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It’s that time of the year again when food begins to take center stage in family gatherings and parties.  While most of us purchase the wines ahead of time based on what we think our guests will want, it’s worth the thought and effort to provide wines that will complement at least one aspect of the meal, be it the hors d’oeuvres, main course or dessert.  I’ve listed some common holiday fare below, along with the wines that will pair best with each dish.  These wines are currently available at Jax, and if you’re preparing something that isn’t mentioned below then please feel free to stop by and ask one of our resident wine experts which wines we would recommend for pairing.

Baked Brie

What’s a good holiday table without a glistening and golden-brown wheel of baked brie?  This is a good appetizer to serve with a fine glass of Champagne.  The creamy, nutty flavors of the brie will be echoed in the Champagne as well as the yeasty buttery flavors of the baked crust.

A lower alcohol and sweeter Moscato D’Asti could work as well since brie pairs well with sweet condiments, and the honey glaze will complement the sweetness of the wine.

Try:

Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne- France NV   $59.97

Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne- France NV $59.97

Saracco Moscato D’Asti- Italy 2016 – $15.99

Saracco Moscato D’Asti- Italy 2016 $15.99

Cocktail Meatballs with Orange Cranberry Glaze

Barbera D’Asti, a lighter and cherry driven red from Piedmont, will go well with the savory qualities of the meatballs while at the same time complementing the fruit-based glaze.  Barbera is a thin-skinned grape, like Pinot Noir, and so elegant tannins won’t overpower your guests’ palate for the main event.

Try:

Michelle Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti “Le Orme”, Italy 2014   $12.99

Michelle Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti “Le Orme”, Italy 2014 $12.99

 

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds

If you’re sautéing the green beans and preserving their vibrant freshness, I would recommend pairing them with a light white wine that isn’t overly fruity.  Austrian Gruner Vetliner or a nice Northern Italian Pinot Grigio would go well in this case.

Try:

Berger Gruner Vetliner- Austria 2016   $14.99

Berger Gruner Vetliner- Austria 2016 $14.99

 

Zenato Pinot Grigio- Venezia, Italy 2016   $11.99

Zenato Pinot Grigio- Venezia, Italy 2016 $11.99

 

Cornbread Pecan Dressing with Mushrooms

Cornbread stuffing is one of my favorite holiday foods, and it just so happens to pair well with a variety of wines.  For a white wine, I would choose something that echoes the savory poultry herbs such as a nice dry German Riesling.  Alternatively, off-dry Chenin Blanc won’t over power the flavor punch that this side dish adds, and so that would be a recommendation as well.

Try:

Trimbach Riesling- Alsace, France 2013   $12.99

Trimbach Riesling- Alsace, France 2013 $12.99

 

Chateau Moncontour Vouvray Demi-Sec- Loire Valley, France 2015   $17.99

Chateau Moncontour Vouvray Demi-Sec- Loire Valley, France 2015 $17.99

 

Cranberry Relish with Orange Zest

One of the main rules for food & wine pairing is to match the wine to the sauce or main element of the dish rather than the protein itself.  Glazes, relishes, herb butters, and dipping sauces will often have more flavor than the meat itself, and so this is where you want to focus your food and wine pairing efforts.

If you’re like me, you eat cranberry sauce with everything and not just the turkey or pork.  Choosing a wine that complements this popular condiment is a smart idea.

A thick and robust sauce like cranberry relish needs a wine that can stand up to the texture, sugar, and zest.  In this case, I would recommend an Australian Shiraz.  These full-bodied and fruit-forward wines will hold their own without clashing with the dish.

Try:

Mollydooker “The Boxer” Shiraz- McLaren Vale, Australia 2016   $25.99

Mollydooker “The Boxer” Shiraz- McLaren Vale, Australia 2016 $25.99

 

Mollydooker “Carnival of Love” Shiraz- McLaren Vale, Australia 2013   $59.97

Mollydooker “Carnival of Love” Shiraz- McLaren Vale, Australia 2013 $59.97

 

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Shallots

The food you loathed as a child is now likely to be your favorite vegetable side dish, especially if it’s fried in pork fat.  There is really nothing better than a browned Brussels Sprout half topped with a piece of crispy meat.  An oaked Sauvignon Blanc is going to be your best bet for wine pairing, in this case, since the wine is creamy and rich, yet with enough mineral and herb notes to perfectly compliment this vegetable side dish.

Try:

Quintessa “Illumination” Sauvignon Blanc- Napa Valley, California 2016   $33.99

Quintessa “Illumination” Sauvignon Blanc- Napa Valley, California 2016 $33.99

 

Roasted Poultry with Thyme, Rosemary & Lemon

Whether you have chosen peasant, duck, chicken, or turkey, you can’t go wrong with a high quality white Burgundy, ample in acidity to lift the flavors of even the driest foul.

Try:

Maison Roche de Bellene, St. Aubin AOC- Burgundy, France 2014   $25.99

Maison Roche de Bellene, St. Aubin AOC- Burgundy, France 2014 $25.99

Roasted Beef Brisket w/Mirepoix

A traditional main course for Hannukah or Passover, a variety of full-bodied red wines would pair well with this dish.  Mirpoix, often the base for Bolognese sauce or Beef Stew, is a wonderful and flavorful blend of diced carrots, celery, and onions that have been slowly simmered for a period of time in order to draw out the earthy and savory characteristics of the vegetables.  I can’t imagine a better wine to pair with beef and mirepoix than a nice Bordeaux.  These Cabernet & Merlot-based blends are rich in depth and flavor and are notorious food wines.

Try: 

Chateau Barde-Haute Saint-Emilion Grand Cru- Bordeaux, France 2010   $39.99

1. Chateau Barde-Haute Saint-Emilion Grand Cru- Bordeaux, France 2010 $39.99

Seven Fishes Fare

Those of Italian descent may forego the meat during the holidays and instead put out a delicious spread from the sea.  The types of fish prepared will determine which wines to pair with the meal.  Raw seafood and shellfish goes best with a nice Chablis, while richer dishes like stuffed lobster will need a bigger white like California Chardonnay.  A high-quality Pinot Noir is a home run wine to pair with roasted or grilled salmon.

Try:

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis “Sainte Claire”- Burgundy, France 2015   $19.99

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis “Sainte Claire”- Burgundy, France 2015 $19.99

 

Rombauer Chardonnay- Carneros, California 2016   $29.97

Rombauer Chardonnay- Carneros, California 2016 $29.97

 

Talbott Logan Pinot Noir “Sleepy Hollow Vineyard” – Santa Lucia Highlands, California 2014  $24.99

Talbott Logan Pinot Noir “Sleepy Hollow Vineyard” – Santa Lucia Highlands, California 2014 $24.99

 

Baked Ham with Cloves

Rarely in the south do you go through a holiday season without encountering at least one Honeybaked ham.  My mom stuffs hers with cloves before baking which are removed prior to carving.  As a young girl, I always enjoyed helping her in this preparation.

As for wine pairing,  you can’t go wrong with a high-quality Alsatian Pinot Gris, which are full in both body and flavor, ever-so-slightly sweet, and offer a satisfying and lingering finish.

For a red wine option, I would choose something that also offers hints of clove.  Zinfandel from Lodi is a perfect example of a robust and sometimes spicy red wine, and I think it will pair beautifully with a holiday ham.

Try:

Trimbach Pinot Gris- Alsace, France 2013   $23.97

Trimbach Pinot Gris- Alsace, France 2013 $23.97

 

Michael David “Earthquake” Zinfandel- Lodi, California 2014   $23.99

Michael David “Earthquake” Zinfandel- Lodi, California 2014 $23.99

 

Pumpkin Pie

I must confess that I had a slice of pumpkin pie just last night.  If the large grocery chains are producing fresh-baked pumpkin pies, then I’m buying fresh-baked pumpkin pies.  Nothing brings back the warm and fuzzy feelings of holiday family gatherings than pumpkin spice.  I would suggest pouring a small glass of New World Port, rich in dried red fruit and spice flavors and aromas, to really take your pumpkin pie experience to the next level.

Try: 

Terra D’oro Zinfandel Port- Amador County, California NV   $19.99

2. Terra D’oro Zinfandel Port- Amador County, California NV $19.99

Pecan Pie

Pumpkin pie’s richer & sweeter cousin, you will rarely see one on a holiday table without the other.  I would recommend a high-quality Tawny Port to sip on alongside this.  The nutty, almond and fruitcake elements of the wine will perfectly match those same flavors that are found in the pie.

Try: 

Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Port- Portugal NV   $27.97

Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Port- Portugal NV $27.97

What is your opinion?