PAIRING YOUR WAY TO PERFECT HOLIDAYS

From turkey and stuffing to salt-crusted prime rib, holiday meal planning is tough enough without having to worry about wine pairing. But, thanks to some help from Whitehall Lane’s Katie Leonardini, we’ve come up with these worry-free tips that are sure to leave your guests feeling impressed without leaving you feeling frazzled.

For starters, holiday meals incorporate a variety of food and flavors, which means many different types of wine on the table are welcome.

The No. 1 thing you want to remember is, like in many life situations, don’t interfere. Select wines with low tannins that won’t make the mouth pucker (like biting a banana peel) and overpower the meal. Avoid big, buttery chardonnays and young cabernet, syrah and petite sirah that can have a lot of bite. Generally, light-to-medium reds, such as pinot noir (like our single vineyard Las Brisas), Beaujolais, Burgundy and tempranillo, rosés, and steel-casked whites mix well with abundant holiday meals. The key is a balance between sweet (alcohol) and sour (acid and tannin) and always remember; the lighter the color, the lower the tannin.

Pinot Noir is generally considered the ideal holiday wine because of its versatility and the range in flavors available depending on the age of the bottle. It makes a great partner for everything from lamb to spicy and grilled meats, game birds, turkey and venison. However, a rich, spicy Zinfandel marries well with the powerful flavors found in stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted turkey skin and dark meat.

In addition, sweet whites like Riesling and Gewürztraminer pair well with most everything from turkey to cranberry sauce, while crisp, citrusy whites, like Whitehall Lane’s newly released 2012 sauvignon blanc, pair perfectly with roasted vegetables and other fresh produce on the plate. 

Also a great rule to follow: select a wine that complements the sauce, typically gravy during holiday meals. The darker the sauce, the darker the wine. Giblet gravy is great with a savory white while a well-aged red brings out the flavor in red-wine and red meat sauces. 

Another high note on these low tannin wines – they also reduce risk of the notorious wine headache for many who have mild wine allergies.

The next thing to consider, Leonardini advises, is your audience. Is the table full of foodies who love to experiment or Aunt Opal who has an opinion on everything?

“Always consider whether or not your guests like to stick to the tried and true or if they’re willing to experiment with something new,” adds Katie. “I say this because the last thing you want to be doing during a holiday happy hour is apologizing for not stocking up on the old reliable instead of sipping on moscato while the sweet potatoes bake.”

This also means making sure to have beer on hand for non-wine drinkers, along with a variety of beverages for the kids so they can celebrate the special day with a special drink too. Sparkling water with sliced fruit or berries is a great low-sugar, non-filling option, as is sparkling or hot cider and wassail – but only in small quantities so kids aren’t full of empty calories before dinner is served.

Step three: don’t break the bank. Remember, holiday meals tend to attract a crowd which means both quality and quantity are important. Keep in mind that there are many high-quality, reasonably priced wines out there and the professionals at your local wine store can help you stay on budget while also helping you find everything you need to impress your guests. It’s always smart to plan ahead by making a list of the types of wine you want and then seek out assistance so you don’t overspend.

Finally, go big. There’s something to be said about all the adults at the table sharing a glass of wine from the same bottle. This is why big bottles, such as magnums, three-liter and six-liter bottles, are ideal for holiday meals.

“Large-format bottles are big in our family, as you might guess, but they’re not just for wine connoisseurs,” explains Leonardini. “Many people are intimidated by big bottles but they’re great for budget-conscious consumers looking to save time and money while at the wine store. Every year we produce a limited run of large bottles and they’re always among the first to go. I highly recommend going big during the holiday season. It will leave your guests feeling impressed and you feeling like you hit a homerun.”

With these four easy steps you’ll quickly transform into the holiday season’s “Hostess With the Mostess.” Just remember, keep it simple, consider your audience, don’t overspend and always, go big.

For more information on wine and food pairing, holiday party ideas and seasonal wine shipments, visit www.Whitehall Lane.com.

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