Everyone’s holiday menus are different, but no matter what you’ve got on your plate, let us fill your glass. We interviewed our in house wine experts to decide what wines went best with traditional holiday meals, to satisfy even the most intricate of palates.
Appetizers– Chenin blanc is wonderful in that it can be so versatile. Available in drier and more sweet varieties, there is a perfect match for any appetizer. Nebbiolo wines are a bit of an unusual choice, but are sure to pleasantly surprise those who pair it with their appetizers. Distinguished by its strong tannins, high acidity and distinctive aroma, a nebbiolo is a rare gem. Both chenin blanc and nebbiolo have the balance and style that works with several types of foods, making them a great choice for versatile appetizer assortments. And then of course there is Champagne or Sparkling Wine – one of the most versatile wine choices, hands down.
Cheese– Cheese and wine is a truly classic combination, but there is definitely a method to the madness when searching for the perfect pairing. Generally, fresher cheeses need leaner wines, and aged cheeses, which generally have larger personalities, need more robust wines. Fresh and soft cheeses love crisp whites, making them a perfect pairing with pinot gris or champagne while cabernet franc would pair nicely with harder, longer-aged cheeses. Due to the cream and fat found in cheese, it needs to be balanced with wines with good acidity- which both Pinot Gris, a champagne (especially a blanc de blanc) and Cabernet Franc have. Also, chenin blanc is a great choice for a variety of cheeses, especially a chenin from South Africa, as it tends to be crisper. For cheddar, try a cabernet sauvignon and prepared to be surprised by how well the tannins and sharpness of the cheese pair. And goat’s cheese loves sauvignon blanc.
Rib roast– Rib roast is well suited to bigger reds, and is classically paired with Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone styled wines. Cabernet is a great full bodied choice that is sure to please when paired with rib roast. Fats and proteins reduce the perception of tannins, so when these two are paired the fruitiness of the wine tends to be more noticeable. Along with cabernet sauvignon, a grenache, or grenache blend boasts a bracing backbone enveloped by ripe, berried fruit. This strong personality is perfectly suited to a delicious rib roast.
Ham– Holiday glazed hams can tend to be pretty sweet, so you’ll want to match with wines that are also sweet or taste very fruity. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed aromas, and high acidity. Food that grows together, go together, and ham is commonly eaten in Germany, the birthplace of riesling. A crisp and fresh wine, with hints of honey will bring out delicious flavors in ham, this combination can be found in grenache blanc blends, commonly from the rhone region of France.
Duck– The conventional and excellent pairing for duck is pinot noir. The range of pinot noirs assure that no matter which way your duck is prepared, there is a perfect match. the acidity in pinot noir (especially those from New Zealand or France) cuts through duck fat and the fruit contrasts with the rich duck flavor. If you’re roasting duck or serving it plainly cooked you might want to go for a more delicate red burgundy, however, if rare duck breasts or duck that has some kind of Asian spicing is on the menu, a riper style might work better. But there are other options. Zinfandel spice adds a lot of personality, making it a delicious pairing. These robust grapes are great, as big wines love rich, fatty foods. To complement the gaminess of the duck, try a wine with some smoke like a mourvedre from Bandol or an earthy Northern Rhone blend or even a cabernet franc. For a white, try a pinot gris from Alsace that has a little sweetness or a dry riesling with some age.
Fish– Acidity and finesse are so important to pair with fish. White blends, that include chardonnay will pop the flavor of your fish. Sauvignon blanc is a classic combination with fish, however depending on the fish, and preparation, different sauvignon blancs should be considered. For example, a simply grilled fish pairs beautifully with a more citrusy sauvignon. Pan fried or smoked fish matches perfectly with an oaked sauvignon, although, these preparations could also pair nicely with something more citrusy. Salmon, a richer, fattier fish pairs perfectly with a nice pinot noir. The body and texture will compliment the richness of the fish splendidly.
Dessert– Champagne’s versatility allows it to be paired with an array of desserts, making it a foolproof choice. Racy and ethereal Rieslings also tend to pair especially well with vanilla, and fruit flavors. As a rule of thumb, a wine should mimic the sweetness of the desert it is being paired with, but there should be enough acidity to compliment the sweetness. It is important to keep in mind, a wine with high acidity because most desserts are rich, and the acidity will help balance that.
Latkes– With latkes, and other fried foods, it is important to focus on sparkling wines and champagnes. Acid cuts through the oil used to fry the latkes, while bubbles cleanse your palate- a perfect combination! The crispness of the fried food also mimics the abrasive and bubbly texture of a sparkling wine. Something on the leaner side would nicely compliment the latkes, even a crisp and refreshing sparkling cider -nothing too sweet, of course! Manischewitz aside, there are also a number of delicious kosher sparkling wines to pair with this traditional Hanukkah treat. Gewurztraminer is a great grape to pair with fried foods, and comes in sparkling varieties.
Everything else– When in doubt- the answer is always champagne. Especially during the holiday season. It’s festive, bright, and makes a great gift for visiting others during the holidays. Cava, prosecco, and other sparkling wines will satisfy the same needs as champagne. To learn more about champagne before you buy, click here.
Many of the varietals mentioned are available at a wide variety of price points. With such a breadth of tasty wines to choose from, perhaps you will be inspired to do your own tasting. If so, do let us know which wines YOU like best. You can comment right back here on our blog, on Facebook or in the store. We are excited to hear your opinions!
–Pauline Fink, Staff