Eat Drink And Be Merry
Nov 04, 2016 10:04AM ● Published by Ashley Pape
Whether you’re hosting a family feast with all the fixings or a festive holiday dinner with friends and neighbors, wine completes the meal, enhancing the palate and dispersing aromas. Although the wine-is-intimidating stereotype disappeared for most of us years ago, it’s natural to wonder what to serve during the holidays. Does a cabernet pair perfectly with your holiday menu or is a pinot grigio better-suited for your feast? The foods are so varied; it’s often difficult to pinpoint a wine that’s just right.
Today’s spread can include any combination of fowl, pork, beef and seafood, as well as vegetarian dishes. And then there are the family favorites. No other time of year is so richly steeped in food traditions. Aunt Jenny loves bacon-wrapped scallop appetizers. Grandpa Bill has to have his braised red cabbage with apples. And everyone can’t get enough creamy potato gratin and green bean casserole.
Venture Away from the Expected Pairings
With such an eclectic bounty on the table, wouldn’t it be fun to try something different than the traditional food and wine pairings—pinot noir with turkey, syrah with ham and cabernet sauvignon with beef? Keith Janosik, Central Market’s business development manager of beer and wine, suggests serving wines with lower tannins, such as a red zinfandel blend. (Simply put, tannins are compounds that create a dry feeling in your mouth.) Wines with soft tannins help balance meat, such as turkey, which can be on the dry side.
The Prisoner, a unique Napa Valley red blend, is one of these wines. With aromas of Bing cherry, espresso and roasted fig, and flavors of ripe raspberry, pomegranate and wild berry, The Prisoner lingers for a smooth and luscious finish. If you happen to have one or two wine connoisseurs on your guest list, Wine Spectator gives The Prisoner 2014 91 points on its 100-point scale, rating it an outstanding wine of superior character and style.
Rosé is another great option. “It’s time to think differently about rosé. It can be dry or fruity, and the glowing pink color looks pretty on a holiday table,” says Janosik, who is also a Certified Specialist of Wine. Mimi en Provence Grand Reserve Rosé is light-bodied and dry, and you can’t beat the price at under $20 a bottle. La Galope Rosé tastes like “it’s full of sunshine” and has a balanced acidity. Fruity and complex, it goes well with appetizers.
If you want to add another type of wine to the table, try Matteo Braidot Pinot Grigio from Italy. Slightly nutty, full-bodied and with hints of savory, it pairs well with every kind of food, especially poultry and fish. And, as another under-$20 bottle, it won’t break the bank.
A Toast to Friends, Family, Good Food, Great Company
Lifting your glass for a toast just isn’t the same without a glass of bubbly. If you usually serve a California sparkling wine or a French Champagne, try prosecco from Italy.
Just like true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France, real prosecco comes from the Prosecco DOC in northeast Italy. Look for prosecco labeled DOC or DOCG. DOC is an Italian quality-assurance designation for wine and food. DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) means the wine producers followed the strictest regulations possible. DOCG is also tested by a committee that then guarantees the geographic authenticity of the wine and its quality.
If only an American sparkler will do and you’re serving appetizers such as oysters, sushi or salty chips, Whole Foods’ wine experts suggest Gruet Sauvage Blanc de Blanc (under $20) for “incredibly elegant bubbles.” This bone-dry sparkling wine from New Mexico, made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes, has aromas of bright mineral and citrus notes that tickle the nose, followed by touches of green apple, lemon and grapefruit.
End on a High Note
As they say in show business, you want to leave them wanting more, and a fantastic dessert wine will create a lasting impression. Ports and sauternes are mainstays in this category, but since we’re tempting you to break away from the usual wine pairings, consider an ice wine. Ice wine is made in cold climates from grapes left to freeze on the vines. When the grapes freeze, their natural sugars become concentrated, resulting in intensely sweet flavors. Germany is especially known for its high-quality “eiswein.”
Of course, for most of us, it’s not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. Recipes certainly vary, but pumpkin pie leans towards the savory side of desserts, which is the trick in terms of wine pairing. Wine Enthusiast magazine suggests medium to sweet rieslings (e.g. Jekel, Willamette Valley Vineyards) that bring a fitting crispness, and proclaims Inniskillin’s sparkling ice wine “as good a pairing as you can ask for.” Also, the chilled effervescence of a sparkling wine, such as Schramsberg’s Cremant and Domino de la Vega Cava, lifts the pie’s denseness and spice.
Pecan pie leans toward the sweetest side of the pie spectrum. With the brown sugar and dark molasses texture and taste of pecan pie, a Portuguese fortified wine called Madeira provides a perfect foil. It’s a bit like port, but with a burnt character.
For many, there’s no substitute for all things tried and true, and food and wine pairings are no exception. Whatever label you serve this holiday season, be sure to raise a glass to all you are thankful for.