Holiday Guide

Beverage Pairings to Accompany the Holiday Feasts

Nov 10, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

What would the holiday season be without alcohol? While answers to that question may vary, most of us can probably agree the right beverages make the festivities far more colorful.

Herb Lokan of Allied Beverage, New Jersey’s largest distributor of wine and spirits to the retail and restaurant trade, has some timely and tasty suggestions for the “in” ways to toast to the ritual feast.

He recently came back from a trip to Italy, where Aperol was all the rage. He described it as a bitters, bright orange in color and made from a secret recipe – with infusions of bitter and sweet oranges, 22 different herbs and spices, and roots, including rhubarb – easily mixable with something sweet and bubbly such as white Prosecco (and a splash of club soda) for a refreshing cocktail. And with a relatively low alcohol content, it might not lead to dancing on tables or lampshades on heads.

A slight variation is a limoncello spritzer, made with the Italian lemon liqueur and white Prosecco, plus that splash of club soda.

Such bubbly drinks, he says, are light, easy, and perfect companions to the salty party snacks and sweets that will surely be circulating.

On the wine front, no matter the varietal of choice, Lokan has some recommendations of favorite labels that marry high quality and value.

Riesling: Leonard Kreusch Piesporter Michelsberg Kabinett from Germany; New Jersey’s own Alba Vineyards; Hogue Cellars of Washington; and Trefethen Winery of California.

Sauvignon Blanc: Kono, Nobilo and Kim Crawford, all three from New Zealand; Cono Sur, a Chilean; and Silverado Napa Vineyards of California. As a zippy sipper, choose a sauv blanc for tart sauces or desserts.

Pinot Grigio/Gris: Oregon’s Montonore, La Fiera and Altanute, both Italian.

Note: All the following are California-grown.

Chardonnay: Buehler Russian River, Chalk Hill Sonoma, Hahm Family, MerryVale Starmont and Saintsbury. Go for a chardonnay to wash down fatty fish or richly sauced seafood dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Hahn Family, Shannon Ridge, Smith and Hook (the 2015 gets a score of 93 from Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide), Toasted Head and Vigilance. Pair cabs with juicy meats, such as lamb.

Zinfandel: 1,000 Stories (bourbon barrel aged), Boneshaker (score of 90), Rosenblum and Renwood Old Vines.

Pinot Noir: Hahn Family (Wine Spectator Buying Guide calls this one a “smart buy”), Josh Cellars, Kenwood Russian River, Parker Station, Roth Estate, St. Francis Sonoma and Wild Horse. The experts at Food & Wine tell us pinot noir pairs well with earthy flavors, e.g. mushrooms.

Merlot: Hahn Family, Benziger Family, Josh Cellars and Toasted Head.

An extra note: If any sort of smoky-sweet, barbecuesque or teriyaki flavors should show up at the holiday table, consider a shiraz or Malbec, according to Food & Wine.

When it comes to wine pairing with holiday meals, turkey is one of the most versatile meats, according to Lokan. The white poultry meat is light enough for white wines, yet flavorful enough for lighter, more delicate reds. Meanwhile, the dark meat can stand up to bold reds. The only thing complicating matters is all the tantalizing side dishes.

Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, the host may choose to stock the party with American wines.

“Traditionally I serve American reds, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir with my meal,” he said, “but also always have some whites like Riesling, lightly oaked chardonnay and a California sauvignon blanc on hand for those who prefer white wines.”

The old adage about pairing white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat is no longer held to be true or even advisable. “You drink what you like,” Lokan urges.

Since holiday gatherings tend to be boisterous affairs, where the focus is on family and not necessarily on the subtleties of the Bordeaux’s bouquet or the floral or citrus-y notes of the pinot gris, go with the affordable and drinkable labels.

— Victoria Ford


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