Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wines for Holiday Meals

By Liza B. Zimmerman

My family and I have never been big fans of turkey. We have always gone for the lamb, a nice steak or a pork roast. So here’s a primer on what to serve with all of these potential holiday dishes. Regardless of what you serve as the main course, a bottle of bubbly is undoubtedly the best way to kick off a meal. A little Prosecco or Duval-Leroy Champagne could never hurt.

My mother always makes gravlax for the holidays to start the meal and the oiliness of the fish makes it a hard-pair-item. Light reds such as a Chinon or a—somewhat--low-alcohol Pinot Noir such as Lioco Hirsch from the Sonoma Coast can sidle up to the smokiness of the salmon.

Get the Lamb On
A rack of lamb looks as gorgeous as it tastes. The gamey flavor of the meat naturally pairs with a somewhat feral: read “stinky wine.” Rhones are my favorites with lamb. Perhaps a Crozes-Hermitage such as Yann Chave. Another earthy choice would be the reds of Piedmont. From Barbera to Barbaresco and those lovely ever-day-drinking Dolcettos. The sweet red fruits in many of these wines would also pair well with duck, with a hint of stewed fruits: think some dried apricots or prunes.

Other wild game, such as venison, would also be great with the some of the funkier-smelling wines of the world, such as the Bodegas Renacer “Punto Final,” Malbec.

Work the Crock Pot
The 1950s invention has become one of my favorite toys. I used it to stew oxtail and stuff cuts of beef. The sauce on the dish is the essential pairing component. With a tomato-based one you might want a simple Sangiovese, from tomato-rich countries (primarily Italy, with a splash of California and Argentina thrown in there). Bonarda might not be bad either.

If you put anchovies in your stew, as the Italians love to do, you might want to go with a slightly more tannic wine such as a Primitivo from Puglia or even an Amarone. A somewhat corpulent Sonoma coast Pinot Noir or Syrah might also work: trust me.

Roast a Steak or Go Classic
A beautifully rare steak with a hint of pan-sizzle crunch on the outside deserves a big wine. Soft tannins are going to be key so an aged Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a softer Sonoma Valley one might work. Red Douro blends are among my favorites as well: there is so much subtle structure in the blend of grapes. The Doural Red is a lovely wine and a bargain pairing.

If you are going to envelop it with butter you may even want a richer wine, such as Bordeaux blend (leaning to the Left-Bank more tannic and Cabernet Sauvignon-based style).

If you still want to make that turkey or another bird you could mix up the pairings. A mineral-focused white, such as Vermentino or some of the white Rhones, can step up to a fatty bird. Another, even less-orthodox idea might be an esoteric grape such as Kerner from Alto Adige in Northeastern Italy.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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