The science of pairing wine with food has been studied for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and the general consensus is that they work wonderfully together. What is not an exact science, however, is what traditional holiday meals are served from one family to another. Each could potentially have a different varietal of wine that suits the staple of the meal. To help with this dilemma I have comprised a list of common festive feasts and near perfect wines to pair with them.
Red wines pair wonderfully with red meats due to the interplay between the tannins in the wine and the protein in the meat.
Tannins are a naturally occurring compound found in all red wines that help to give the wines structure and balance. Found in the skins, seeds, and stems of the grapes, tannins act as a natural preservative allowing wines age for long periods. The rough, astringent, tooth drying sensation of the tannins will soften once they bind to the proteins in the meat.
Ok, enough wino-wisdom. Here are three delicious prime rib pairing options:
This bold barbera is fitting for prime rib because if its balance of acidity and tannin, and its fermentation and maturation in oak barrels. Throwing its weight around Moliss shows aromas of red fruits, vanilla, tar and spices, with round, full-bodied and dry flavors of tobacco and dried plum.
Don't let this 100% Merlot Bordeaux fool you, Prima was designed for red meat. Deep purple in color with pronounced aromas of raspberry, black cherry, and hints of hazelnut, Prima delivers a mouthful of crushed blueberry skins, tobacco, clove, and blackberry. Rich and round, Prima will go toe to toe with the prime-est of prime rib.
Cabernet Sauvignon is often synonymous with big tannins, making this pairing a no-brainer. Poignant and focused, taught and grippy, Von Strasser Diamond Mountain Cabernet is a delight to behold. Aromas of dark fruits, blackberry, and leather, with flavors of licorice, coffee, and pomegranate make this wine ideal for your holiday table.
Ahh pork, once described by Homer Simpson as a "wonderful, magical animal" as it provides us with bacon, ham, and pork chops. The thing is, because pork can be so many things, there are a multitude of wine pairings to compliment it. However, we will focus on a holiday staple, the glazed ham. With its sweet and salty richness, glazed ham pairs best with wines that have a touch of sweetness, a good amount of acidity, and pronounced fruit flavors. After all, the best way to pair foods that have a hit of sweetness is with wines that have the same.
Australian Shriraz is often described as a "fruit bomb", making it a complimentary pairing for glazed ham. The Ripper (pronounced 'rippah') brings to the table blackberry and dark cherry fruit notes with fruity mocha and savory caramelized fruit flavors. Bold, but not too bold.
Riesling like pork, can also wear many hats. Made in a medium-dry style with plenty of racy acidity, this Kabinett Riesling is more than ready to pair with glazed ham. Harmonious and easy drinking, JJ Prum offers complex aromas of violet, peach, slate, and pear, with flavors of apple, mineral, and flowers.
This Napa Valley red blend smells like smoky black current jam. I could probably just stop writing now because this screams "pair me with glazed ham!". Plushy and finessed with soft tannins, and flavors of red current and black cherry.
Rack of Lamb
Lamb is gamey, slightly fatty, can absorb spices easily and is notoriously wine friendly. Rack of lamb is generally smokier with a light char or crust, and is often served with various marinades, jellies, and sauces. Meats like this warrant deeper richer wines with ripe flavors and stewed aromas to compliment such a presentation.
In Spain the term Reserva dictates the minimum oak (12 mo) and bottle aging (24 mo) requirements. Because of this, Reserva Riojas will show some of the gamey and balsamic aromas of older, more refined wines, perfect for rack of lamb. Edulis has a nose of gooseberry, blackberry, spice, cocoa, and tobacco, that extends well beyond its price range. Silky, full-bodied flavors of leather and stewed plum round out Edulis Reserva Rioja. Oh, and if you were wondering, it is 100% Tempranillo.
Zinfandel is one of, if not the quintessential grilling wine, fitting for a seared lamb rack. Sinfarosa Zinfandel comes from the heel of the boot in Italy, in a region known as Puglia. Round and opulent with a nose of spices, pepper, chocolate and red cherries, it offers flavors of plumb, sweet baking spice, fresh earth, and black pepper.
It is important to note that rack of lamb can also be a delicate dish, with subtle and nuanced flavors. When serving lamb in this style, a high-quality single vineyard pinot noir can mirror these characteristics with finesse and elegance. Sojourn Wohler Pinot Noir is focused and whimsical with earthy aromatics leading to cola, black cherry, and spice. With a proud and sappy palate of warm Bing cherry, purple flowers, berries, and mocha, this pair is a delicate dance to the divine.
Feast of Seven Fishes
This Italian-American tradition is a seafood extravaganza. With seven separate courses, ranging from clams and mussels to calamari and langoustines, there is an infinite amount of possible pairings. Below, I have comprised a list that will complement any festive seafood dish.
Gruner Veltliner is a light yellow-green, zippy and affectionate wine that can be drunk young, or aged for up to a decade. With aromas of pear, tangerine, and lime, Hopler has all the elements that can stand up to a fish dish with lemon or cream sauce. Ripe citrus fruit and spicy, peppery notes on the palate round out this fish friendly wine.
One of the easiest pairings is sparkling wine, and Franciacorta is northern Italy's finest expression of sparkling wine. Lively and full of fragrance, Contadi Castaldi Brut shows fresh citrus, lime, and white peach. A crisp and full bodied with a nice long finish, pair this lovely brut with shellfish and your golden.
Simply one of the finest expressions of chardonnay is Grand Cru Chablis. Long lived, with tremendous structure and elegance, a powerhouse like Moutard Valmur is ideal for your seafood banquet. Notes of vanilla, camphor and citrus zest, with a palate of lemon, mint, and pastry cream.
Whether its Peking, L'orange, Confit, or roast, duck is a holiday staple that is as delicate as it is decadent. Duck meat has the flavor and structure to carry the weight and tannins of slightly heavier bodied red wines, but is also refined enough for soft, cooler climate wines. Remember, when pairing with duck, match the acid in the wine with the sweet fat and plush meat, it makes of mouthwatering results.
The cherry, strawberry and wood smoke aromas of this cool climate German pinot noir match perfectly with the lightly sweet, dark rich meat of roast duck. With a palate of berry, plum and a touch of spice, this light bodied beauty is perfect when you have spent most of your budget on the duck itself.
90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, this is Chianti Classico Riserva at its finest. An intense nose of sour cherry, berry fruits, and spicy tobacco, La Ripa has all the elements to commingle with a perfectly roast duck. Flavors of rich cherry, violet, leather, and cedar, this wine will surely help to create the perfect meal for you and your guests.
Full, complex and enveloping, think of this as pinot noir's biggest brother. With aromas of dried rose, violet, raspberry, and wild strawberry, Cabutto Barolo shows its muscle and concentration. Powerful tannins, robust and austere, the flavors show black pepper, truffle, licorice and tobacco.