Classic Holiday Wine and Food Pairings

By Lindsay Trivers December, 04 2017
The silly season is upon us. Corporate events, shopping, travelling, baking, parties and family visits are going to keep everyone busy. If you’ve been charged with cooking the festive feast, the pressure is really on. And since Christmas dinner is the most important home-cooked meal of the year you may as well ensure the wine served alongside it is going to do your hard work justice.
 
So, what wine will match your favourite food pairing for the holidays? The Tasting Class has tested six wines with some of our favourite holiday dishes. Our final goal is to find the ultimate holiday meal all-rounder wine, but we need your help. Tell us your favourite holiday wine and food pairing combo and we'll add them to the list!
 

Turkey Breast and American Zinfandel

The Zinfandel grape thrives in California. These red wines have ripe, jammy, and dried fruit characters with notes of cedar and spice. Hmm… that sounds a lot like we just described cranberry sauce, turkey breast’s best friend, doesn’t it?
 
These wines are bold and full-bodied, but they tend to have gentle tannins that don’t dry and pucker your mouth. The soft tannins are very important to this food pairing because turkey can be dry and you don’t want harsh tannins that can exasperate that.
 
Kenwood Zinfandel from Sonoma Country will be (one of many wines) on our table this holiday season. It costs 86 AED from MMI, Barracuda and Al Hamra Cellars.

Turkey Thigh Roulade with New England Stuffing

Pinot Noir is the classic pairing for duck, so it’s a natural stretch to try it with another dark meat foul, such as turkey leg. Pinot Noir is also the go-to wine pairing for mushrooms, which happen to be a key ingredient to the New England stuffing. See where we’re are going here?
 
We've been enjoying a few by German producer August Kesseler, where the grape is called Spatburgunder, that start from 210 AED. A great option if you'd like to have a more premium drop on the table this year.
 

Glazed Ham with Off-Dry Riesling

Pork and fruit are friends. Pork chops and applesauce, Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple and prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe and bacon and banana French toast are some classic examples. So it makes sense to pair pork with a fruity wine; a sweet wine even. If you’re not a fan of sweet wines don’t run for the hills yet. The very salty ham, extremely high acid of Riesling, and touch of sweetness in the wine all balance one another out and bring out the more subtle characters of both wine and ham.
 
We tried the Loosen Dr. L Riesling which is AED 81 from African + Eastern and The Cellars in Fujairah and RAK.
 

Mashed Potatoes with Full-Bodied Chardonnay

 
Ok, so mashed potatoes aren’t the main event of the dinner, but who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? It may not be the feature dish but it still deserves its own wine pairing nonetheless.
 
The majority of Chardonnays on the market have been through a process that changes hard, astringent acid into lactic acid, the same acid that is in milk; giving aromas and flavours of butter. The creamy characters of both dish and wine are enhanced when enjoyed together, creating a sweet creamy sensation.
 
We're fans of the Bonterra Chardonnay, a biodynamic wine, from California. You can find it at MMI, Barracuda and Al Hamra Cellars for about 90 AED per bottle.
 

Roast Pumpkin or Sweet Potato and Gewürztraminer

This dish, with its sweet and savoury characters, can be a tricky one to pair. It’s quite a rich and aromatic dish so it stands up to aromatic white wine. Also, because there is sweetness in the dish, we weren’t afraid to introduce a touch of sugar with the wine. The natural sugar in this roast pumpkin can make a wine taste sour, but by pairing a wine that is slightly sweeter the fruitiness of the wine is highlighted, not the acid, and the savoury notes of the pumpkin to shine, not its sugar.
 
The grape variety Gewürztraminer has tropical characters like lychee and ginger. When you consider the popularity of pumpkin and ginger Thai seasoned soups this match is already tried and tested.
 
We tested the Columbia Crest Two Vines Gewurztraminer – AED 61 from MMI. Also available from Al Hambra Cellars in RAK.
 

Christmas Cake, Stollen or Panettone and Pedro Ximinez Sherry

These seasonal cakes and sweet breads are stuffed with dried fruit, nuts, spices. Pedro Ximénez is a high-quality sweet sherry, made from raisins. This wine is fortified and aged on a barrel. Between the raisins, the toasted oak barrel and the sands of time passing this syrupy sweet wine evolves into a liquid Christmas pudding in a bottle.
 
When we tried the PX with the stollen it intensified the cinnamon and clove in the bread, and the aromas of sugar plums danced in our heads.
 
We tried the Lustau San Emilio Pedro Ximenez Sherry, AED 160 from African + Eastern. Also available from The Cellars Fujairah.
 
On Christmas these dishes will be enjoyed in a heaping pile on your plate, not in neatly sectioned wine pairings, so the team of tasters took a vote on the best all-around wine with the meal. The winner was the ever-versatile Pinot Noir. Second place went to the fruity, refreshing and lower alcohol option of off-dry Riesling.
 
Food aside, however, it was the Lustau Pedro Ximenez Sherry that claimed the title of Wine of The Night. It sent the group of tasters into the nostalgic Christmas zone and warmed us right down to our full bellies.
 
Want to try something different for your Christmas function this year? Contact the Tasting Class! We'll come to you with our amazing Riedel glass and decanter selection, choose your wines for you and have them ready for you to collect, all on top of that we'll plan and execute an amazing time for you and your friends or colleagues. 

The Wines we tasted

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