Choosing the perfect wine for the Christmas festivities can be a hit-or-miss affair. The foods might be meticulously prepared, but sometimes the wine selection is a last-minute thought. If you have gone to great lengths for the perfect foods, it would be a shame to serve wine that doesn’t enhance the taste.
Christmas starters are the perfect excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly. It pairs perfectly with a wide range of flavors and textures and can handle anything from light and airy sweets to baked, grilled or even deepfried appetizers.
- A Value — NV Gruet Brut, New Mexico (about $22, retail)
- A Splurge — NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee, California (about $54, retail)
Ham can be tricky to match with wine. Adding ingredients such as a honey or sugar glaze to a salty ham can accentuate the bitterness of tannins. Look for red wines without overpowering tannins or for moderately acidic white wines.
- A Value — 2006 La Playa Claret, Chile (about $12, retail)
- A Splurge — 2004 Reynolds Family Vineyards Persistence, California (about $60, retail)
With beef, nothing is better than a glass of excellent red wine. But, as with other meats, it’s the added sauces or cooking methods that guide a perfect match. If the meat is cooked rare, the tannins are softened — a perfect time to serve a high-tannin or youthful wine. If you plan to serve an older, fragile wine, consider cooking the meat longer.
- A Value — 2005 Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $15, retail)
- A Splurge — 2003 Chateau Las Combes, Bordeaux France (about $78, retail)
Goose offers a unique texture and taste compared to traditional turkey. It is richer and generally has a distinct gamy flavor. When matching with wine, consider rich reds with a touch of spice such as Burgundies, Barolos or Southern Rhone syrahs. For the more adventurous cook, goose is perfect with mature Champagne.
- A Value — 2005 Tiziano Chianti, Italy (about $12, retail)
- A Splurge — 2006 Angeline Pinot Noir, California (about $22, retail)
Turkey might be the easiest meat to match with wine. Because of its fairly simple texture and taste, it offers many wines the ability to show off. Prepare the turkey by roasting rather than smoking or grilling and pair one of your cellared red wine favorites. If your cellar is not overflowing with choices, consider Bordeaux, pinot noir, Spanish rioja or a California, Australian or New Zealand chardonnay.
- A Value — 2006 Rosemont Estates Diamond Label Chardonnay, Australia (about $12, retail)
- A Splurge — 2006 La Crema Winery Chardonnay, California (about $24, retail)
Something sweet will most likely be a part of your celebratory planning. Keep it simple and remember the cardinal rule — the wine should be sweeter than the dessert.
- A Value — Wiederkehr Wine Cellars Tawny Port, Altus, Ark. (about $15, retail)
- A Splurge — 2006 Renwood Winery Zinfandel Amador Ice, California (about $37, retail, 375ml)