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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday food/wine pairings

An often-asked question: What goes with my holiday dinner?

The basics of food & wine pairing are:

-- Don't let the wine flavors overwhelm the food, and vice versa. A young Cabernet with turkey? Probably not. But with just the cranberry sauce, probably yes. Of course, the focus of the meal is the turkey and stuffing.

-- It's not just the meat, it's the entire dinner, including any sauces. Halibut in butter with Zinfandel? Yuck. But fish with a flavorful salsa on top with Zin, probably.

The following suggestions would be for dry wines and nothing "special" added to the meats.

Ham -- Sparkling wine is my first choice (goes well with salty foods). Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, or a dry Rosé can work, too.

Turkey -- Chardonnay, Rosé, or Pinot Noir.

Crab -- Chardonnay or Riesling.

Goose, Duck, Quail -- Pinot Noir or Merlot.

Lamb -- Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet blend, and many Italian wines.

Beef Roast -- Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet blend, or Syrah.

Anywhere Pinot Noir is mentioned other softer, lighter reds would work well such as Beaujolais, many Rhones and Rhone blends. Also, sparkling wines go with almost any meal (especially ham, crab or turkey) and adds to the festivities.

While we're talking about "softer, lighter" wines it's important to realize that for most of these dishes listed a wine that's lower in tannin, alcohol and acid than some is generally a better match.

Some Pinots and Zinfandels especially can be hot--too high in alcohol. Some younger Cabernets are too tannic. And for some dishes a very dry sparkler, Sauvignon Blanc or Sangiovese can be too acidic. This doesn't mean you don't want tannin, acid or alcohol, but it can't be overwhelming.

Chardonnay usually shouldn't be over-oaked or too buttery.


Happy Holidays!