Matching food and wine can be a tricky business. It's a case of matching flavour profiles or working on the basis that often opposites attract - but ultimately it's about what works for you.
So here's an idea for a four-course winter Christmas-style dinner with matching wines that won't severely disrupt the household budget. (Next week we'll look at another mid-winter dinner with food and wine that will stretch the wallet a little further.)
First course: a heart-warming soup - I've gone for pumpkin with a dash of ginger and coriander, simple, satisfying and inexpensive. A small nip of dry sherry is often a perfect choice but staying with a more traditional table wine with a level of richness and creamy texture, a chardonnay with not too much obvious oak will be a nice match.
Traditional roast chicken with potatoes and green beans (or whatever vegetables are in season and fit the budget) follows, as the main course. Frankly, the chardonnay would work here as well - chicken being such a versatile and accommodating dish when it comes to wine. But in the interests of variety and expanding our horizons - and also hankering after a glass of New Zealand's current favourite red wine - we'll opt for pinot noir.
Be warned, great pinots at bargain prices are difficult to come by because this is very much a bespoke varietal and extra effort by the producer is usually reflected in higher prices. But they are out there, you just need to ferret about.
Which brings us to dessert. A simple and inexpensive dish that looks, tastes and sounds wonderful is tarte tatin. All that rich, gooey toffee caramel cries out for a luscious, razor-sharp dessert wine that not only embraces apple but also can slice through the sticky pastry. Go straight to Selaks' 2011 Heritage Reserve Gisborne Waipara gewurztraminer riesling. With flavours of honeysuckle, summer fruits, apricot, nectarine and papaya, it has luscious sweetness balanced by fresh acidity.
It wouldn't be a proper midwinter Christmas dinner without a mince pie to finish off. A small glass of tawny port as an accompanying "sipper" will be just fine and apparently aids digestion.
Failing that, try a glass of the old '70s cheapie and Friday night student flat fave, Asti Spumante. You may scoff but try it and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
2009 Takutai Chardonnay, $12.50
From Nelson's Waimea Estates, this is a very good vintage and exceptional value for money. It is light, easy and zesty with citrus and stonefruit characters and oh-so-subtle oak, with a nice, creamy texture.
2010 Haha Pinot Noir, $19.99
A wine made from grapes grown in Marlborough from a pinot-loving vintage. Haha is a Maori word, meaning savoury and luscious, which sums up this wine. It's also very
satisfying and very affordable.