I need to be reminded not everyone thinks about wine all of the time, and I’m also the person who will ask what is for dinner while eating breakfast. So, let’s talk about the Thanksgiving and Christmas wines you need to explore and specific varieties to pair with holiday foods…
First thoughts on wine selection, avoid overly big and powerful wines that might overwhelm the food. Food-friendly wines enhance rather than overwhelm food. Food-friendly wines have good acidity, are light, fruity and, they can be sweet. Fruit wines are trending right now, they are food-friendly wines, and they strike a nice balance in the sense they do not show extremes; extremes of power, alcohol, ripeness, oak or extraction. Food-friendly wines are refreshing, and tend to clean your palate between bites, complimenting richness in the food.
“Thanksgiving & Christmas are big meal main events, having a variety of different foods, and that is why people have a problem sorting out what wine will work.”
Roast Turkey at Thanksgiving is the food exception where many wines pair with it, depending on your choice of dark meat or light meat. Heavy red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon (or blends of red), lighter body Pinot Noir to a full bodied barrel aged Chardonnay work perfectly. We are also seeing tannin-filled fruit wines such as Door Peninsula Winery oak barrel-aged cherry wine or cranberry wine (or blend of cranberry). A classic matching is Riesling or Gewürztraminer, fantastic light and fruity wines.
Roast Beef is dense protein, so a heavier red wine is always a nice match, Syrah can stand up to beef and match the mouth feel. If prime rib is the main course, the cut tends to be rich and have mild flavors, I often recommend a Merlot or Zinfandel as a lighter fruitier red.
Spiral-cut Ham is a very lean and light meat, often has a gamey flavor, so light bodied wines work, especially red wine like Pinot Noir. However, ham is tricky, because of the salty brine and smoked flavor, we have recommended a range of wines: sweet Riesling, fruit wines such as cranberry apple and Door Peninsula Winery ‘Cranbernet’ wine, Chardonnay, Peninsula Red, and Pinot Noir.
Briefly thinking about wine chemistry and food pairing from our earlier conversations to match flavors… “The weight of the wine should match the weight of the food” … there are at least 4 significant chemistry components that affect the body of a wine (aka-mouth feel), and they are:
- Ethyl Alcohol – Beverage alcohol increases wine viscosity as the alcohol by volume content increases, it adds the sensation of heat or burn to your palate, a wine high in alcohol is ‘hot.’
- Organic acids – Adds ‘brightness’ at higher levels, and ‘flabbiness’ at lower levels.
- Flavor compounds – Gives the wine a sensation like fruitiness, or a tactile mouth feel with tannin.
- Residual sugars – The sugar left after fermentation will add balance to the above components and increase the thickness of the wine.
If you have ever heard someone correctly use the term “big wine” they are referring to high alcohol, high tannins, and elevated acids in the big wine; perhaps some sweetness.
“Here is the solution to your holiday wine and food matching conundrum: keep it simple.”
The fact remains, Thanksgiving and Christmas main event meals tend to fill your plate with complex flavors. There is not one wine that will take you from appetizers to main course to desert, and your guests all have different wine palates. I would suggest having available 3-4 different wines to offer choice, but not so many that every bottle needs to be open at once. How much wine will you need? With any dinner party lasting over 3 hours, plan on ½ bottle per person, and maybe have a few back-up bottles!
That can be a lot of wine depending on your family size… To save you money in December, Door Peninsula Winery has an internet wine sale called ‘The 12 days of Christmas.’ Go to our web site DCWINE.COM to sign up and receive our newsletters, you will be notified by e-mail of the daily deal starting on December 1st and ending the 12th. We also offer free shipping on a case of wine from November 28th through December 31st. As always, we have Gift Baskets available for the holidays and other great ideas on or web site. Happy Holidays!
~Paul Santoriello, DPW
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