Friday, December 23, 2016

Wines for the Feast

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Whether you are planning on a traditional turkey for your dinner or something unusual, I have some great wine suggestions for you. Be sure to start the day out with bubbles: who doesn’t love them?

I am a fan of roses myself and dozens of regions are making spectacular versions. Some of my favorites this time of the year tend to be cremants from the Loire Valley. They are bright and fresh and are more affordable than Champagne. Some of the California houses are also making some great sparklers as are many regions of Northern Italy.

Wines for the Meal
When you sit down and eat you will want to offer a mix of whites and reds to pair with all the meats and side dishes. Crisp whites, like Sauvigon Blanc, are always flexible. Rhone whites, whether from France or California, will be great choice as well.

Emily Horenian, the sommelier at the new San Francisco restaurant Saratoga shared a few of her strategies. “For white wines, I tend to prefer two different styles.  One could select an off dry white wine like a Kabinett Riesling from Germany: something to refresh the palate during the rich meal.  I also think a more austere Chardonnay would be very complimentary; something with a bit of body but with balanced minerality. “

For turkey and other game birds Lambrusco is an amazing pairing. I would go for a fairly dry one; a hint of sugar is fine but not too much. It is what most Italians have with their holiday meals (which is often a bird for Thanksgiving).

“For reds, I would recommend cru Beaujolais all day. Something fruity with a bit of grit,” says Horenian. I couldn’t agree more. Whether it is the super-light Nouveau which debuts a week before Thanksgiving or the Crus, their fresh, fruity style is perfect with turkey. They also have the acid structure to cut through some of the fattiness of the potato-driven side dishes. 

“Lighter-style Pinot Noirs would also work well with the meal,” she adds. I agree and would stay away from high-alcohol versions. Cool climate Oregon and Burgundy are the way to go.

Alternatives to the Bird-Route
I was never a fan of turkey or the stupor it induced in me after I consumed too much of it. My family in New York has long made a big steak or a rack of lamb for the holiday. Pork is not a bad choice either as it is so wine friendly.

With a bigger meat, you will want to go with a more robust wine. For steak think Zinfandel, a big Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux. A beautiful big, red blend from the Douro Valley in Portugal would also be fantastic.

Some of my favorite pairings with lamb are the Rhone reds. They have a lush, gaminess to them that works so well here or with venison. Pork can take much lighter reds, such as a Chinon or you could hop back to the Beaujolais Crus and they would be perfect.

For dessert a little sweet Moscato would go well with fruit. If you are going to indulge in pecan or pumpkin pie I would go for a well-aged Tawny Porto.

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.