Holiday Menu & Wine Pairings
By ABC Wine Experts Published November 2020
The holiday season in Florida is slightly different from other states. We line our palm trees with twinkle lights and turn our air conditioning down to pretend it is finally ugly Christmas sweater weather. Although we don’t get the joys of a white Christmas, we still get all the fun – holiday parties, rich foods (pro tip: calories don’t count during the holidays) and most importantly – wine. Heck, we could just stick to the wine and be as giddy as a 5-year-old on Christmas. That’s why our wine experts have sleighed the holidays with their favorite wine picks to pair with your festive feast.
Santa might be saving his appetite for cookies, but we’re making space for every part of the food festivities, including the appetizers. ABC wine experts Shayne Hebert and Dan Eddy have some light and refreshing picks to satisfy your hunger while leaving room for more decadent delights.
Sauvignon Blanc is always a good call for appetizers or starters, it has a more pronounced acidity and a lighter, fresher feel (as opposed to say, Chardonnay) which prepares you for the entrée, rather than weighing you down before the main course even gets to the table. Shed Horn Sauvignon Blanc is a gem from Lake County, California and is fresh and vibrant, lending nicely to shellfish, fish and many cheeses. It offers racy acidity and a lovely grapefruit and tropical fruit flavor. I enjoy lighter style white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio with charcuterie boards, especially if fresh fruits garnish the presentation, and equally as much with prosciutto, capicola and goat cheese.
Ca’Momi is a winery and osteria in downtown Napa, California specializing in Veronese cuisine. The Rosso di Ca’Momi is blended to easily pair alongside many dishes, including appetizers, like charcuterie and other Italian specialties. Cold cuts, cheeses and many of the fattier salami on a charcuterie board could work with white wines, but red wines are better at cutting through the fat that these meats have. Beef on the carving board, like ham and meatballs would be great choices for a red wine during the appetizer course, and Ca’Momi does a finer job crafting a fruit-driven red with moderate tannins.
When planning the wine list for a long meal with many appetizers and/or courses, I always think, “start light and finish heavy(ish)” so I like to serve dry, sparkling, crisp white and/or light Rosé wines as appetizer pairing options.
From the southwestern French region of Limoux, the Jean-Philippe Brut Cuvee is a local blend of Mauzac and Chardonnay, made in the Methode Champenoise, so you get those tiny bubbles and all the classic French Champagne flavors like brioche and citrus tart. There is a fine mousse on the palate fomented by the lingering bubbles, and though dry (it is Brut, after all) softer citrus notes combine with the rounder palate to give this sparkler a very broad appeal and make it fine to pair with all kinds of appetizers. This bubbly is a perfect way to start your celebration with a festive pop and bright fruity, acidic flavors to get the taste buds primed for an evening of food and fun.
A light Rosé makes a perfect start to any meal. It is especially appealing to RWO’s (aka red wine only drinkers) who avoid white wines, but like the extra skin contact of a Rosé wine (where it gets its color), and has more of the flavors we associate with red wines (it’s all in the skin). Chateau Trians is a prototypical Provence Rosé with pomegranate and wild strawberry flavors up front while a lightly dry palate full of tart acidity leads to a wet stone clean finish. This organic wine is a typical Provence blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah and complements a vast array of appetizer options from crab cakes to charcuterie to a cheese plate, without overwhelming any of the distinct flavors.
Jingle all the way to the main course (what we’ve all been looking forward to). Whether your family prepared a turkey, prime rib, ham or a Feast of Seven Fishes, experts Bill Stobbs and Paul Quaglini have lined up wine pairings to match. Each one complements the main dish and all of Mama’s homemade side dishes.
For many people ham is a must-have classic on the holiday table. Since ham can be prepared in so many ways, finding the perfect pairing can be tricky. I’m going outside the box on this one and recommending Collalto Prosecco Extra Dry DOCG. Slightly off-dry with nice acidity and refreshing effervescence make this bubbly a fine match for your salty-sweet ham.
I have fond memories of spending Christmas Eve with my Italian grandmother. She took great pride in her preparation of the traditional Christmas Eve meal known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The dinner usually was a combination of lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, baccala, just if it was exactly seven different “fishes.” Match your festivity with a versatile, medium-bodied, dry white like Santa Silvana Pinot Grigio Alto Adige.
Nothing stands up to the bold flavors of prime rib like a good hearty Cabernet Sauvignon, and this fine Santa Isle Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve from the Maule Valley in Chile is an excellent choice. Here we have aromas and flavors of dark red fruits and chewy tannins, with hints of vanilla and mocha. The wine has received high ratings over the years and offers enjoyment way beyond the price of the bottle. A truly robust Cabernet Sauvignon that will stand up to and complement your prime rib perfectly.
While there are many different styles of wine that can pair effectively with a turkey dinner, Pinot Noir seems to me to be a natural. It is a delicate enough red not to overpower the turkey, and interesting enough to pair well with it, as it will with whatever else is on your plate. The Nicolas Idiart Les Amis Pinot Noir from the south of France offers up mouthwatering berry flavors, a little pleasant spice, and some delicate tannins. This elegant French style Pinot Noir is quite honestly my favorite, at a value price.
Want other options to pair with turkey? Click here.
Ho-ho-holy schnikes! You may be as full as Santa’s suit, but let’s be honest there’s always room for dessert. Finish the meal with your favorite treats and ABC experts Nathan Dale and Dave Malone’s wine picks to pair.
When pairing a wine with dessert, especially a dessert that is likely to have some richness on the sweeter side (like a holiday cookie) it’s best to pick a wine that will have enough sweetness to balance. Chiaro’s Moscato is the perfect wine to pair, especially if the cookie contains fruit (think preserves), caramel or milk chocolate. The goal here is to match sweet with sweet, yielding a balanced pairing that doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds.
For cherry cobbler, which also contains a bit of tartness, I am a fan of pairing sparkling wine. First, who doesn’t love bubbly around the holidays? Second, the bright acidity, freshness and bubbles cut nicely though the tartness of the cherry, highlighting the fruit flavor and balance with the wine. Veuve Ambal makes one of my favorite sparkling wines that would pair perfectly. Their Crémant is made in the same way as traditional Champagne but checks in at a fraction of the cost.
Pairing pecan pie with an end of the meal wine can be a bit tricky. The nuts have high tannins, the filling is sweet and the crust is deliciously savory. To make this pairing work correctly, I like to use a Sangue di Giuda such as Giorgi Costarosa. The pairing works because Sangue di Giudas are red, lightly sparkling, and mildly sweet, not luscious like some dessert wines can be. This allows for all the fruity, juicy, spicy and savory flavors of the wine and the pie to find a match for each other.
Pairing gingerbread rolls with wine at the end of your meal calls for Moscato d’Asti. Ca’ D’Gal Moscato d’Asti Lumine is perfect because most gingerbreads include spices and flavors such as cinnamon, honey and molasses. The crisp, light and fruity flavors of the wine can balance out the heavier flavors in the gingerbread. Notes of orange blossom, honeysuckle and nectarine, are a perfect complement to the flavors of gingerbread.
Need more wine options to line your holiday dinner table? Check out experts top picks all under $15 here. If you’re tired of hitting the store during busy season, you can shop these items online and request same-day delivery from our store to your door.
Pricing, selection and vintages may vary by location.