It’s holiday time, and there’s a lot of eating and drinking going on. So how are you going to make sure that you don’t squander the opportunity to get some tasty wines on the table this year?
Here’s a quick rundown on what to consider when planning what to drink with your holiday meals:
Let’s say you’re going with a traditional starter for your big holiday gathering… something like smoked salmon, shrimp, or maybe even oysters. These are pretty much medium weight dishes, and a good way to start pairing wines with food is to consider the weight.
It’s also the beginning of the meal, so you don’t want to jump in with some big, bold, bombastic flavors from the start… you want to build your way there. It’s just like the art of telling a good story.
So let’s look at our options. You’re dealing with things that are either fatty, oily, rich, or, in the case of the oysters, delicate. That means you’ll want something with a good amount of acidity to cut through any fat or richness, and something pretty clean (flavor-wise) to not compete with the simplicity or purity of the flavors on the plate. Chablis or Champagne seem in order here.
Oh, wait, your starting with soup? In that case, look to a light and tangy Fino Sherry or, for something a bit richer, a Serial Madeira.
Now, on to round two, the main dish.
If you’re having a traditional meal, it’s likely going to center around either a turkey, goose, or a beef roast.
Roast birds tend to have pretty low fat content, and that means you’ll probably want a full bodied white wine (like a rich new world Chardonnay or a white from Alsace), or, assuming your table will be filled with fruit flavors like cranberry or other semi-sweet things… look to something like a young, ripe, fruity red without many tannins. Good examples might include a Cru Beaujolais or a California Zinfandel.
And if it’s beef you’re serving, you’ll want to stay with reds that are low to moderate in tannins, like Pinot Noir or Syrah – and only pull out the pricey Red Bordeaux and Cult Cabernets if you are serving some rich and fatty cuts.
But that’s probably not the end of the meal, right?
Don’t short shrift yourself or your guests by forgetting to serve wines with dessert.
The only really important rule to consider with desert, is that the wine needs to be sweeter than the food… so, for your best chances of success, stick to fortified options like Ports, Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez Sherries for Mince Pies or traditional Christmas Puddings – or sweeter Rieslings or Sauterns for fruit-based pies or tarts.