Some of our favorite holiday foods may be notoriously hard to pair with wine: Witness Aunt Judy’s artichoke casserole. But since no treasured dish should be banned from the wine lover’s table, we’ve asked some freethinking beverage professionals for suggestions on pairing.
The First Pairing
Guy FieriVIEW RECIPE(S)
For a lot of people their first experience with pairing flavors was at the holidays when you had cranberry sauce with turkey. The red fruit in Pinot Noir brings back that connection in a different (more adult) pairing. Pinot Noir has got to be my first choice to pair with holiday dishes because it’s rich enough to stand up to all the flavors in stuffing and your other typical sides; think dishes that have flavors like bacon, sausage, mushrooms. Plus, it'll hold its own without being too full-bodied. On top of that, it goes great with the dark meat from turkey.
The imaginative sommelier can find a wine that works for every dish on a wide-ranging or international buffet. Here are some ideas from wine experts from different parts of the globe.
Marcus SamuelssonVIEW RECIPE(S)
I serve Swedish Glögg, a great spiced wine that gives a great aroma and sets the atmosphere of the room.
Since holiday dinners often have an array of dishes from seafood such as crab cakes, to meats like lamb or roasted beef, to apple pie for dessert, my thinking always is to have wines with bright acidity. Since our wine list revolves around Greece, for my white I like wines made from Assyrtiko grapes which works very well with seafood as well as lamb. I also like to have on hand complex roses made from red grapes which work with all those warm spices that people tend to use during the holidays. Finally, I’ll have a lush red with balanced tannins and fruit, which works amazingly well with red meats.
German Alsace wines pair nicely with holiday foods since they're heavy enough to hold up to heavier proteins and flavors, but are still a refreshing white wine option. For the Indian food at our new restaurant Paowalla, we offer several Gruner Veltliners. On the red wine side we offer a great Monastrell, which has dark fruity notes to hold up to most roasted dishes.
Lidia BastianichVIEW RECIPE(S)
For hard-to-pair dishes, I often go to a bubbly like Prosecco. It goes well with appetizers, pastas, soups and even fish and fowl. It also stands up well to aggressive dressings.
Try a fuller-bodied Sauvignon Blanc with holiday fare. Here at The Restaurant at Meadowood we love it alongside braised cucumbers and pumpernickel rye. The wine is lush and luxurious, yet still in beautiful balance. Game birds are so nice with Pinot Noir. Finding the right style of Pinot Noir for a particular bird preparation is key.
There’s a dish on the Agern menu made from beef heart, but presented more like a tartare, with broccoli and vegetable ash, which is a tricky pairing because it falls early in menu. Although I often pour beer, my favorite accompaniment is actually a bright (and mostly dry) riesling, which is surprising to many.
Lately we've been serving Pinot Noir alongside our smoked halibut, which is sort of a "T-bone" cut, served alongside tomatoes and a Nordic chimichurri. The one we serve has a distinctly exuberant fruit, which contrasts with the smoke but is still hearty enough to stand up to the meatiness of the fish.
The best wine pairing I have had with our Thanksgiving turkey, mole, and stuffing is an oaked Chardonnay. Chardonnay, the queen of white wine, is a key wine pairing in our Mexican-American cuisine. The butterscotch notes add elegance to the dish and rich pineapple flavors refresh each bite balancing the light spices.
Some pairings are surprising Odd Couples, even to the most sophisticated wine professionals
Guy FieriVIEW RECIPE(S)
Next time you’re making grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, make yourself a sandwich too (maybe add in some thin slices of apple) and pour a glass of Chardonnay. When you combine that with the cheddar and the oily flavors in the sandwich, it’s a home run.
As crazy as it sounds, oysters generally go extremely well with sauvignon blanc. Not long ago I had oysters with a light and elegant Chinon freshly brought up from the control wine cellar at the perfect temperature. The match was so interesting we ordered another set of oysters!
I didn’t expect a Chardonnay to add more dimension to roasted leg of lamb with garlic and herbs. To be honest I had some doubt even though I was counting on the acidity of wine, but the flavor profile proved outstanding.
Turkey and Zin are great. Chardonnay is also great with turkey.
Have you thought of sipping…
Chad Walsh on Mead
Lately I've become an accidental evangelist for mead: It's perfect for the holidays as an after-dinner sweet-wine-stand-in, and great for conversation. Moonlight Meadery, in New Hampshire, makes one of the rarest examples in the world, Utopian #9, which I list at $180 for a 375mL bottle. It is aged for five years in casks bought from Sam Adams (that once held their boozy Utopia beer), which once purportedly held the famous Van Winkle bourbon. It's the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, and can be really mind-expanding even to foodies who think they know it all.
David Burke on Cider
If you want something lighter, don’t discount hard ciders; there are some amazing craft cideries out there now.
Olivier Flosse on Chartreuse
From experience the most difficult dish to pair during the holidays can be dessert, so I bring out some good French liquor based on herbs such as green Chartreuse and explain the value of being moderate, the essence of "plaisir," and helping your body’s digestion.
As an American, I think a digestif is not only a little exotic, but also a warm invitation to linger at a table. So, I’d bring a bottle of Sandeman Aged Tawny Porto 20 Years Old: Not only is it my favorite, but it offers a kind of ceremony that engages people in the serving of it. The British may offer a toast to the Queen, or lean in to hear the first glass poured, but I especially love the ritual of sending the bottle around the table. It’s a shared activity, where everyone pours a glass for a neighbor on their right before passing the port to their left. When the bottle completes its rotation, the full glasses of port provide a cue to sit back and enjoy the guests around the table.