Home & Style

Creating a Christmas like no other: Gourmet Traveller’s ultimate guide

Food, wine, gifts… How to elevate the most magical celebration on the calendar.

After 18 months of missed milestones and celebrations, we’re making this Christmas the best one yet. On the nice list? New and renewed traditions, quality moments with loved ones and a smorgasbord of festive food and wine.

Here, Gourmet Traveller Editor Joanna Hunkin and Peter Lehmann Wines Senior Winemaker Tim Dolan share their expert advice on planning a memorable Christmas – from creating culinary traditions to the ultimate wine list for toasting.

A crowd-pleasing festive menu

GT editor Joanna Hunkin has wined and dined at many of the finest restaurants in the country, but her Christmas recipe for a cracker festive spread is surprisingly simple: “My advice for lunch? Two words: Sparkling shiraz,” says Joanna. “I’m joking (… sort of), but truly, I think the most important thing is for everyone is simply to have a good time. Set up a grazing station where people can help themselves to cheese and antipasti and just focus on producing one hero dish, with simple sides. If you know you have dietaries or fussy eaters to cater for, keep everything simple and leave people to create their own dish with a selection of interesting condiments, dressings and garnishes. It’s less stress for you and makes the experience more interactive.”

One of Australia’s most celebrated wines, the Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling is a dry, full bodied style from the Eden Valley region.

Wine for toasting, sharing and gifting

The wine you share is much more than just what’s on everyone’s lips… it’s the whole experience wrapped up in a bottle, from sharing a glass with loved ones to toasting with meaningful words that fill the heart. “What’s not magical about sharing good food and wine with family and mates?” says Tim.

“There are three wines that make Christmas toasts memorable, all from Peter Lehmann. A renowned and highly awarded wine, the Wigan Riesling is exceptionally crisp and clean and always a winner with fresh seafood. The Portrait Rosé is light, refreshing and a crowd-pleaser. For something unique, the Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz is always a distinctive way to kick off Christmas day. They’re wines you can trust to deliver on style and quality – so a bottle is an easy gift, too!” he adds.

Culinary traditions to savour

There’s something special about Christmas traditions. And whilst much more humble but equally meaningful, simple rituals – from religious recitals to home-made pudding complete with a couple of pennies – should be cherished and savoured for future generations. For Joanna, it’s the best of old traditions mixed with new.

“My mum is English and we lived in the northern hemisphere until I was 16, so our Christmas menu was very traditional until we moved to New Zealand,” Joanna says. “Mum quickly adopted a more Antipodean-style menu, which I’d recommend for summer. Start your Christmas dinner with a chilled seafood salad (you really can’t go past a classic prawn cocktail) followed by a glazed ham with various salads and trifle for dessert. As editor of Gourmet Traveller, I have tasted more trifle recipes than most people and there’s no question, my Mum’s is the best.”

Nik Hill’s banoffee trifle. Photo: Benito Martin

Hosting and styling secrets

Christmas is a time of joy and surprises, and one of the simplest ways to impress guests is with quality, unpredictable flavours on arrival. “If you’re hosting, surprise your guests by giving them a glass of something they might not have tried before, such as sparkling shiraz, tempranillo, or a chilled glass of grenache if the weather is warm,” suggests Tim. “Grenache is my new obsession; A medium-bodied, easy to drink wine full of bright fruits. For your Christmas tableware, keep it simple and classic. A good quality decanter always sets the scene. Just make sure you have a special bottle of red from Peter Lehmann to fill it up!”

The Barossan Grenache is a fresh and fragrant wine from the Barossa Valley region.

Gift giving treats

Thoughtful gifts made with love and (hopefully) the midas cooking touch are bound to make anyone smile. “Something delicious and homemade never goes astray,” says Joanna. “Spend a day making a batch of Christmas goodies – whether it’s jam, chutney , or sweet, buttery biscuits. Add a festive ribbon and handmade swing tag for the ultimate personal touch. If you have children, enlist them to help and make it a new family tradition.”

Of course, we know it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but the wrapping is what really gets us excited – so get creative! “For wrapping, cut down on Christmas waste and skip the gift wrap, instead opting for a beautiful reusable ribbon or a sprig of scented foliage tied with string, such as rosemary, fresh bay leaves or lavender,” suggests Joanna. “If you really want the element of surprise, go furoshiki-style and wrap your gift in a beautiful tea towel that can be used once unwrapped – pretty and eco-friendly.”

Brought to you by Peter Lehmann, one of the Barossa’s most renowned and respected wineries. From the everyday to luxury, Peter Lehmann Wines are generous, bold and full of character.

Related stories