5 Star Hotel Sommelier Reveals Wine Pairings For Classic Christmas Dishes

Christmas is traditionally a time to indulge in lots of luxurious food. With festive flavours often bold and rich, and many dishes including seasonal spices and creamy textures, choosing the best wine to pair with each dish can be tricky. 

Head Sommelier, Derek Scaife from 5-star hotel The Grand, York, shares his expertise and reveals which wines pair perfectly with the UK’s favourite Christmassy dishes.

With over 10 years of experience managing hotel restaurants, Derek works closely alongside Legacy Head Chef Ahmed Abdalla, to play a pivotal role in elevating The Grand’s focus on modern British cuisine. The restaurant offers a refined menu of a carefully curated collaboration of flavours and locally sourced ingredients and guests have the choice of an immersive wine pairing with their dining experience. All wines are expertly hand-picked by Derek to ensure each glass is the perfect match to complement each flavoursome course.

Previously working at the five-star Rockcliffe Hall as its Head Sommelier, in the three AA Rosette restaurant, Derek brings a wealth of experience and outstanding expertise to The Grand and elevates its gastronomy offering to new heights. Derek has also spent time working as a Head Sommelier within five-star hotels and their Rosette award-winning restaurants, Chewton Glen and Chester Grosvenor, which also has one Michelin Star.

Here, Derek reveals his pairings for the nation’s favourite dishes this Christmas:

Starters:

Prawn Cocktail

“If you’re serving prawns for your starter, I would recommend pairing them with a Torrontés from Argentina. This white Sauvignon style wine with a more floral finish makes a great accompaniment to the light seafood flavours and lettuce in the dish.”

Smoked Salmon

“For deeper and smoky seafood flavours, it must be a Loire Valley Sauvignon. Wines from the eastern vineyard areas such as Sancerre bring a nice balance of acidity with their core of apple and lime flavours, helping to elevate the salmon.”

Christmas Dinner:

Turkey

“For me, both a choice of white or red wine are great options for turkey and other poultry. The main considerations should be how the drink works with the traditional garnishes of cranberries and stuffing.

A Pinot Noir pairs perfectly – choose from old-world varieties, drier wines or a New Zealand Marlborough style with a little softer touch of red fruits on the finish.”

Beef

“For red meat dishes, a fuller style wine helps flavours to shine.

Syrah from the Northern Rhone and areas such as Saint Joseph or Croze-Hermitage bring a touch of dryness and nice acidity with a hint of pepper on the finish, leaning into the slight heat of popular beef condiments such as mustard and horseradish.”

Vegetarian/Vegan alternatives

“If you’re cooking for vegetarians and vegans this year, there are some great estates with vegan accredited wines. The best thing to do is look for the vegan symbol on the label.”

“With many meat alternatives choosing to replicate the flavours of poultry, Pinot Noir is again a great choice.”

Desserts:

Christmas Pudding

“To complement the already boozy, fruity and rich flavours of the Christmas pudding, a softer and lighter dessert wine can be served.

A Rutherglen Muscat, which is a tawny-coloured fortified from Victoria in Australia, brings a soft rich texture with hints of the raisins and prunes found in the pudding.”

Trifle

“This classic English dessert deserves an equally English pairing. English sparkling rose will help to bring freshness with its touch of strawberry and goes down smoothly with its creamy finish. Even its delicate pink colour will help to elevate the Christmas tablescape.”

Anabel Cooper

Anabel is a graduate of King’s College London and upon graduating, she set out on a journey to inspire and empower women through her words. Besides working as a digital marketing expert, Anabel is a freelance copywriter.