Wayne On Wine
By Wayne Crawford
This is my annual holiday wine column on wines for Thanksgiving through New Year’s. As always my theme is “drink what you like,” but, each year, we have new vintages and wine trends influencing our pairings.
Thanksgiving remains the biggest wine day in the United States. For most, this meal showcases turkey, several kinds of potatoes, vegetables, fresh breads, cranberry sauce, herb stuffing, gravy, pecan or pumpkin pie, cakes and several family traditional dishes. These foods allow for a host of wine pairing picks.
The two photos with this article showcase dinner wine pairings and dessert and after-dinner wines. These are wines I have assembled to match my recommendations. They bring something special to the festivities to complement the food. I encourage readers to focus less on the selection and more on the varietals proposed, as you make purchases for the holidays. Recall that most wine shops offer at least 10 percent discount on mixed cases of wine, and you may elect to order some online, given the low ambient temperatures.
Wine trends last year showed Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as the big sellers in America, along with increased sales in sparkling and rose wines. The latter two can serve easily as acclamation and aperitif pairings for holiday meals.
So, let’s dive into our pairing selections.
I recommend a good Champagne or sparkling wine to clear the pallet and get everyone in the mood to appreciate a delightful meal with family and friends. I selected an NV brut Champagne Delamotte—50 percent chardonnay, 30 percent pinot noir and 20 percent meunier—aged for three years on its lees. This is delightful Champagne is produced in Le Mesnil sur Oger, a grand cru village south of Epernay. The house was established in 1760; the best price is $42.99.
Other wines to consider include the rose wine, Domaine de l’Arjolle IGP Cotes de Thongue, France, which I purchased at the winery in 2014, in a small town north and east from Narbonne in the Languedoc Roussillon. This dark-salmon rose wine is 40 percent syrah, 40 percent cabernet franc and 20 percent grenache. It is priced at $15 and pairs well with aperitif, tapas, charcuterie and Cornish hen.
Dinner wines include both whites and reds, and here there are several choices. With herbs, spices and white meat, a white Gewurztraminer from Alsace is a great choice. I selected a 2013 Trimbach from one of the largest producers in the region, one that has been in operation since 1626. This is a dry, spicy wine with pleasing aromas, priced at $21.99.
Two other white wines to consider include Henri Bourgeois 2015 Pouilly-Fume En Travertin, a crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, priced at $21.99. The other white is a rich, full-bodied oak Chardonnay: 2013 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Valley. It is an exceptional example of a Napa white wine, priced at $54.99, and projected to cellar until 2022. This would pair well with lobster on New Year’s, along with the Gewurztraminer.
Among the red wines chosen is a 2012 Shea Wine Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir estate wine, priced at $39.99. This medium-bodied wine is laced with spice, raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors from one of the best pinot noir producers in Oregon. Pinot noir—either from Burgundy, its natural home, or Oregon—produces all-purpose red wines that complement Christmas ham or prime rib at New Years.
The other red is a 2014 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-A-Vent Beaujolais from France. This is produced in one of the 10 cru villages in northern Beaujolais, using the gamay grape. This wine is the King of Beaujolais and should provide a full-bodied plum and cherry fruit on the palate. It is priced at $28.99. One caution: There is considerable difference in quality between the wines produced in the10 cru villages and the rest of Beaujolais.
Assuming you enjoyed the acclamation, appetizer and main course, it is time to consider after-dinner pairings. All of these wines can complement diverse holiday desserts. Let’s start with pumpkin and pecan pie, two of my favorites. My choices include Madeira and Sherry, along with a late-harvest Vendanges Tardives from Alsace, Sweet Petit from Tiger Mountain, Ga., and two sparkling wines.
Let’s continue with Hartley & Gibson Oloroso Sherry from Spain, a best buy at $11.99. This is a medium-dry sherry, and a little goes a long way to complement these pies. The Madeira, from a Rare Wine Co. historic series, is Thomas Jefferson Special Reserve, medium-dry, 19 percent alcohol by volume (Alc), Madeira, Portugal. A note from history: Madeira was one of the principal beverages enjoyed by the signers of the Declaration of Independence to celebrate their historic moment. This particular Madeira is no longer available from Rare Wines Co., but several other choices are listed on its website.
The late-harvest wine is a Pierre Sparr 2002 Gewurztraminer from Alsace, with considerable residual sugar crafted to pair well with sharp cheeses, desserts including cake, foie gras and spicy and rich foods. A second, late-harvest wine is a Sweet Petit from Tiger Mountain Vineyards. This wine won a gold medal at the 2016 Georgia Trustee Wine Challenge and is an exceptional local wine.
Wrapping up the festive event can best be accomplished by sparkling wines, and I have chosen two to consider. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava from Spain is available locally at $19.99. Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve NV is an excellent wine, produced by one of the few female winemakers in Champagne. The owner is one of the great women of Champagne: Carol Duval-Leroy. My wife Kathy and I were fortunate to spend a morning touring the very modern and highly sanitized production facility in Vertus, France, last December.
All the Champagne mentioned in the article are available from wine.com. Note: this is the best time of the year to buy Champagne for the rest of the year—great pricing and availability.
Dry champagne complements caviar and raw or steamed oysters, if that is part of your festive fare on Christmas or New Year’s. It also benefits a breakfast brunch, particularly a Blanc de Blanc, which is normally 100 percent chardonnay.
In closing, old friends Madeira Bual, ruby or tawny port and PX Sherry go with chocolate.
Enjoy the holidays, drive safely and let me know of any great wine pairings that made your holiday entertaining delightful.
In my next article, the focus will be on “Wine Trends for 2017.”
Wayne Crawford is a French Wine Scholar (FWS,) a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.