Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Holiday Wines

Each holiday season I like to throw out a few suggestions for holiday wines.  Personal preference plays a big part in choosing what to drink for the holidays.  My first rule of wine pairing is, “There are no rules.”  As you do the rest of the year, you should drink what you like and like what you drink.  If you'd like some outside help, read on.


Pinot Noir is a good fit for appetizers from light cheese and crackers to veggie trays, especially those involving mushrooms.  Serve it with ham, turkey and duck entrees, too.  You can feel confident pairing Pinot Noir with food that's flavored with cinnamon or cloves.

Cabernet Sauvignon marries quite well with blue cheese or heavy appetizers and heavy red and smoked meats.  It even makes a nice mate for dark chocolate.

Syrah can bring out the best in sausages, ham and salmon filet.  Keep in mind that AustralianShiraz is usually more of a fruit bomb than California Syrah, which is generally fruitier than French styles.

Riesling is good with fruit trays, honeyed ham, roasted veggies and seafood.  A sweeter Riesling could add some festive notes during a naturally indulgent season.

Sauvignon Blanc goes well with turkey and stuffing as well as many soups and garlicky foods.


Beaujolais Nouveau should be served slightly chilled.  Watch your guests make this drinkable fare disappear.  Beaujolais Nouveau will be available November 20th.

Zinfandel's hallmark fruitiness and heartiness make it a solid pick for lifting spirits over the holidays.

Gew├╝rtztraminer is aromatic and somewhat high in natural sugar, and it goes great with duck, goose and ham.


In general, try to match the qualities of the dessert wine with the qualities of the dessert.  Pear flavors go with baked pears, spices go with pumpkin pie, chocolate notes go with chocolate desserts.

Late-harvest wines have a higher than normal natural sugar content and are the perfect sweet accompaniment to your holiday dessert, from cheesecake to apple pie.  Late-harvest whites are often as sweet as nectar with tastes of peaches, candied citrus and baked apple.  A late-harvest Viognier is excellent with an apple tart.

Late-harvest reds usually give strong notes of chocolate and cherries.  The reds make a fantastic pairing with chocolate desserts or pecan pie.

Ice wines are also good as a dessert match.

Sparkling wines add flair to a dessert while also enhancing the celebratory mood of a holiday meal.  Look for extra-dry, sec, demi-sec or doux  to indicate the relative sweetness of a sparkler.  One with "Brut" in the name will tend to be somewhat drier.  Champagne is the real deal, but a nice Italian Prosecco, a Spanich Cava or a California sparkler can make a festive showing, too.  Ask for one with hints of spices to go with your pumpkin pie.

Port is a dessert wine usually made from Syrah or Zinfandel and fortified with brandy.  It goes very well with chocolate desserts, but has a higher alcohol content than most sweet wines.

Denise and I love Rosenblum Cellars' "Desiree", a dessert wine made from fortified wines of Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional and Syrah grapes, then blended with a chocolate syrup.  Needless to say, it's quite decadent.

Most dessert wines are best enjoyed in smaller servings, hence they usually come in half-size bottles (375 ml).  Accordingly, you should serve dessert wines in small glassware.

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