The holiday season is a time of revelry, celebration and most of all, gluttony! There is nothing more heart-warming than gathering around the holiday table with family and friends to enjoy an enormous meal prepared with love, except when that meal is also paired with the best wines for the holidays.
However, it is particularly difficult to pair wines with holiday meals because no two tables are the same, and no two meals are prepared the same way. The main course could be turkey, ham, lamb or prime rib. Side dishes can span a huge range of flavors, like sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing and cranberry sauce. There can be international dishes from regions like Asia and Mexico. Not to mention the endless variety of spices to flavor everything.
Food should take center stage on the holidays, which means any wine pairing should compliment the meal and not fight for all of the attention. The best approach to selecting a wine for your holiday table is to choose a versatile, food-friendly wine that pairs well with many different dishes, and to select wines that most of your guests will enjoy. Here are some excellent holiday wine pairings.
The Chook Sparkling Shiraz NV, $15
Before you reach for that bottle of champagne, consider surprising your guests with a glass of bubbly they have probably never tasted before, and may not even know exists! The Chook Sparkling Shiraz is a red sparkling wine from Australia. It is dry, medium-bodied and bubbling over with juicy plum, blueberry and chocolate flavors. It is both soft and refreshing with velvety bubbles, and pairs astonishingly well with holiday meals, especially roasted poultry and meats. This is a fresh and vibrant wine to kick off your holiday celebration, and should be enjoyed well-chilled and served in champagne flutes.
Famille Hugel Classic Riesling 2017, $20
When most people think of Riesling, they think of sweet white wines. However, Rieslings are made with a range of sugar levels from completely dry to lusciously sweet. This Famille Hugel Classic Riesling from Alsace, France is a dry, light-bodied wine with ripe fruit flavors and aromas of pear, apricot, green apple and lemon. The refreshingly high levels of mouth-watering acidity in this wine make it an excellent pairing option with lighter foods such as fish and turkey. It also beautifully compliments spicier dishes, like curries, as well as hard-to-pair vegetables including mushrooms and asparagus.
The Hilt Chardonnay Santa Barbara 2015, $27
Chardonnay is an excellent choice for your holiday table, but it must be the right style of Chardonnay. Many Chardonnays, especially those from California, tend to be overly oaky and buttery. This style can easily overwhelm the delicate flavors of turkey, white potatoes and other fixings. The better choice is a more restrained style of Chardonnay like The Hilt Chardonnay 2015 from the cooler central coast of Santa Barbara, CA. This wine has a bright, flinty minerality with rich flavors of lemon, pineapple and peach rounded out by delicate floral notes and aromas of honey and nuts. It has a touch of light oak to give it structure, but the oak is well-integrated and does not overwhelm the fruity, floral characters of this gorgeous wine.
The Four Graces Pinot Noir 2017, $20
Pinot Noir is much like Chardonnay in that the style of wine will determine whether or not it’s a good pairing for your holiday meal. Some Pinot Noirs can be big, rich and jammy with higher levels of mouth-drying tannins that can overpower your taste buds and reduce your ability to fully enjoy the variety of flavors on the table. Medium-bodied Pinot Noirs from cooler regions like Oregon and Burgundy will better pair with a wider variety of foods. The Four Graces Pinot Noir 2017 is from the cool Willamette Valley in Oregon. The wine has bright red fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry with just enough pepper and smokey notes to balance the fruit. Its bright acidity cuts through richer dishes, while the smooth tannins don’t overwhelm dishes with more subtle flavors.
Carlisle Zinfandel Papera Ranch Russian River Valley 2016, $50
Zinfandel is the perfect crowd-pleaser – both fruity and spicy, and balanced by soft tannins. It is supremely tasty without being overbearing. The richer, fruit-forward nature of Zinfandel pairs well with anything from turkey to beef, white potatoes to sweet potatoes, stuffing to cranberry sauce, and it accentuates sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Wow your guests with a truly outstanding bottle of Carlisle Papera Ranch Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2016. This wine is elegant, yet powerful, with complex flavors of blueberry, cherry, chocolate, tobacco and pepper. The refined fruit and silky tannins make this a stand-out wine that your guests will notice, but it won’t take all of the spotlight away from that delicious holiday meal.
Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port, $40
No holiday meal is complete without a sinfully delectable dessert, or three. Hold off on pouring the coffee until after dessert. Instead, pair those pies, cakes and pastries with a Fronseca 20 Year Tawny Port. After aging in oak barrels for 20 years, this port has developed a rich amber color with complex flavors of dried cherries, fig, raisins, caramel, cinnamon, honey and sweet tobacco. All of those rich flavors accentuate a variety of sweet and nutty holiday desserts like pecan pie, almond cake, caramel cheesecake, creme brulee, cherry pie, chocolate mousse, dark chocolate layer cake and more!