Food & Drink

TV wine expert Helen McGinn shares her best Christmas wine and cheese pairings on Dish podcast

Helen McGinn advises people to do a bit of preparation before you get into the wine aisle (S:E Creative Studio/Manish Doolabh/PA)
Helen McGinn advises people to do a bit of preparation before you get into the wine aisle (S:E Creative Studio/Manish Doolabh/PA) Helen McGinn advises people to do a bit of preparation before you get into the wine aisle (S:E Creative Studio/Manish Doolabh/PA)

Saturday Kitchen resident wine expert Helen McGinn has shared her secrets to the best cheese and wine pairings this Christmas, on the podcast Dish.

During the latest episode of the fourth series of the podcast hosted by broadcaster Nick Grimshaw and Michelin star chef Angela Hartnett, the wine author said the “secret” is that cheese pairs with all colours of wine, not just red.

She encourages people to eat whatever pairings they feel like, “but there is a very simple way of, if you put the right style of wine with a different style of cheese, it will bring out the best in both”.


McGinn, who also regularly appears as a wine expert on ITV’s This Morning, suggests starting your Christmas celebrations with bubbles – “And sometimes finish with bubbles as well – it’s a palate cleanser”.

Recommending Graham Beck Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut NV, she said: “If you want something similar to champagne that is not as expensive, then this is made in the same way as champagne, but it’s from South Africa. So it gets its bubble from a second fermentation in the bottle, and that’s the secret.”

Cheese pairing:

Cornish Cheese Co. Cornish Brie. “A classic match is brie and champagne,” she told the Dish from Waitrose podcast

“The reason why this [fizz] will work really well with any creamy cheese is the creaminess and the fattiness, which is why I love cheese so much – it’s full of fat, but the wine has got the freshness, the acidity, and that’s what you want.”

Champagne (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

White wine

Dourthe Roqueblanche Sauvignon Blanc, from Bordeaux is McGinn’s top pick.

“Bordeaux makes brilliant Sauvignon Blanc because it has got that kind of cool maritime climate,” she said.

Cheese pairing:

(Crottin de) Chavignol is a goat cheese produced in the Loire Valley – it’s one of the best goat’s cheese in the world. The village is a stone’s throw from Sancerre.” Sancerre wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, so that grape variety goes well.

Rose wine

For pink wine lovers, McGinn recommends trying Alamos Malbec Rosé, which is described as a fresh, fruity and bright wine from 3,000 metres high in Mendoza, Argentina.

Cheese pairing:

Highmoor, a washed rind cheese from Oxfordshire, which McGinn described as “quite funky”.

She said: “The reason for that (pairing) is because with rose, I think you get that freshness that you need to cut through, like we’ve talked about, but it comes with a bit more oomph. The flavour is a bit weightier.

“it’s a bit like Pont L’Eveque, it’s a bit more pungent.”

Cheese (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

Red wine

McGinn suggests trying Reyneke Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, from South Africa.

“Reyneke, are one of the pioneers of organic and biodynamic winemaking in South Africa. And that is made from a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, which is the classic Bordeaux blend. It comes in under a tenner.”

Cheese pairing:

Try Godminster Vintage Bruton Beauty Cheddar. “This is very much red territory because harder and especially aged cheeses do work better with red wines. The cheddar is organic, so I wanted to match up with the organic [wine].

Sweet wine

McGinn’s pick for dessert wine is Carte Or Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise NV. From Rhône, France, “a region that doesn’t have that big name attached to it”

She said: “The Muscat is the grape and they make it by adding a little bit of grape spirit before all the sugars fermented out, so it stops the fermentation so you’ve got natural sugar in there and a little bit more alcohol ‘cause it’s Christmas – and it just sits so well with blue cheeses.”

Cheese pairing:

No.1 Colston Bassett Stilton – “one of my favourite blue cheeses”, McGinn said.

“Think about how strong and salty those flavours are, so whatever we have in our glass has got to really come out fighting. So this is where you go for a sweet wine, and this is all about the contrast, because your mouth will be full of gorgeous, creamy, salty flavours, cut it through with a sweet wine that has got freshness.”

Series 4 of Dish from Waitrose, hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett, is available on all podcast providers now. Find the episode at