Cheers! A Toast to the Holidays Wine recommendations for your special gatherings12/12/2021 11:36AM ● By John Gales
Winter weather and the holidays bring thoughts of comforting, warm food. Start now to plan menus, and think about the wines you’ll want to serve with your meals. For quiet family dinners or a special gathering with a few friends, consider trying something new from the suggestions below.
No matter how you celebrate, the holidays are a time of joy, delicious food, and rich moments with our loved ones. For a more traditional holiday table with the classic ham and all the accompanying side dishes, a rich white wine with a nice bite of acidity for balance is just the ticket for those who lean toward white wines. Made by expert producers, Viognier or Chenin Blanc can be a beautiful expression of fruit, body, and acidity all in balance together. Viognier is a bit more floral, while Chenin Blanc classically showcases notes of green apples and honey.
For those who prefer reds, try a Bordeaux-style
red blend but with a twist from Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
It’s savory and dry, showcasing rustic tannins, and pairs beautifully with warm
spices and any kind of roasted meat. If you prefer a more classic approach, a
Barolo, such as 2016 Reverdito Barolo, smelling of roses, earth, and a touch of
leather, is just what you need to cozy up to enjoy a brisk evening and a warm
Hanukkah is an interesting holiday from a pairing standpoint, and if you stay true to the traditional fare, you’d pretty much eat only fried foods—latkes, doughnuts, and so forth. Some folks like to add brisket into the mix just to have a protein.
With all the fried foods in this smorgasbord, I would choose a dry Mosel Riesling. A little off the beaten path is a dry Furmint. Haven’t heard of Furmint? Well, now is the time to familiarize yourself. The white Hungarian wine grape delivers electric acidity and ripe tropical fruit but finishes dry and has a bit more body than a Riesling. It’s definitely meant to be enjoyed along with all these salty latkes and some sour cream. If you’re having a brisket with that sweet, delicious, sticky sauce, or even if it has a little heat, a lighter red will go with almost anything. I’d recommend a Beaujolais Gamay or pinot noir (French or Willamette). In either case, these should have smooth, silky tannins and finish dry but showcase those classic berry fruit notes and earth just to round it out.
New Year’s Eve Toasts
We all know it’s time for bubbles on New Year’s Eve, right? Go for champagne, of course, or a nice cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. If your wallet doesn’t afford champagne, no worries! Find your nearest specialty wine shop and ask for higher quality cava. Often much more affordable, it expresses similar notes to champagne and has a similar bubble and dry finish. Cava is made in the Traditional Method, which is the same as the process used to make champagne. Cava is made with different grapes and is made in Penedes, Spain, but it has the same care, love, and attention to detail as champagne when made well. A personal favorite producer is Raventos, made by a family-owned operation with biodynamic practices and—picture this—beautiful draft horses who plow and work the vines.
Of course, if you’re feeling fancy, champagne is the answer and obviously has some big names: Dom Perignon, Bollinger, Taittinger, and others, but at Salt & Bubbles, we like to work with “grower champagnes,” which are becoming harder and harder to come by. A grower champagne is unique because it was cared for, tended to, and grown by the same producer from start to finish, from the vine to the barrel to the bottle. Grower champagnes are made with a lot of love, and I personally believe you can taste the uniqueness of the single producer expressed. We love Robert Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Champagne. We believe it transports you to a place, a time, and a nostalgic moment to be shared with loved ones as we ring in a new year.
Valentine’s Day Suggestions
Go with whatever makes your partner happy, but I would love an elegant yet structured red to go alongside a steak dinner or a pasta evening. I love Nerello Mascalese (a prominent grape grown in Sicily) for this style, and it always pairs well with rich pasta dishes. Nerello Mascalese is often a more affordable but well-crafted wine than other notable reds of Italy, which often get into the pricy realm. If you or your partner are vegetarian or want something “spicy” for Valentine’s Day, go for a nice Albarino or chenin blanc.
Rule of pairing: Spicy food loves wines with a touch of sweetness to balance the spice. Tannins make spicy food taste even spicier. If you like it hot, great, but for a nice balanced pairing, go for the Feinherb Riesling or the semisweet chenin blanc.
Enjoy toasting with your family and friends over the holidays. Here’s to your health!
Salt & Bubbles Wine Bar and Market
19 Essex Way, Suite 412
Essex Junction, VT