Expert Tips for Holiday Wine Pairing
Food is a big part of any holiday celebration. For many people, the wine is just as important as the food. When you are hosting a holiday meal at your home or going to someone else’s holiday event, you may be wondering what kind of wine to serve or bring.
Pairing wines with food can be intimidating. Holiday meals can be especially tricky since there are so many flavors, from salty meats and rich sauces to sweet and starchy sides to fruity and spicy desserts. Luckily there are so many wine experts in the Valley with suggestions for the perfect holiday wine pairing.
Valley Wine Experts Weigh in on Holiday Wine Pairing
Alison Sponberg, general manager and sommelier at Quiessence at the Farm at South Mountain, suggests offering a variety of wines to complement the various foods and accommodate guests’ preferences.
Mark Teahen, owner of Sorso Wine Room at Scottsdale Quarter, advises that wine should complement the food and not overpower it, and the body of the wine should match the intensity of the flavors in the meal. “Pinot Noirs pair nicely with holiday meals. This is a red wine that typically has decent structure but it’s also light enough to work with a variety of flavors. If you’re a white wine drinker, a Gewurztraminer brings out the best of flavors with turkey & gravy. These wines tend to be quite aromatic and appealing to most.”
Wine enthusiast Tom Peiffer recommends three wines for holiday meals—Champagne, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The bubbly is always a great start to any celebration. For Champagne options under $15 per bottle, he suggests Chandon or Mumm Brut from California. For a splurge, he recommends Ayala or Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial from France.
Peiffer finds that a buttery California Chardonnay (Frank Family or La Crema) pairs well with some of the richer, buttery holiday flavors. For red wine lovers, experts agree that Pinot Noir is light enough to work with a variety of flavors and brings a touch of acidity to the meal. At a recent Thanksgiving wine pairing at Sorso Wine Room, roasted turkey with cranberry apple walnut wild rice and asparagus was paired with a silky and aromatic Cherry Pie Pinot Noir from California. Another red wine recommended by Curt Dunham and Peggy Fiandaca, co-owners of LDV Winery, an estate winery in Cochise County in Southeastern Arizona, is a light Grenache. When serving prime rib, they suggest a Syrah or a Petite Sirah.
With salty meats like ham, Peiffer enjoys an acidic wine like a French Bordeaux. For a white option, Sponberg suggests wines that are both acidic and sweet like an off-dry Vouvray or Chenin Blanc.
There’s always room for dessert. Because of its dry body and nutty flavor, Peiffer recommends pairing Lustau Oloroso Sherry from Spain with pumpkin and pecan pie. To match the sweetness of dessert without overpowering it, Sponberg recommends Madeira, a sweet and acidic wine from Portugal, for pumpkin pie, and Moscato d’ Asti, a white sparkling wine, for fruit pie. Dunham and Fiandaca suggest pairing oaky and buttery Viognier with pies, and tannic wines such as Syrah or Cabernet as a classic pairing with chocolate.
If you want to learn more about pairing wine and food, there are several wine pairing events in the Valley including:
- Quiessence at the Farm at South Mountain offers themed wine flights paired with small plates
- LDV Winery’s tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale hosts a monthly supper club with a wine-driven menu pairing three wines with three courses (the December 5 pairing is inspired by the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes)
- Sorso Wine Room is hosting a pre-holiday wine and dine four-course tasting on December 7