I must say I love Christmas, every year I attend numerous Christmas parties, dinners and host one or two my self. When my friends are coming to my house for a dinner, I am always looking forward to see what wine they bring and how well they did their home work in researching wine pairing for a seasonal feast.
So to help YOU pass the test I am going to give you some helpful tips for how to impress your host this Christmas season.
I personally like to start with a glass of sparkling wine, but this is a subject on its own, expect to see a blog before a new year regarding this subject.
Now lets start with the whites. Christmas time is all about comfort food and quite frankly that is all about butter, cream, potatoes, meats and gravy….so here you need to deliver wine to match the weight of the food. Chardonnay is a great wine to pair with big foods. Personally I would choose some of the new world Chardonnays from Napa or Sonoma, Chile and Argentina. These wines are full bodied, creamy and buttery, with loads of exotic fruit and floral notes.
If you are not a big fan of Chardonnay, you can tune down the boldness by selecting a White Bordeaux blend (a.k.a White Meritage) whitch is usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. These wines have an essence of tropical fruit with smokey, woody characteristics. But they have enough body to match heavy foods while still remaining crisp and refreshing. An American version of Sauvignon Blanc known as Fume Blanc is also great alternative except in some wines the smokey under tones may over power.
And now the reds. This is an interesting subject since you may want to choose one wine that you can pair with turkey’s white and dark meat, ham, vegetables and all the fixins. Believe it or not there are wines that go great with this diverse traditional Christmas menu.
In my opinion Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir (a.k.a. Beaujolais) and Cabernet Franc fit the bill. These are not full bodied wines most of the times but they have a great level of acidity, and bright fruity feel to them. They also have dominant herbal and savory flavours which will nicely match the gravies.
When choosing Pinot Noir look in your Burgundian section of France. Names like Cote d’Or, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Pommard and Volnay are the wines you are looking for. There are also some great wines in Sonoma and Napa from the same grape variety. And don’t forget that Chile has now started to produce some amazing Pinots, at very good prices.
When finding Beaujolais, go for the best, carrying names like Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin a Vent, Brouilly. These are a few of the to 10 best villages in the area.
The type of Cabernet Franc you are looking for is a cool climate style with an earthy, floral and berry filled palate with medium body at the most. Look in the VQA section of Canadian Wine, Ontario and British Columbia are producing some great examples.
For those that just can’t drink anything else but full body reds, I will suggest to stay with hot climate wines like Argentinian Malbec, or Carmenere from Chile. These varietals are bursting with full fresh fruit flavors and have very low level of tannins. Australian Cabernet and Shiraz would also be appropriate choices as well.
And for a dessert or cheese course? Icewine or Late Harvest Riesling is a safe choice. If you feel like treating your self to something more unusual but very tasty, try Hungarian Tokaji or French Sauternes, both are an excellent choice to finish your evening.
Blog by Otta Zapotocky
General Manager and Sommelier at Wildfire Steakhouse and Wine bar