As usual the holiday season has come upon us faster than anticipated, along with the indulgence in all things food and drink. Whether you are hosting or attending gatherings with friends and family, it can be a stressful season — yet shouldn’t this time be fun and easy? It can be, with a few points to consider for your holiday party: food, “shock value”, and post-dinner drinks.
So what are you serving this year? Turkey, roast beef, lamb or a vegetarian feast? Between the 8-12 recipes you may be serving up in one particular meal, the last thing on your mind is probably what wine to serve. It should be the first.
When pairing with these dishes, consider two things, the weight of the dish and any accompanying sauce. No, weight does not mean how many calories you’re taking in! It refers to matching the weight of the wine to the density of the food. For instance, lamb has quite a bit of fat, which we all know gives flavor. This quality needs medium to full-bodied wine with fairly gripping tannins to cut through that texture.
So try a nice Bordeaux blend from South Africa for your lamb dish this year. The Cabernet, Merlot and often Pinotage (Crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, and native to South Africa) are a perfect companion to lamb.
Now on to turkey, the dish we’ll eat for about 2 weeks straight and vow to never touch again until next year. Turkey screams for the unexpected, dry rosè. Many believe rosè is the adulterated white zinfandel that grandma drinks with ice cubes and a straw. Too few see rose as an elegant, complex and flat-out delicious alternative to both red and white.
Try our Costaripa Rosamara dry Rosè from Lombardia in far northern Italy. This barrel-aged rose has the rich velvety texture to match the juicy meat of turkey breast. With cranberry compote, this wine is especially to die for.
How about your vegan and vegetarian friends? What does this strange demographic like to match with the rustic and earthy dishes of the fall and winter? Well, the wines that go well with rustic dishes are just that — rustic. Think of earthy roasted beets and goat cheese as a dish-pair with a slightly savory Burgundy Pinot Noir. How about acorn squash soup with toasted hazelnuts as a garnish?
Between the sweetness of the squash and the richness of the hazelnuts, there are a lot of flavors to work with. Don’t try to pair to every flavor here, your head will spin. Instead, think of the flavors that would be good with this. Think of what fruit nuances could help enhance the dish. Think of what herbaceous flavors could do to it. So, what type of wine has a bright cherry, cranberry and/or an herbal savory quality? This dish is perfect for a Nebbiolo from Northern Italy, or even a Frappato from Sicily. These obscure wines offer a great pairing as well as the opportunity to take your guests out of their comfort zones.
This takes us to our next point; add shock value to your event! Provide wines that your guests most likely haven’t heard of. There are tens of thousands of grape varietals on this planet, so don’t just pick Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Don’t get us wrong, these wines have their purpose, but seldom do they provoke an interesting conversation.
• Pinot Grigio drinkers, try Gruner Veltliner from Austria.
• Chardonnay drinkers, try a full-bodied Soave Classico from Veneto, Italy.
• Pinot Noir drinkers, try Refosco from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.
• Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, try Rioja Crianza from Spain.
• Rose or sparkling drinkers, try our new favorite: sparkling Lambrusco Rose from Lombardia, Italy.
At this point, you’re probably stuffed beyond belief and never want to look at food again. The thought of how many hours in the gym that are needed to knock off the 8,000 calorie meal you just ate is probably creeping into your mind. But wait, there’s more to be had.
Every good meal deserves a post-dinner drink. How about a nice Digestivo or single malt? Our personal favorite is Amaro. In Italian Amaro means “bitter.” This herbal liqueur is bittersweet with notes of orange, cinnamon bark and leafy herbs. Drink it on the rocks with a slice of orange. With Amaro, you can eat until you’re about to burst, have a drink of this, and be ready for seconds. Maybe even thirds.
The number one goal for us in after dinner drinks is pouring something memorable. People will remember the last thing you serve them just as they will the best, so why not make both the same course? Finish strong and your holiday meal will be remembered forever.
Any of these selections will intrigue your guests as well as pair great with holiday meals. We have them all in a dedicated holiday wine rack to make your shopping easy.
In the end, the holidays are meant for enjoying your loved ones and appreciating everything you have. At Grapes & Grains, we appreciate the great group of friends we have made here. Since day one we’ve had an incredibly friendly group of customers, and for that we’re thankful. Take the time this holiday season to really soak up how great of a place we live in! Happy Holidays everyone!
Peter Andrews CSS, CSW, MBA, is the General Manager of Grapes & Grains fine wine, craft beer, and small-batch spirits shop in Barrington. Any questions, comments or suggestions on the Monthly Wine Review? Email Peter at [email protected].