Few things are as classic and traditional as Christmas dinner. Whatever main dish your family serves, it is undoubtedly the same meal you’ve had for as long as you can remember. Varying from the menu would bring Christmas disaster rivaling the Griswold family Christmas of 1989. Even though you wouldn’t dare change your recipe, there are still a few ways to help take your menu and Christmas cheer to the next level, the primary of these being wine pairings.
Why Wine Pairings Work
Though wine pairings can seem complicated, it’s nothing more than basic science and common sense at play. When drinking wine with a meal, the flavors in the wine and food co-mingle to make a unique taste. Because wine tannins can sit on the tongue long after you’ve taken a sip, it’s entirely possible to ruin an entire meal with the wrong wine. It sounds scary but fear not. The basics of wine pairings are quite simple; the most basic rule of thumb is to pair wines and foods based on flavor strength. If you are eating something light or sweet, pair with a light and sweet wine to complement. If your dish is rich and heavy, look to a strong wine that can hold its own against the onslaught of flavor.
The appetizers’ specifics might vary, but in general, your appetizer wine search should begin with a wine that has a low ABV. Lower-alcohol wines generally run sweeter and pair well with light bites. For appetizers containing meat, such as pigs in a blanket or charcuterie, look to a Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Franc (Cabernet Sauvignon’s lighter sister) for your starter wine. If you’re going vegetarian for the first course, or if you’re feeling extra festive, look for a Prosecco or a Cava to begin the night.
For red meats like prime rib and ham, look to a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer a turkey or chicken route for Thanksgiving, look to a Tempranillo or Merlot. A main dish from the sea? Stick with your favorite sparkling wine to round out the palette. Vegetarian meals will benefit from a Riesling or a Pinot Grigio.
Obviously, “sides” encompasses a fairly diverse category, but some basic estimating can be done to accommodate a wide range of side dishes. Creamier, rich sides such as mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, and vegetable sides such as brussels sprouts or asparagus do well with a nice Chardonnay. If red is your preference, a Pinot Noir would also pair nicely with most sides (and can hold up to some lighter main courses as well).
To end your meal, no matter the dessert fare, you can’t go wrong with a port or a sherry. Ports come in both red and white and are a wonderful way to cleanse the palate after a big meal. However, do keep in mind that chocolate is difficult to pair with wine (strangely enough), so if you have a largely chocolate dessert, it might be best to look at a different form of booze or coffee.
Now that you know the ropes, don’t let an off-kilter wine pairing downgrade all your days of planning and cooking. The experts at Payless Liquors can help you find the perfect selection of wines for your holiday celebrations and answer any questions you might have about your specific meal and its best pairings. Stop in today!