Wines for Christmas Holidays
Believe it or not, the holiday season is just around the corner. In less than two weeks, Christmas and New Year's eve will be upon us. These are the times when office parties, celebrations with friends and loved ones, and dinner gatherings are all on the horizon. In the spirit of the upcoming Christmas and New Year's Eve festivities, this article will briefly discuss sparkling wine pairings with certain seasonal and international festive dishes such as roasted turkey, ham, and sushi. In addition, Champagne and other still wine pairings as well will be considered for intimate and large group gatherings.
Sparkling wine with turkey and ham
To start, the symbol of North American Christmas festivities, roasted turkey, can be enjoyed with a wide variety of wines such as sparkling wine. Sparkling wine pairs wonderfully with turkey because of its high acidity and round mouthfeel. Depending on the wine you select, you may experience a doughy or almond flavor, orange zest, melon, or apple taste. The natural fruit aromas in many sparkling wines complement the delicate taste of turkey, making each flavor noticeable without overpowering.
On the other hand, ham, the iconoclastic Christmas gastronomical icon, begs exclusively for the freshness of sparkling wine. In general, ham preparations have a sweet/salty combination that could be challenging to pair with reds or whites. For instance, European cured hams such as Prosciutto or Serrano pair nicely with Portuguese espumante or Tokaji Furmint Brut.
Recommended producers: Hungarovin, Vinhos Borges.
To continue, savory and smoky ham preparations baked in the oven go best with a semi-sweet sparkling red Lambrusco or an Austrian sparkling rose.
Recommended producers: Cantina di Sorbara, Meinklang
Sushi with sparkling wine
In addition, If you are planning to serve sushi on your holiday menu, it is important to have flavourful sparklers with a full but not excessive mouthfeel for a successful pairing. In general, there are five most common types of Sushi in group platters. Chirashi sushi, a type of rice salad served with an assortment of raw fish goes particularly well with delicate sparkling wines such as Prosecco or Cava. On the other hand, the Inari sushi, a rice ball delicacy enveloped in fried tofu, pairs nicely with sparkling Ribolla Gialla or Pignoletto wines.
Recommended producers for Chirashi Sushi: Ca' dei Zago Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Pares Balta Cava Brut, Collavini Ribolla Gialla
For makis and nigiris, it is best to go with a natural Vouvray or a rose Lambrusco. Makis and Nigiris are rice rolls made with nori ( seaweed) and employ a heterogeneous variety of fish such as tuna or salmon. A medium-intensity sparkler such as natural Vouvray or Cremant du Jura will nicely round the palate with the richness of the rolls. Finally, rarely seen in sushi platters is the Oshi sushi which consists of a rectangular block of rice made out of a wooden mold called oshibako and stuffed with pickled mackerel, boiled shiitake mushrooms, clams or scrambled egg strips.
Recommended producers for Makis and Nigiris: Benedicte & Stephane Tissot Cremant du Jura Extra Brut, Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle, Meinklang Kontakt ( Orange wine)
Champagne, the ultimate luxury
For a luxurious and intimate Christmas and new years eve experience, Champagne is the way to go. The breadth of Champagne makes it a polyvalent drink at the dinner table, offering plenty of chances for gastronomic experimentation. For instance, you can go for a Blanc de Blancs if you are serving oysters or splurge on a vintage Champagne if you are serving white truffles-based dishes. For lobster dishes, have a flavourful champagne without an excessive mouthfeel.
Why do we drink Champagne on New Year's Eve? The tradition goes back to the 16th century where European aristocracy was popping the delicious liquid at royal banquets, conferring the drink a cult and elite status. It is believed that the tradition of sipping a glass of Champagne to welcome the new year started with Dom Perignon. Perignon developed a method for bottling sparkling wine that eliminated the bottle shatter caused by pressure. The solution was in thicker glass bottles and a wire cage around the cork, but it was not economical. Since then, sparkling wine became associated with prosperity and was reserved for special events, in particular New Year’s Eve.
If you are hosting a large party, you may ask yourself: what is the best wine for parties? This million-dollar question pops up each holiday season. If you are hosting a Christmas or new year's wine-tasting party, your guests may be nibbling on multiple finger foods — which means you need a wine that pairs well with several foods. Sparkling wine is a holiday must for a reason, but not everyone enjoys it. Rosé and light white wines such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc are also accessible and generally crowd pleasers. However, red wine could be tricky. This is because it can be harder to pair with multiple foods. A Pinot Noir would be the best choice to try to fit in with different appetizers. The bottom line is to choose a wine that pairs with most of the foods on the table, or most of the snacks you like best. Here are some suggestions for an assortment of party dishes paired with wine:
White wine pairing suggestions
Pinot Grigio and crab cakes
Washington Riesling with pork dumplings
Pinot Blanc with seafood brochettes
Sémillon Blanc with melon prosciutto
Rosé wine pairing suggestions
Provence rosé with raw vegetables and garlic hummus
Tavel wine with bocconcini and guacamole bites
Chilean rosé and Cobb salad
Fronton with smoked salmon canapes
Red wine pairing suggestions
Rioja with grilled chorizo
Argentinian Malbec with mini burgers
Zinfandel with beef satay brochettes
Dolcetto with beef tartare
To conclude, sparkling wine, because of its versatility with food deserves a bigger role in the festivity table rather than being confined to a celebratory drink. As a result of its freshness, sparklers pair surprisingly well with Christmas dishes consisting of turkey and ham. It is a classic match with sushi and diverse finger party food. Champagne is better left for intimate moments with close friends or family members to splurge on refined gastronomic meals. Finally, remember that if hosting a Christmas wine party, it is important to have a variety of wines to satisfy your guest's tastes.
Author: Marco Giovanetti
1- Palmieri, Jean Marco. “Best 20 Wine and Sushi Pairings - How to Pair Sushi and Wine.” Italy’s Finest Wines, 11 May 2021, italysfinestwines.it/en/abbinamento-vino-sushi/.
2- Palmieri, Jean Marco. “Best 20 Wine and Sushi Pairings - How to Pair Sushi and Wine.” Italy’s Finest Wines, 11 May 2021, italysfinestwines.it/en/abbinamento-vino-sushi/.
3- Haddad, Ken. “Why We Drink Champagne to Celebrate New Year.” WDIV, 31 Dec. 2021, www.clickondetroit.com/features/2019/12/31/why-we-drink-champagne-to-celebrate-new-year/#//. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.
4- “A New Year’s Eve Cocktail.” HGTV, www.hgtv.com/lifestyle/holidays/a-new-years-eve-cocktail. Accessed 21 Nov. 2022.