By Trisha Curry
What is on the menu this holiday season? The time-honored, customary, traditional foods that adorn holiday tables are given staples. The wine however, is not such basic knowledge. Acidity, robust, minerality what? And how does it pair with my sweet potatoes? Ugh, just hand me a red.
Stop. Take a deep breath. And DO NOT give up. Vinley is here to help! Wine enhances your food (and your mood) in a spectacular way and a little wine knowledge goes a long way towards sophisticated dinner pairings – and dinner chat! Here are some wine pairing secrets to guide you through the season.
The air is just beginning to turn crisp. Cool air is slipping in to warn us of autumn’s arrival. Cozy sweaters, crushed velvet and comfort food on the stove are overwhelmingly appealing to our senses. As fall drops its curtain bringing nightfall in its wake, evenings spent by a crackling fire with an exceptional glass of wine and your favorite socks are about all you have on your mind as you hasten out of the office, anxious to get home.
Yet not all evenings are whiled away in the quiet company of velvety red Bordeaux. The holidays are filled with grand sumptuous affairs that consume all of your November and December brain. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and all the different festivities you may attend, or host, are crowding your calendar. Thankfully, we have the wine pairing survival guide to get you through.
WINE TO PAIR WITH HEAVY FOOD
Heavier foods, like pasta and casseroles, pair well with acidic wines that can cut through the richness of the dish. Plates that you are dousing in gravy should be paired with unoaked Chardonnay from Chablis or red Gamay from Beaujolais. The acidity of these wines stands up to the richness of the meal and keeps the wine from going flabby under all the grease.
Side note on favoriting French regions - wines that hail from France lean towards more authenticity in representing the terroir they are extracted from. French standards are stricter than the United States and ensure the winemakers produce wines that represent the region, soil and weather. Over-extraction, over-oaking and pumping their vino with extra sugar are no-no’s.
I LATKES YOU A LOT: WINE PAIRINGS FOR SALTY FALL FOODS
Many of your holiday side dishes will be on the salty side and this is to your benefit. Salt and wine are a good match and salty dishes enhance many varietals. But you do want to ensure that the salt does not overtake the acidity in your wine. If you are heavy handed with the seasoning, then Champagne is the way to go. Champagnes are highly acidic and also refreshing when paired with foods that can balance them. If you’re on the light side with salt then consider a Riesling. The sweet balances the salt and Riesling compliments spicy dishes as well, making it a great wine to have on hand.
TURKEY DINNER: WHAT WINES TO PAIR WITH THE CENTERPIECE DISH
Orange Honey Glazed Roasted Turkey Breasts by The Cozy Apron
The main event and centerpiece of many holiday tables, turkey is a notoriously dry meat that, unless you fry it, will not be your juiciest dish. Therefore you want to avoid tannic wines with will dry out your mouth and procure the turkey’s sawdust taste elements. Zinfandel and Pinot Noir are classic pairings and granted, successful ones. But if you would like something a little bit off the beaten path, Austria has an under-appreciated red grape by the name of St. Laurent that produces smooth flavors of black raspberry and pleasant earthiness resulting in a lush red with low tannins. Drink young, as St. Laurent is not designed for aging.
Primitivo is another off-the-chart wine hailing from Southern Italy. If you look at the Primitivo family tree you will discover that it is actually related to Zinfandel through a Croatian grape called Crljenak Kastelanski. A fruit-forward wine, Primitivo beautifully showcases a taste profile of raspberry jam and earthy hints of clay.
WINE TO PAIR WITH APPLE PIE: DESSERT WINE PAIRINGS
Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie by Smitten Kitchen
Last but not least, dessert! This might be your easiest pairing as the main rule of thumb here is to pair sweet with sweet. Tawny Port is a great option as this incredibly sweet wine will completely change when you taste it next to an equally sweet desert. It bounces off the dish and becomes splendidly bitter in the most complimentary way. This pleasing bitter and sweet contrast is the same reason that black coffee also pairs well with dessert. (Not allowed until after wine by the way, as coffee diminishes your palate)
May all the food and wine you joyfully consume this season escalate your senses to new heights and provide your palate with a new appreciation for the science of food and wine pairing.
Want more wine and food pairing advice? Check out our wine pairing guide