Classic Holiday Wine and Food Pairings
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. While we’re suggesting a shining star of a pairing for each key dish being served, please bear in mind that most of these wines will work generally quite well across the full meal… except the port… save that for cheese and dessert.
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 breasts’ 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.
Turkey Thigh & 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 the value proposition of Erath Pinot Noir from Oregon, available from MMI and Al Hamra Cellars for approx. 150 AED.
Glazed Ham with an Off-Riesling
Pork and fruit are friends. Pork chops and applesauce, Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple, 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 subtly 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 a 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 about AED 100 from African + Eastern and The Cellars in Fujairah and RAK.
Potatoes with Full-Bodied Chardonnay
You may say that potatoes aren’t the main event of the dinner, but a dare you to reveal the ratio of potatoes you pile on your plate compared to other dishes. Whether you roast yours in goose fat or mash them with plenty of cream or butter the definitely deserve their own wine pairing.
The majority of Chardonnays on the market have been through a process that changes some of the very tangy acids 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 120 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 very perfumed 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 Hugel Gewurztraminer for approx. and available from AED 160 from Dubai Duty-Free, African + Eastern and The Cellars.
Christmas Cake, Stollen or Panettone and Port
These seasonal cakes and sweet breads are stuffed with dried fruit, nuts, spices. Port is high-quality sweet wine from Portugal. Look for the words Ruby or Late Bottle Vintage on the label to ensure you get one loaded Chrismassy flavours of prune, dried fig and clove.
When we tried the Port 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 Cockburns Late Bottle Vintage Port 2008, AED 170 from MMI and Al Hamra Cellars. It’s also incredibly versatile wine pairing with a cheese plate.
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.