By Elspeth Brown
How many times this month will you look in your wine cabinet to grab a bottle for a party, a present or a holiday dinner? Here are staples to stock so you aren’t scrambling for the perfect pairing. This holiday season, you will be ready!
Some of the most celebrated holidays in the month of December are Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Even if not celebrating these, most people, at some point, attend a dinner party or a New Year’s Eve bash, or go out to a restaurant where special dishes call for just the right wine.
New Year’s Eve is an easy call: choose Champagne. If, however, you aren’t looking to spend an arm and a leg on bubbles, try a Crémant. Crémant, which means creamy, has soft, velvety bubbles. Its names indicate the different regions in France where it is produced: Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux, Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Loire and Crémant de Bourgogne. Grapes used to produce this sparkling wine must be harvested by hand and aged for a minimum of one year.
Traditional dishes for Kwanzaa are usually curries, jerk chicken and African creole. Pinot gris is the perfect pairing. Pinot Gris and pinot grigio are the same grape, but they do differ quite a bit in flavor. Pinot grigio is harvested early to retain a lot of acidity. Pinot gris is picked later in the season to produce a wine much lower in acidity and with higher alcohol levels. This fuller-bodied wine, containing rich tropical fruit flavors, pairs well with spicy food.
Hanukkah dinners can include potato latkes and brisket. Champagne is a great pairing with potato latkes, but since you already have bubbles in your cellar for New Year’s Eve, I would pair a big, dark, dry red wine from the Bordeaux region of France, or an oaky cabernet sauvignon. Bordeaux blends typically consist of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc grapes. These full-bodied grapes will hold up well to the rich, fatty flavors of brisket.
At Christmastime, with families serving such a wide range of dishes, it’s hard to go wrong with wine choices. If you are serving a roasted turkey, pair it with a pinot noir. A crown roast or glazed ham begs for a juicy Malbec, and, if your holiday table is adorned with prime rib and Beef Wellington, I would serve a smooth syrah or zinfandel.
Finally, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration that is a great holiday to celebrate even if you’re not Italian. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil, and commemorates the midnight birth of Jesus. Roman Catholics would abstain from eating meat on Christmas Eve, so they would have a huge meal of at least seven different kinds of seafood before Midnight Mass. Italian white wines are a classic pairing. Many different grapes, such as Gavi di Gavi, Soave, verdicchio and a lighter red Nero d’Avola, all go well with clams, calamari, shrimp scampi or cioppino.
Whichever holiday you celebrate, enjoy the season and the wines that go with it. Happy Holidays!
Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For more information, visit MaggieBsWine.com or call 828.645.1111.