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Holiday Cuisine

Food, Spices & Wine

 Often the holidays re-unite more than friends and family. In many homes, holiday feasts are a mosaic of well-intentioned but completely mis-matched dishes - a la Aunt Rosa or Grandma McEwan - prepared with love, but for the sake of tradition. Beautiful and meaningful to be sure, but challenging when it comes to wine pairing.

holiday turkey 325x225Add to the challenge, our natural tendency to bring out the good stuff to celebrate special occasions and it is easy to see how the best intentions can go horribly wrong.

The best idea then is to match variety with variety and serve several different high quality, food-friendly wines.In the culinary world these are considered safe bets as they shoot more-or-less straight up the middle.

Food-Friendly Favorites

Food friendly white wines for the holidays include Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, and reds include Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Chianti and Rioja. This isn't a definitive list by any stretch, but its somewhere to start. As always, let your palette be your guide.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the end of a successful harvest and the beginning of the long holiday season. Generally the menu at Thanksgiving is full of hearty fresh vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, and of course the Thanksgiving turkey. Many of these foods are heavy and rich and represent a warm break from the cold.

champagne toast 325x225To cut the richness of many of these foods, try a sparkling white wine. Our hands-down favorite of course is Champagne - not just for its suitability, but also for the sense of occasion.

Lighter bodied whites are solid choices for turkey and ham, because they won't overpower the mild taste of the white and light meat.

If red is preferred, a bright Beaujolais will complement the milder dishes, while its fruity tones will stand up to the more intense. A red Cabernet Franc is another lighter-bodied red that has a touch of pepper and darker fruit tones that will go well with the darker turkey meat. They pair beautifully in fact, so if you want to bring out the good stuff, Cabernet Franc is an excellent place to start - or finish, whatever the case may be.

What's with the Marshmallows?

While turkey is relatively wine friendly it is the heavier, often-times orphan side dishes that present a challenge - Grandma's candied yams with whipped and toasted marshmallow topping for example. These dishes need a rich, bold wine to holds its own - one with solid acidity and strong fruit tones. Red Burgundy's, Shiraz and Rieslings will stand up to most holiday side dishes.

holiday-2Pinot Noir (right) pairs well with many foods, including turkey and ham. The earthy tones in the wine pick up on the earthy seasonal undertones of the food, and Pinot's jammy residue complements both meats.

Ham and other classic holiday dish, pair extremely well with fruit. Ham is generally rich and salty, possibly smoky, so choose a low-acid, low-tannin wine to pair.

Consider medium bodied reds with cherries, blackberries and soft tannins. The fruit in medium bodied reds will complement the double-smoked baked hams. A heavy red will overpower the ham's flavor, while a wine that is too acidic will take away from the sweetness of the ham. Off dry Rieslings pair well with ham and its smoky sweet flavors, and its acidity will cut through the richness.

Other versatile wines to have on hand during the holidays include Merlot, Shiraz and Chardonnay. These varieties do well during appetizer time or during wine and cheese round the fire time. White Zinfandel is a good single varietal crowd-pleaser.

Our hands-down favorite for the holidays of course, is Champagne. The one and only, goes with everything, everyone and every occasion - happiness in a glass.

Happy Holidays!