Wine Pairing for your Holiday Festivities
'Tis the season for Holiday gatherings as the year quickly comes to a close. Between the small-talk and retelling of your most embarrassing childhood moments coupled with Grandma Ethel's meatloaf and cousin Eddie's close-talking, wine is an absolute must to take you to that happy place where all is right in the world...at least easier to swallow (pun intended). That's why we have come to the rescue and outlined the perfect pairings for some of those dishes sure to show up on the table at your next holiday party. Place that loaf of meat down and put Eddie at arm's length, you might want to jot down some notes :
First things first! You absolutely cannot go wrong with bubbles and I suggest starting with some to make your event all the more lively. Whether it be Cava, Asti Spumante, Champagne, Prosecco or sparkling wine, bubbles are sure to please. I'll even go so far as to say that if none of the other wines I mention below sound remotely appealing, then sparkling wine will work seamlessly with your entire gathering, from beginning to end.
Now for the feast: I've created parings for some of the most popular items you're sure to see at your next Holiday gathering:
Whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, cut into this succulent bird and you'll easily have your guests lining up with utensils in hand! Now, many people feel that light meats should be paired with a white wine. While you could choose a big, bold Chardonnay or even a more austere white Rioja, my #1 favorite choice with turkey is Sangiovese. I think the subtle, mellow fruit and the mild dry notes of Sangiovese do well to not to overpower the flavors of the meat, but elevate them to a new high.
An Italian Chianti is always a great choice, but even a California Sangiovese can work deliciously. Select between the two based on how the turkey is seasoned and prepared. I recommend a rustic Chianti with a simple, lightly seasoned turkey while the California Sangiovese works best with bolder-flavored turkey due to its richer tannins and robust fruit notes.
Try the Altamura Sangiovese or the Ruffino Chianti Classico
I gotta say that ham also fares best with a red wine. For the honey-glazed variety, go with a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that has the fruit and silky texture to go with the sweet sugar-coating. For a regular basted ham or even bacon-wrapped ham, you can be safe with a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir or even a California Cabernet Franc that has greater tannins and to balance out the savory meat.
Much like ham, lamb requires something with a pretty strong tannic structure to pair with the fattier content of the meat. However, the wine still needs to have enough finesse so it doesn't overpower the delicate, gamey flavors of the lamb.
My perfect pairing is a Cabernet-driven Bordeaux or Bordeaux-inspired blend from California, especially if the lamb is seasoned with fresh herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme.
There's bound to be a schmorg of side dishes to accompany your main dish and these should also be taken into consideration when picking out the evening's wines...but don't make it too complicated.
For the potatoes and yams, pick something with medium body and with a creamy texture. This can be anything from a buttery Chardonnay to a jammy Zinfandel.
With fruit and jello or cranberry sauce, stay away from fruit-forward wines and opt for something with a little spiciness.
Green bean casserole on the other hand, I feel is pretty neutral and will work with most anything you open...white or red.
Now for the best part...dessert! I typically don't like to overdo the sweetness factor too much but some mildly sweet additions can really boost the flavors in your dessert.
For pies with a buttery, flaky crust (think apple, pumpkin or pecan), a late harvest Chardonnay is a great pairing.
For desserts with copious amounts of dense, gooey chocolate or rich berry compote I like to pour a tawny port which cuts the sweetness of those desserts without being too sweet itself.
For those of you that like to steer clear of sweeter dessert wines, you can easily substitute a Chardonnay or even a Petite Sirah for the above suggestions.
With the flavor "blowout" that holiday dinners often are, there is no one wine that can work well with everything. Be creative, have fun with it, and try choosing wines that have similar characteristics to the food you're eating.