The end of the year is a time to share special moments with family and friends. As the days draw shorter and the nights get colder we crave the warmth that comes from the company of the ones we love.
Whichever holy day or days you are celebrating at this time of year, you are probably reading this because you’ve got a big meal ahead of you, and while your culinary skills have made you king or queen of the kitchen among your family, when it comes to choosing the right wine you feel more like the court jester. There is nothing more disappointing than spending hours preparing the perfect platter just to have it paired with a wine that is only “okay.” Like your juicy bird, your sublimely smoked ham, or your perfectly roasted beef, the wine you serve should be a marker of quality that is selected with pride. Please find here three of my picks for fantastic VQA wines that pair great with holiday fare.
When any sommelier is asked what wine style pairs best with “Christmas dinner,” I bet that nine times out of ten he or she says “oaked Chardonnay.” Oaked Chardonnay is a perfect holiday meal mate for several reasons. Most holiday meals that I have enjoyed have featured poultry over red meats, so for starters choosing a white wine is usually the way to go. A traditional turkey dinner includes a lot of heavy constituents such as potatoes and gravy. As oaked Chardonnay is the heaviest of white wines, it possesses the heft to stand up to these heavier foods. A Chardonnay from either a hot climate or a cool climate will do, but I prefer one from a cooler climate (like Niagara!) because wines from cooler climates tend to have higher acidity, which serves to cleanse the palate after enjoying rich foods like gravy. For what it’s worth, Chardonnay can be a great pairing with pork (“the other white meat…!”) as well.
Michael’s recommendation: PondView Estate Winery’s 2016 ‘Bella Terra’ Chardonnay. ($29.95)
If you’re not a white wine lover and you would strongly prefer a red, I would go with Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is known for being light in body, which makes it a better pairing with poultry because the weight of the meat and the weight of the wine are in balance. This is in contrast to heavier reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz which would be too weighty and overwhelm a lighter meat like poultry. Pinot Noir has the added benefit of a flavour profile that complements some of the other foods on the table as well. A marker of Pinot Noir is a bright cherry flavour which is balanced by a savoury earthiness. The cherry aspect will complement cranberry sauce and the earthy flavours will complement roasted mushrooms. And if roasted mushrooms are something that aren’t traditionally on your holiday table, let me tell you…you have been missing out all these years!
Michael’s recommendation: Flat Rock Cellars’ 2017 Pinot Noir. ($20.15)
Charmat Method Sparkling Wine
While I am a strong believer that sparkling wine is not exclusively for special occasions, there is no doubt that the winter holiday season is a time when revelers have sparkling wine on the brain more than any other time of year. Move over Prosecco! Say goodbye Henkell Trocken! Lovers of bubbles should take note that Niagara is very much an up and coming region for the production of world-class sparkling wines. The bubbles in Charmat method sparkling wines are made under pressure in a specialized tank. When compared to Champagne-style sparkling wines, Charmat method sparkling wines will taste markedly more fruit forward and with slightly larger bubbles. High in acid and expressing bright, fresh fruit flavours, Charmat method sparkling wines pair great with many foods and are fantastic on their own as well. Think about topping up your flute of bubbles with an ounce of Niagara’s Icewine for added flavour and sweetness. Yum!
Michael’s recommendation: Vieni Estates’ Momenti Sparkling Wine. ($13.95)
Michael Twyman – Sommelier and Niagara Wine Country Guide for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours and Bootleggers
* The opinions and recommendations in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect Niagara Vintage Wine Tours or Bootleggers.