per litre denotes a high level of sweetness. If this Christmas is calling you to live on the sweet side of roistering, then do be it.

Our Pick: Robertson Winery Natural Sweet Red

Robertson Winery Natural Sweet Red

The best wine is the wine that you love and yet this Christmas is calling on you to experience some food and wine truths. Lay out your Festive spread and still have your tradition to enjoy, except this time, you can have your moment to sip, eat and go on an adventure while you merry make. Wine lovers, keep loving, keep celebrating and most of all enjoy your Christmas revels with wine. From my table to yours, Christmas wishes with wine to you and your family.

Lebbie Hanyire
Lebbie is a qualified passion-filled Wine Lover who spends quality time with wine through travel, study, wine writing and of course sipping on wines. hanyirel@me.com

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