Not everyone eats turkey on Thanksgiving or roast beef on Christmas, but the theme of winter seasonal vegetables and roasted foods are common. So what are the best wines for the holidays? Instead of listing brands, this article focuses on the food pairing methodology that leads to the best pairings. You’ll be able to choose your holiday wine like a pro!
There are several classic dishes served at Christmas including:
- Roast Beef
- Winter Vegetables and roasted sides including gratin and casserole
Since Christmas has several traditional variations, make your wine match the main protein dish.
Wine with Roast Beef
- Carmenere A medium-bodied Chilean wine with herbaceous qualities similar in style to Cabernet Franc
- Nero d’Avola A full-bodied Sicilian wine that is often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
- Cabernet Franc An herbaceous medium-bodied red wine probably more famous for the regions that produce it such as Chinon in Loire Valley, France.
- Aglianico A high tannin bold red wine from Southern Italy that’s very savory and herbaceous.
- Tempranillo Look for ‘Reserva’ Tempranillo from Rioja or check out the awesome Spanish wine value region called Ribera del Duero
- Sangiovese Sangiovese is known by many regional names, keep your eyes peeled for Montalcino Rosso, Vino Nobile de Montepuliciano and, of course, the opulent and tannic Brunello di Montalcino.
- Merlot Blends An outstanding alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon (and usually quite a few bucks cheaper) is Merlot. This a great opportunity to seek out a 7+ year old Bordeaux Superieur
- Cabernet Sauvignon Blends For value, look into the 2010 vintage in Argentina and Chile for some excellent Cabernet-based blends with either Carmenere (in Chile) or Malbec (in Argentina)
Wine with Ham
- Rosé Wine The classic region for great dry rosé is Provence. L
- Grenache or Garnacha Grenache has the fruitiness to stand up to inherently sweet ham. Many American producers are making outstanding Grenache in Paso Robles
- Côtes du Rhône Blends This wine is actually a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Seek out the 2010 vintage.
Champagne for New Years
Well, if you haven’t already blown your entire month’s salary on Thanksgiving and Christmas, then there’s one more holiday beckoning. Ack! The Champagne region has been marketing its wines as a celebratory beverage since the 1890’s. The entry price of Champagne is closer to $40 (for bottom rung bottle bubbly). Expect to spend closer to $60 for good Champagne.
Let’s take a look at several types of bubbly, all made in the classic style:
- Cava Most Cava are dry and fruity. You won’t find a lot of brioche or butter in these wines, but you will find them to be refreshingly cheerful.
- Crémant Crémant is the name for sparkling wine from all the other French wine regions (excluding Champagne). Crémant de Limoux in the Languedoc-Roussillon offers several zesty 100% Chardonnay (aka ‘Blanc des Blancs’) and the Alsace region makes a crémant rosé that, by law, must be 100% Pinot Noir. These two wines offer incredible alternatives to Champagne.
- Metodo Classico If you need a little buttery, nutty brioche in your Champagne flute, check out Italian bubbles (and I’m not talking about Prosecco). ‘Metodo Classico’ are made in the same way as Champagne and can be found predominantly in Northern Italy. Need a couple of examples? Look for Franciacorta DOC and Trento DOC.
- Champagne If you’re ready to commit to Champagne and want that yeasty, bready style, you need to acknowledge that the ‘breadiness’ of Champagne comes from extended aging. Look for reserve level Champagne and/or the 2002 or 2005 vintages. If you’re afraid of messing up your purchase, be sure to tell your wine seller what style of Champagne you’re looking for (elegant vs. opulent).