Pairing Wine with Traditional Holiday Entrees
When it comes to picking out wines for the much-anticipated holiday meal, it’s hard to know where to start. It may even cause your stress level to bubble up faster than an agitated bottle of Dom Pérignon.
So to help you quell any holiday wine-pairing anxiety without reaching for that bottle — ahem, glass — of wine, we’ve reached out to one of the nation’s top sommeliers: Laura Maniec, master sommelier and CEO of Corkbuzz Winebar Chelsea Market. Here, Maniec graciously shares her recommendations for pairing wine with holiday fare.
Think light for Turkey Day
Thanksgiving is called “Turkey Day” for a reason: most Americans arrange their entire feast around this hefty fowl. And since turkey is considered to be a light, white meat, Maniec suggests avoiding heavy or intense wines that could overpower its delicate flavors. “Go with something that doesn’t have too much body, such as a light-bodied red,” she says. Her suggestions: “You could go with a Beaujolais, a zinfandel or a pinot noir from Willamette.”
For something a bit different, Maniec recommends trying an orange wine. These little-known (i.e. trendy!) wines are made from white-wine grape varieties that are macerated with their skins on, such as in red-wine making. “The result is a wine with a tannin and, at times, tea-like aromas,” Maniec says, while adding that orange wines are somewhere between a light white and a full-bodied, richer white. “Think of them as the fall version of rosé,” she says.
Match richness with rich, full flavors
For rich, roasted meats such as duck and ham, Maniec says to look for wines that can hold their own against full-powered smoky or gamey flavors. “Believe it or not,” she says, “richer white wines pair perfectly with the intense smokiness of ham.” Maniec recommends going for a wine from the region of Alsace, France, such as a pinot gris, muscat or gewurztraminer.
Pair brunch with the bubbly
A holiday brunch usually errs on the side of indulgence — think eggs laced with decadent cheeses, ample strips of bacon, and, of course, crispy fried potatoes. (Cue hunger pangs now.) So for a magical morning feast, Maniec suggests adding a tinge of acidity to brighten up the meal’s savory richness. “Anything bubbly, and especially Champagne, is a great choice for brunch,” she says, while noting that a sparkling wine also works well with latkes, which are fried potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. (Maniec’s pick is also a good excuse to dust off those champagne flutes.)
End on a sweet note
Maniec notes that traditional holiday desserts like pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and pecan pie call for a wine that can match their warm, rich flavor notes. Her pick? “Try a sauternes from Bordeaux, France,” she says. “Its intense yet bright flavors are a lovely complement for these types of spiced desserts.”
Keep it fun, but not necessarily fancy
Because hosting a large group can get rather pricey, Maniec says to avoid overthinking the wine selection or splurging on expensive bottles. “Instead, try to keep things fun and social,” she says. “A fun way to keep guests engaged is to tag wine bottles with pairing tips.”
Regardless of the wine you choose, you can be sure those around the dinner table will appreciate your generous efforts: “Food is great on its own, and wine is great on its own,” Maniec says. “But marrying the two — if you’re thoughtful about it — can easily create a next-level experience for your guests.”
And that’s something they’ll cherish forever.