The festive season is usually associated with rich red wines or Champagne, but there are many premium white wines offering a lighter alternative – and they pair particularly well with seafood and vegetarian dishes. Discover our stories and advice to help you find the perfect white wine this Christmas.
There are many fine white wines that command the same regal reputation as the classic reds. Alexandra Gray de Walden takes a closer look at the historical context behind some of the world's best-known white wines: Bourgogne Blancs.
When we think of fine white wine, it’s highly likely that grand cru or premier cru Burgundy whites are going to feature. Red wines seem to dominate our initial thoughts around fine wine, as they are more prominently laid down for ageing – perhaps in part due to their much higher, more age-worthy tannin levels. They are often the first wines to spring to mind at Christmas, but there are many exceptional whites that can rival the best-loved reds.
While there are superlative wine regions which also produce highly lauded, fine white wines, none are viewed as having the elegance, finesse or complexity of Burgundy white wines. Could it be Burgundy’s historical, regal connections which make it such a revered region for fine white wines?
It is said that Emperor Charlemagne himself ordered the first plantings of white grapes on the Corton hillside, while he was the king of the Franks. After years of having his long white beard heavily stained by his beloved reds, one of his many wives persuaded him to jump the colour chart and drink white wines instead – and so, Corton-Charlemagne was born.
While Burgundy’s Chardonnays represent the pinnacle of the world’s finest white wines, let’s not forget the easily accessible and eminently drinkable Chablis and Mâcon. The Kimmeridgian soils of Chablis once formed an ancient seabed, so it’s a sublime pairing for white fish and samphire. A Mâcon-Villages, on the other hand, is the perfect partner for its fellow Burgundian, the beef Bourguignon, or a lighter Christmas roast chicken.
Bourgogne Blancs in general offer plenty of refreshing acidity. These lighter-bodied wines are a delicious match for festive vegetarian fare, such as nut roasts or vegetable risotto.
Victoria Bull will always remember the moment she discovered a particularly delicious (and surprising) white wine on Christmas Day. Since then, she has always made room for a special white on her festive table.
At a young and impressionable age, I was offered an exceptional glass of white wine on Christmas Day. Upon enquiry, I discovered it was something called “Sauvignon Blanc” – and it was life-changing. Now, one of my most anticipated moments every year is choosing a bottle of white that is to be the pinnacle of my festive drinking.
I believe that white wine can often be overlooked in festive celebrations: a flashy fizz to start, and then straight into red with lunch. Although this doesn’t sound too terrible, it is nevertheless a perturbing thought. Where, may I ask, is the Puligny-Montrachet?
Christmas gives us an opportunity to uncork something truly superb, and we’re lucky: the seasonal flavours on our December tables flourish alongside a suitable fine white wine. My mind turns instantly to premier cru Burgundy; more precisely, this delicious 2018 Fourchame Chablis from Le Domaine d'Henri. Or, reward yourself by trying something a little less traditional, which can often be pleasingly gentle on the pocket.
Take Frédéric Mabileau’s Saumur Blanc from the Loire Valley – an extraordinary wine in its perfect balance of oak, richness and acidity. While in our Own Gavi di Gavi the humble Cortese grape is transformed into something mouthwateringly zesty and refreshing – a far cry from the pub’s house white. But if it’s still the Sauvignon you’re after, there are fewer better places to start than our Own Selection Sancerre from David Sautereau. “A white Christmas” has taken on a whole new meaning.
This Christmas, Michelin-trained chef Stewart Turner will be swapping his classic seafood starter for a seasonal vegetarian dish. He shares his pick of white wines to serve, and a decadent recipe for roasted squash with burrata and hazelnuts.
I’m normally a big Chardonnay fan, but I like to use Christmas as an excuse to push the boat out and try something new. Last year, we opted for a brilliant blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté from iconic Californian producer Au Bon Climat. It was a real treat, despite not being something that I would normally go for. I'd usually go for a seafood starter or white meat with a white wine, but this year, I’ve settled for a seasonal veggie option.
“For me, white Burgundy wines are the Christmas whites of choice,” says Adam Bruntlett, our Burgundy Buyer, “and Benjamin Leroux’s Meursault is a textbook example.” It has delicious notes of ripe, generous stone-fruit, rich vanilla and toast, with a saline finish and a backbone of refreshing acidity.
These elements combined give the wine real versatility, allowing it to pair beautifully with a wide range of festive fare – including turkey, prawns, lobster and cheeses. It’s the perfect introduction to the wines of Benjamin Leroux, one of our favourite Burgundy winemakers.
The recipe: Roast squash with charred cavolo, burrata, hazelnuts and truffle
1 medium squash – butternut, ironbark, delicata – peeled, seeded, and cut into wedges
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 sprigs of thyme
100g black cabbage
8 grams of fresh truffle
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C°. Place the squash into a roasting tray and season well, drizzle with a good splash of olive oil and mix to lightly coat the squash.
Roast the squash for 30-35 minutes, until it’s tender and starting to brown. Once cooked, deglaze with the vinegar and allow to cool.
While the squash is cooking, blanch the black cabbage in plenty of salted boiling water, drain and place in a bowl. Season and drizzle with a little oil, grill in a griddle pan, until it’s just starting to char. Keep moving it regularly, so it doesn’t burn.
Arrange the squash on a large platter and drape over the black cabbage. Drain and tear the burrata, and place it on top. Finish the dish with the hazelnut praline and fresh truffle.
100g toasted hazelnuts
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
15g maple syrup
50ml hazelnut oil
Salt and pepper
For the praline, blitz the toasted nuts in a food processor until they’ve just broken up. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse to combine.
Our recommendation for a festive white wine
The 2018 Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine de Montille is a classic Puligny wine in style: flinty and pure, with a profile rich in white flowers and citrus zest. Rounding things out on a medium to full-bodied palate are saline flavours of seashell and limestone, with some musky peach. This Burgundy white saw extended lees stirring, which has added extra weight and character to what is already a charming and expressive wine. This is a white wine perfect to drink this Christmas, or any Christmas until 2026.