Festive dine and wine specials

Wine is the centrepiece of any festive dinner table.

Wine is the centrepiece of any festive dinner table.

Why not vary your traditional festive bill of fare this Christmas?

Here are five creative ideas for a sumptuous end-of-year menu with a little twist.

The recipes for the suggested dishes are easy to find and do not break completely with tradition but bring something original to your nicely-decorated table. Each wine recommendation makes for a great centrepiece that will not break the bank either.

Whereas I have opted deliberately for Maltese wine accompaniments, there is a more cosmopolitan flair to the food selection. Each dish fits my only Yule feast rule: it has got to be special, requiring a unique ingredient or more kitchen effort than I normally would be prepared to put in.

Any true celebratory menu starts off with bite-sized appetisers. Googling ‘canapés for New Year’s Eve’ will give you plenty of ideas to prepare. All these canapés hold a promise of ‘more’: more friends to arrive and more food to follow.

What is needed here is a crisp aperitif to open the appetite – not a sweet drink to sate it! Given the varying tastes of the toppings, a character-strong wine which shines also bright on its own is best.

The off-dry Ġellewża Frizzante Lifestyle Rosé by Delicata does just that. It is packed with red summer fruits yet also festively fizzy which adds some extra sharpness to reset the palate. Serve it well chilled in a flute-shaped glass kept topped-up halfway.

Not all festive dinners have to be formal drawn-out sessions. For a more casual gathering a cheese raclette is perfect even without a snow-capped mountain view. The most predictable pairing would be an Alpine white. The Malta-grown Medina Girgentina Chardonnay is similarly uplifting, though. However, raclette, to me at least, is a heart-warming dish too wintry to pass up the chance to uncork a red.

Without trepidation, I suggest pouring an elegant, lightweight and unoaked garnet wine like the unoaked Medina Sangiovese of Malta. Served cellar cool, this is an ideal soft wine with zing aplenty to cut through the cheeses’ taxing buttery texture.

Dust the cheese crust with black pepper to emphasise the young wine’s lip-smacking cherry finish.

Julia Child’s lobster bisque is laborious to cook but, at the same time, it is an almost otherworldly dining experience. The strong taste comes from the shells of the crustacean, not its delicate meat.

Hence lightweight wines do not stand a chance. Instead of a terse and sharp minerally white (which would suit steamed lobster), a fatter, fruitier bottle is needed that can accentuate the succulent nature of the plate.

Great Chardonnay is such an apparent wine match that you might wonder if it is worth considering anything else. Malta’s wonderful fuller-flavoured Gran Cavalier Chardonnay with a smooth palate full of brioche hits a soft spot thanks to the interplay of the wine’s suaveness with the bisque’s tarragon and creaminess.

Turkey in mole poblano is in a way both a traditional and edgy choice. The range and depth of this Mexican sweet chili and dark chocolate-infused gravy poured over the poultry’s flesh is nothing short of spectacular.

The key to selecting a balancing wine is to pair the dominant spicy flavours coming from the bitter-sweet sauce which will go well with intense wines rich in dark plum and blackcurrant fruit like the hefty Grand Vin de Hauteville blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Finally, a much-loved dessert is orange hazelnut cake. Because of the lovely nutty texture and citrusy zest of this insanely moist pudding, it works insanely well with Muscat-based wines.

While adding a pricey dessert wine to your festive flight might overstretch your budget, Delicata’s affordable Classic Collection Casella Moscato will not; it will increase your epicurean enjoyment tenfold and make this year’s merry season even sweeter!


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