Christmas is a holiday which celebrates the best of food and drink, but also poses that thorny question of whether to play it safe or venture into the unknown. Roast turkey with all the trimmings and a deluxe Burgundy, or poached turbot and Slovenian Pinot Gris? The options at Christmas are almost endless, and rarely is this more apparent than when planning your festive celebrations. Trying to keep everyone happy can be something of an ordeal.

Breakfast Bubbles

Yet most are delighted with Champagne at breakfast. All bets are off on Christmas Day – it is perfectly acceptable, indeed advisable, to sip bubbly at 10am. The richness that leaps out of every glass of Taittinger Prelude transforms Yuletide brunches into a feast; sparkling wine is preferable with scrambled eggs and salmon at a celebration breakfast, as still wine lightens the mouth-coating texture of the eggs. You heard it here first.

Champagne is also surprisingly popular around 12pm. Sophisticated, elegant, and timeless, Bollinger Special Cuvee will seduce even the most irascible family member. But if you fancy delving into the world of grower Champagnes, Georges Vesselle Brut NV packs quite a punch and is currently on offer for under £30. Open, and watch the mood turn wonderfully effervescent.

The Main Event

Of course, even the most serene host might get a little nervous around lunch time. The dilemma is most acute if different dishes are being served; Uncle John demands turkey, Cousin Sally prefers quinoa and nutmeg granola. The chef calculates. A bottle of white and then red is conventional, regardless of the food. The formula works up to a point. But it can be refined – or replaced with something more exciting, something to really bring out the flavours of both food and wine.

So, the turkey. This festive bird runs the whole gamut from perfectly browned and juicy to dry as an Alsatian Riesling – an ideal pairing. But it also works with a broad palate of styles, including the very best bottles of dry white and finest old reds (especially Burgundy). Just one small snag: what about the additional ingredients? Bread sauce, spicy stuffing, caramelised parsnips? Bread sauce has an uncanny knack of softening tannins; spicy stuffing goes very well with an equally punchy New World Shiraz. Thus the meat of fowl can be adapted with sauces to match almost any fine wine. Yet, while some of us plan a meal by selecting one key element and then building numerous riffs into it – roast chicken with Chinese five spice and a dollop of Wasabi – others allow the main ingredient to dominate. On those occasions, open something mature – and understated – that needs simple flavours: mature red Burgundy, very old and delicate claret, Meursault with 15-years-plus bottle age.

Indeed, matching the flavours of Christmas food and wine is all about building bridges between them. Do you fancy a blockbuster Napa Cabernet on the table? Up the ante with beef wellington and rich, creamy pomme dauphinoise to coat the mouth.

Super Sweets

And what of dessert? One panacea is to balance acidity with richness – Sauternes and strawberries are good together because each has sweetness and acidity. But Christmas Pudding is a demon to match because it has too much of the former; even a ice wine Riesling can be overwhelmed. On the other hand, put a glass of Port or sweet sherry with Christmas Pudding and you’ll disseminate happiness across the dining room. What fortified styles need is festive nosh with equal intensity, but in manageable quantities. If you’ll forgive the cliché, a glass of vintage Port with a piece of Stilton rounds off any Christmas banquet in style.

Hail the chef: you deserve a tumbler of something warm and wonderful as the food coma sets in. Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Old Sherry Cask is an exquisite sweet mouthful of sultanas, orange segments, walnuts and butterscotch, tempered by the spice of a classic single malt. Meanwhile dip into our list of wine and food pairings to continue your hedonism on Boxing Day. In the end, though, have the confidence to trust your palate. We’re happy to provide a few recommendations and directions, but ultimately you know best.