The table is set. You’re excited to have friends and family at your holiday dinner. Or perhaps you are an invited guest and you’d like to bring a bottle of wine to your hosts. Whatever the reason, choosing a beautiful bottle of wine for one of the most anticipated meals of the year can be daunting. When choosing a lovely holiday meal wine, what’s a wine lover to do?
Wise Words From Steve Heimoff about Your Holiday Dinner
If you want to bring an impressive gift wine, you might be tempted to select a highly rated, gold-medal wine. Wine expert Steve Heimoff points out that this might not be the best way to go. According to Heimhoff, if you choose a wine that drinks almost like a separate dish (he calls it “a separate food group”) due to its complexity and richness, you run the risk of having it overpower just about everything it’s paired with. When you consider there might be peas, sprouts, yams, gravy…that’s a lot of chancy combinations. While a huge, highly rated Cabernet goes great with a juicy steak, not much else will really stand up to it. When you’re thinking holiday dinner, it’s important to think of the food coming first.
So, enter our acronym wine pairing tip: “WAISTS.” No, I’m not talking about that part of your anatomy you might be worried about! (Adapted from Berry Bros. & Rudd)
- W is for Weight. Match heavy-to-heavy, rich-to-rich. Full-bodied wines go with full-bodied foods. Likewise, light foods drink well with lighter wine. Have a sparkling wine with light appetizers, for example.
- A is for Acidity. Match a high acidity wine to a more fatty food. Think lemon wedges squeezed over fatty salmon.
- I is for Intensity. Flavor intensity, that is, which is different from weight. Asparagus and Brussel sprouts, for example, are high flavor foods, especially if accompanied with sauce. You’ll want to go with a similar weight and flavor of wine like a Sauvignon Blanc.
- S is for Sweetness. The rule of thumb is to serve a wine that is sweeter than the food. This is almost like the “I” tip (intensity), but more specific to sweetness. A sweeter Riesling or Sauternes with duck pâté, for example.
- T is for Texture. This is similar to the “W” tip (weight), but specifically for texture. Think chewiness, or fat content. The denser and fattier a food, the more tannins the wine should have.
- S, the second one, is for Salt. Tannins in wine don’t mix well with salt. The first step is not to over-salt any dish, and put the salt and pepper shakers on the table. Don’t serve a red wine with herring filets or a Caesar salad course.
Which brings me to my favorite tip — a bonus tip, if you will. Ditch the idea of enjoying only one wine. I like the approach of drinking a different wine with each course. I also like the approach of being okay with guests who insist on drinking only one of my wines. At a holiday dinner, you’ll be happier if you put out a variety of wines and let people choose which ones they want.
And a bonus bonus tip: remember, it’s never all about the food and wine. It’s about the richness of friendships around your table that matters the most and that will be remembered for years to come — not which wine was served with Aunt Letty’s string beans.
Cheers to a Happy Holiday Season!