The holiday feasts are quickly approaching, and most have ordered their turkey, prime rib, rack of lamb, honeyed ham or lobster for their main course.
Along with the time and preparation that go into making a meal special, your wine selections also deserve special consideration, to make the most of your hard work in the kitchen.
There are so many options for hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, desserts and, of course, the main course, that wine pairing for such an extravagant and complex meal can be daunting, overwhelming and potentially very expensive. But rest assured, there are some outstanding affordable wines to suit any menu.
For starters, it is always fun to welcome your guests with a nice sparkling wine. Not only is it a celebratory beverage, sparkling wine also is one of the most versatile choices to pair with light appetizers such as crab cakes, cheeses, charcuterie, fruit salads and holiday cookies. Sparkling wines will wake up taste buds and are light, refreshing and lower in alcohol, which is the ideal way to start your gathering.
Phenomenal sparkling wines from Italy (prosecco) and Spain (cava) start at $10. For a more lavish option, true Champagne from France is always a special treat, with prices starting at $40.
For those not fond of sparkling wines, dry rosé is an excellent, versatile wine that will pair just as well with appetizers. Also light in body and lower in alcohol, dry rosé is a nice start to a full day of food and merriment.
When your guests take their seats at the table for the main meal, it is particularly important to pair your wines correctly so as to not spoil your culinary efforts. Most good pairings will go unnoticed; however, bad pairings will ruin the dining experience.
There is some truth in the age-old adage, red with red meat and white with white meat. With lobster, halibut or snapper, it is best to stick with white wine, such as chardonnay. For other-than-chardonnay drinkers, clean and crisp whites will balance out these potentially rich entrees. Sauvignon blanc, albariño, white rioja and white burgundy (chardonnay from Burgundy, France) are some of the more compelling accompaniments.
Ham, tuna or salmon pairs best with dry rosé, although clean and crisp white wines also will work. Good options for red wines to go with these dishes are somewhat more limited. For the best pairings, opt for pinot noir and Beaujolais. Full-bodied red wines could be disastrous and are best avoided.
For pairing with prime rib, rib roast, rack of lamb, turkey or pork roast, there are countless options. The fattier and richer the dish, the richer and fuller the wine can be. As always, turkey is best with lighter reds such as pinot noir, barbera or chianti. Pork roast and lamb can always be graced with wines from Rioja. Big cabernet sauvignons, Chateauneuf du Pape, Amarone, syrah and merlots will stand up to prime rib, rib roast and stews.
And finally, there’s dessert! Pecan and pumpkin pies are best with tawny ports. Chocolate fantasia desserts just beg for ruby ports, while fruit tarts should be enjoyed with dessert wines from Sauternes. Are you full yet? Fortunately, we will have 12 months of moderation until we indulge again next year!
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.