This is one of the questions I get asked most often... Suddenly, acquaintances and friends from a distant and not so distant past seem to remember me! Along with their holiday wishes, invariably comes a long list of dishes they need help deciding what to drink with and the "by the way, is it too late to put in my order for tourtières?!!!"
I love how this time of the year brings people together in lavish and sometimes very intimate celebrations, even if it can be slightly stressful at times...!
Here are a few simple wine suggestions to accompany your holiday feasts... Hope it helps. If not I find it very useful to keep everyone's glass full at all times, especially mine!!!
In my experience, simplicity is key when trying to decide which wines to serve at the festive table. With children running around, screaming and crying for Santa, Auntie Zelda wanting to take over your kitchen, grandma falling asleep on the couch, your brother bringing his new girlfriend over for the first time, and your mother and father arguing about where to sit everyone, there will be enough excitement already and most probably only a few (perhaps just you) will notice how superbly brilliant it was to pair the mushroom stuffing with a 2005 Vosne-Romanée! Well, unless you have a few wino-foodies at your table... If that's the case, call for back-up and let's talk! Such occasions don't necessarily call for you to bring out the best bottle from your cellar, unless you create a whole meal around that particular bottle!
Growing up, our big celebration was always New Year's Day. My mother's brothers and sisters, all their kids and my grand-parents, which amounted to almost 50, would gather in their century-old home for the occasion. Upon entering the kitchen, you would be surrounded by frantic activity, mouth-watering smells and that big bowl of home-made punch - one for the kids and one for the adults! Call me traditional, but this is still the way I love to welcome my guests: with mouth-watering smells and a drink! Since it is the festive season, I love to serve something sparkling as an "apéro", alcoholic or not. To highlight the celebration, try serving Prosecco (see below for all wine suggestions) in a chilled flûte with a few frozen sugar coated cranberries... Or serve any fruit flavored sparkling water for the non-alcoholic version! If you have time, rim the glass in green colored sugar for that extra festive look! And bring on the appetizers!
At the table, there is no need to try pairing a different wine to every dish you will be serving unless that is your goal! Instead, have the choice of a white and a red to go along with the meal (as well as beer and some non-alcoholic options). Easy drinking, food-friendly wines come at all price points so I chose wines that are around the $20 mark (except for the Champagne!) all available at the LCBO (except for the Pinot Noir). (Note: The wine suggestions offered below are general and are based on a "typical" holiday meal, i.e.; roast turkey, stuffing, ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce...) Let's explore!
For white wine, the ever popular very approachable Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio would most likely be favorites.. But why not try something different? For guests who prefer lower alcohol wines, try a crisp, aromatic, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde from Portugal! You want more body? Try an Alsatian Pinot Gris, the same varietal as Pinot Grigio but fuller and deeper in flavor and alcohol. Want something delightfully decadent and luscious? Try a Vouvray, Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley!
For red wine, fruit-forward, crowd pleasing Merlot, New World Pinot Noir, and young entry-level Shiraz would all be great complements to that festive feast. But! Here are a few other ideas!!! I recently tried a wonderful red Anjou at Thanksgiving and it was incredible with and without the food! Danger Danger! Being a big fan of Spanish wines, I must recommend some that will undoubtedly pair amazingly well with that feast... Tempranillo is the main varietal in red Riojas and would complement the fuller flavored dishes. Ever heard of Grenache? This varietal is indigenous to Spain, birth name: Garnacha! Easy-drinking and supple, it is another dangerous one to have with or without food! To avoid those annoying hangovers, I always try to follow my mom's advice; Drink as much water as you drink wine! And take an advil before going to bed!
During the holidays, whether I am hosting or a guest at someone's table, the "hosting stress" is always palpable! Wouldn't it make more sense to simplify everything and remember what's important i.e., spending time with loved ones? After all, the holidays will come and go before we know it and we won't really remember each and every festive gatherings of the season, but what we will remember though is having been able to see all those faces we love and don't get to see very often and that's what I am looking forward to!
With that thought, I raise a glass to you all!
As we say in French-Land;
JOYEUX NOEL et BONNE ANNÉE!!!
The Singing Sommelier's wine recommendations...
Bubbly: Bottega Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco DOC $13.95 - fragrant, light, kind of like a snowflake on your tongue!
De Chanceny Crémant de La Loire Rosé $18.60 - zesty, fresh, full of red fruit!
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne $42.95 - fine bubbles, beautiful brioche aromas, sumptuous!
White: Blu Giovello Pinot Grigio $12.95 - lovely bottle, crisp, fruity, refreshing!
Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2013 $21.95 - elegant, creamy texture, long finish!
Aveleda Vinho Verde $9.25 - spritzy, citrusy, light!
Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2012 $21.95 - ripe fruit, honey, unctuous!
Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray 2012 $19.95 - tropical fruit, rich, voluptuous!
Red: Blackstone Winemaker's Select Merlot 2012 $15.95 - plum, x-mas spices, fleshy
Seaglass Pinot Noir Santa Blarbara 2013 $12.00 - lovely label, cherry, earthy, supple (not available in Ontario)
Are you Game Shiraz 2011 $17.05 - dark fruit, meaty, spicy
Domaine du Petit Clocher Cabernet Franc Anjou 2011 $15.95 - bright, red berries and cassis, soft tannins
Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2009 $12.30 - dark chocolate, balanced, nice chewy tannins!
Castillo De Monseran Garnacha, Carinena 2013 $9.95 - dark red fruit, little spice, smooth (THIS WINE IS A STEAL FOR THE PRICE)
For those of you who haven't put in your order for the famous Grand-maman Big Boss' tourtière, it is too late! I may make a few more batches in the new year... Maybe!
So, what will be on your festive table this year???