Food and Wine Pairings for an Australian Beach Christmas Featuring Some of My Favourite Aussie Wines
Growing up in Australia, I always longed for a white Christmas. Everything I knew about Christmas came from the Northern Hemisphere: stockings hung on the chimney; reindeer prancing in the snow; chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
As a child, my family would decorate the Christmas tree while listing to Christmas carols, such as Let it Snow and Frosty the Snowman, and then jump in the jelly bean-shaped pool for an afternoon of swimming before the storm clouds came over and thunder echoed in the suburbs. These were such happy times, and even spraying fake snow on the windows did not feel like a consultation prize for real snow. But still, I had wondered what a white Christmas would be like.
After experiencing the festive season in the Northern Hemisphere—once in up-state New York and once in Edinburgh—I realised that many people around the world would be envious of those of us who get to experience a beach Christmas.
I love the sight of palm trees decorated with Christmas ornaments and tinsel, devouring fresh seafood, mangoes and cherries at an outdoor setting placed on the lawn, and the sound of children playing Marco Polo in the pool. Indeed, I am sentimental about everything that I associate with a Southern Hemisphere Christmas, including Christmas chocolates that have melted in the sun, wearing paper crowns from Christmas crackers even though it’s too hot to have anything on your head, and sticking your head in front of the portable fan that is decorated in tinsel.
For me, the quintessential Aussie Christmas is characterised by enjoying seasonal foods before going swimming in a nearby pool, the beach, or running through the water spouted from the sprinkler on the front lawn.
To honour the Aussie Christmas—and make those in the Northern Hemisphere curious (or even jealous)—I want to share with you some or my favourite Aussie wines for a beachside Christmas feast. This feast consists of simple meals, some of which could be prepared on the barbecue, fresh seafood, and a vegetarian option, all enjoyed at a little gazebo on the esplanade.
Oysters paired with Brokenwood 2014 Hunter Valley Semillon
Fresh oysters with a squeeze of lemon washed down with a young Hunter Valley Semillon is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Dry Semillon from the Hunter Valley is world renowned, and the young Semillons pair well with not only oysters but seafood in general. It’s pale lemon colour and lower alcohol content make it a good crisp wine to start a feast. Brokenwood is one of my favourites, but there are so many Semillons from this region that I adore with seafood. For me, this Semillon has lemon, lemon sherbet and lime on the nose and lemon and lime on the palate.
Asian-style prawns on a mango and avocado salad paired with Pewsey Vale 2015 Eden Valley Riesling
The lime character in a dry Eden Valley Riesling delights me every time, and it’s this lime character in addition to the floral aromas that I enjoy with a colourful salad with lime, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander marinated prawns. Asian flavours pair well Riesling and the Pewsey Vale’s Eden Valley Riesling is a classic example of a dry Riesling from this region. The grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard and I love the minerality of this wine.
Fettuccine is my go-to dish. It’s simple and delicious and can incorporate local ingredients, such as Moreton Bay bugs (bay lobster) with garlic, butter, parsley, tomatoes, and of course, a dash of the Chardonnay it will be paired with. This Wild Ferment Chardonnay by Witches Falls is a truly remarkable Chardonnay. The citrus, stone fruit, vanilla and toast notes are tantalising for both the nose and palate. Sipping this Chardonnay put a big smile on my face and although it paired well with the bug fettuccine, this wine could certainly be paired with a richer pasta sauce.
Anything in pastry (or covered in pastry) is wonderful—at least I think so. And mushroom and lentil pot pies are a good vegetarian option. The earthiness of the mushrooms and rosemary in this dish pair well with Pinot Noir. A Yarra Valley Pinot Noir is a great choice for an Australian Pinot Noir and for this occasion I have chosen Oakridge’s Swallowfield Vineyard Pinot Noir. It has red berry fruits and an earthiness on the nose and palate.
The first time I tried an Australian sparkling red wine it was as though there was a fiesta in my glass: lanterns strung between gum trees and fire-twirlers in the distance. I was not sure that any other drink could ever be as festive. And so for Christmas, a sparkling red is perfect with ham and turkey, and for a casual affair, the meat can be placed into a fresh bread roll with a little butter and cranberry sauce. This Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet is made in the traditional method and is a lively, elegant wine with Christmassy notes of cherry and spice.
At De Bortoli’s Yarra Valley cellar door I was handed a cracker with blue cheese on it to taste with the famous Noble One Botrytis Semillon. Needless to say, I bought a bottle, and with a supply of blue cheese, I continued to enjoy this sweet and salty combination of flavours. Botrytis Semillon is a golden-coloured wine made from botrytis cinerea (noble rot) affected Semillon grapes and typically has apricot and pineapple aromas, which are perfect for a beach Christmas. For a change, I thought I would try De Bortoli’s Deen Botrytis Semillon with citrus and apricot notes—delicious.
I always look forward to having my mum’s Christmas fruitcake and the perfect wine, in my opinion, for fruitcake is a Tawny. There are many I like, including Penfold’s Father Grand Tawny, and they are characterised by raisin, toffee, and caramelised flavours. Tyrrell’s Special Aged Tawny worked a treat with my mum’s fruitcake. It is smooth and rich and full of raisin and rancio (meaning the mocha, coffee and chocolate type character) flavours.
After a big day of eating, the beach is calling. Dusk is the best time of the day to put your feet in the water, sit and listen to the colourful lorikeets fly between the trees, and watch the seaside village become adorned with Christmas lights.