Seasonal inspiration

The festive wine guide

Fretting about end-of-year events? We’ve got wine covered with these considerations and tips.

As we plummet towards the end of the year, planning events can seem exhausting among everything else happening. You have orders to make, ingredients to gather, presents to buy and meals to cook, plus your schedule is already full. And for wine lovers, there’s one more component that needs attention. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help make life a little easier this festive season, including food and wine pairing tips, wine serving suggestions, and some fun extras like our downloadable tasting cards and gift tags for your events.

Go to a section: Choosing the perfect wines | Getting the glassware right | Keeping it cool | Wine tasting cards (downloadable template) | Gifts for wine lovers (plus gift tags) | New Year’s Eve wine

Christmas, Wine, Halliday

  • Choosing the perfect wines

  • When selecting wine for an event, your menu and guest list are a good place to begin. Sure, you might want to pick up a couple of bottles purely because they’re your favourites, but when deciding how much and what type, the dishes you plan to prepare and run of events are a good way to work out what’s required.

    If starting with oysters or cheese, sparkling wine is a classic pairing (and even without these small bites, bubbles are an excellent choice for setting the mood). The refreshment and acidity of sparkling is the perfect match to salty oysters, buttery cheeses, and almost any other snacks you can throw at it.

    An Australian Christmas often features delicate seafood such as prawns, and riesling will work beautifully here. Riesling also offers fantastic value, and there’s nothing quite like its bright, pure flavours for sipping on in the sun. For richer seafood dishes, such as salmon, try chardonnay or even a light, chilled pinot noir. Medium-bodied whites and fresh reds will be versatile with a range of flavours at the table, including with the turkey or ham. Gamay, grenache and rosé are all handy styles to have around.

    If you’ve chosen a meaty main like lamb or roast beef, pair it with something flavoursome and a bit more structured. Cabernet sauvignon is a popular match to slow-cooked lamb with herbs, and beef will work with a rich Australian shiraz. Mark the occasion by selecting a high-quality example from one of the country’s great vineyards and old-vine sites.

    For dessert, be it plum pudding, trifle, pavlova or another indulgent treat, sweet or fortified wine is typically a good way to go. If your festive finish will be something light and fruity, like a pavlova, try a late-harvested riesling or semillon. For decadent flavours like those that feature in a Christmas cake or chocolate dessert, look to the brilliant fortified wines of historic regions like Rutherglen.

  • Getting the glassware right

  • There is nothing worse than realising too late that you don’t have enough glasses and tableware to go around. Again, check your numbers, map out your menu, buy the wines, and then get out the glassware you have to see if it will suffice. If you do decide you need to stock up for the season, follow this guide, with tips for choosing the right glass for every type of wine, insights into serving temperatures for different varieties and styles, and an overview of decanting. Another extra to consider is glass charms, which are not only a fun touch that can be tailored to the theme of the day, but also helpful for keeping track of guests’ drinks and minimising washing up.

  • Keeping it cool

  • With fridge space at a premium over the holiday season, particularly when people pile in for the events, having an ice bucket (or few) set-up is essential and useful for more than just your whites, pinks and beers. With the Australian summer’s sweltering weather, it would be wise to keep your reds in the top of the Esky as well. Warm red wine is unpleasant to drink, as heat accentuates its tannin and alcohol. Keeping reds cool during summer and drinking them at between 15 and 18 degrees will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

  • Festive wine tasting cards

  • If you really want to ramp up the focus on the wine this season, why not create your own tasting cards? Not only will it give your guests more insights into the bottles you’ve carefully curated, but it will also be a conversation starter and a bit of fun. You could even try a blind tasting to break up the day. Download the Halliday Wine Companion tasting card for your occasion, print as many as you need and pass them out to your guests or place them on the table.

  • Gifts for wine lovers

  • If you’re looking for a gift and you know they love wine, you have a wealth of options, from selecting the perfect bottle to gadgets and glassware. A Halliday Wine Companion membership is another excellent route, offering access to more than 140,000 tasting notes and ratings plus a virtual cellar for saving wines tried, writing personal reviews and creating wine wishlists. We even have you sorted with these printable gift tags.

  • New Year’s Eve wine

  • Once we’re over the hump of holidays like Christmas and Hannukah, there’s one more to navigate – New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, this event is all about the clink of a great glass of bubbles come midnight, and it’s a ritual that’s pretty hard to beat. Starting the new year in style with Champagne is a popular option, or if you would prefer not to spend big after the other calendar dates, top Australian sparkling offers incredible bang for your buck and often superior quality to French styles in the under-$50 category. Other bubbles to consider include cava, Spain’s signature sparkling, and prosecco, the fizz sweeping the world for its deliciousness and value.