The holidays are filled with good food and drinks. In our case, mostly wine. The challenge is that there are so many different flavors in the food that we serve during this time of the year which makes it hard to pair with a single wine. Often it is buffet style with many dishes and favorite family recipes.
So how do we go about it? Well, you can of course make a buffet of different wines too! If you are just a few people, which will be the case for many during 2020, that will probably be too much wine (though a tasting party is never a bad option.)
The traditional holiday menu offers such a wide variety of flavors. The honey glazed ham offers sweet and salty, while the turkey, tart cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows bring sweet and sour. So how do we pick a wine?
In general, salty food will enhance the acidity and tannins in a dry red wine. It is better to pick a fruity white wine such as our Viognier or a less oaky, more slender, but still fruity Chardonnay. You can also look for a lighter, less tannic red wine, maybe a light Zinfandel or light red Rhone wine such as Grenache.
Cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes at the same time is also a challenge. As there are a lot of flavors, I look to the bright fruity acidity of an Italian Sangiovese. To play with the sweetness and creaminess of sweet potatoes and butter in many of the side dishes, I go with our Tuscan Cuvee which blends Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon into a festive wine. A European style Pinot Noir which has had the time to age a bit is an excellent choice as well as a dry Riesling or Viognier if you want to pair it with a white wine.
The desserts this time of the year tend to have nuts, pecans and walnuts, sweet and spicy apples, or pumpkin flavors. A sweet white dessert wine, such as our Late Harvest Viognier, will go very nicely with this. If you end up with a big dark chocolate cake on your table, bring out the red port wine.
My favorite wine, a big, complex, well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon will either wait for the cheese platter to come out (read my blog about cheese) or wait until another evening when we make a nice prime rib steak with mushrooms, wine sauce and winter greens, or my favorite winter meat, venison.
Or I may just take a generous glass of a 15-20 year old Cab, put my feet up next to the fireside and enjoy. Happy Holidays!