By Jessica Norris Granatiero
The holiday season is often one when we treat others and ourselves to special items – travel, food, dinners out and, of course, meaningful wines. I often search for weeks for unique, special dishes to cook that ends with excitement around selecting wines that best pair with them. While I love to marry wine and food all year, the gifting season is always a special one filled with family memories around the dinner table. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, the following options will marry well with dinners, celebratory events, family and good friends.
Vintage Champagne: Vintage Champagne has a declared year (ie., 2015) on the label. This means that all the grapes that are used to make the Champagne come only from the year designated on the label. Most Champagne on the market is nonvintage, which means the grapes can be from various vintages (years). Vintage Champagne is a special treat. My pick: R. Dumont & Fils Extra Brut Champagne – its vivacious bubbles are long lasting, and notes of toasty bread, butter and tropical fruit emanate from the glass. Full bodied, it is a great partner for various dishes, including rich French cheeses or roasted duck breast.
Vinho Verde: Vinho Verde is a Portuguese white wine that is most often associated with summer. However, I love to have it during the holidays as a starter to meals. Slightly effervescent and light bodied, it tickles the nose upon first sip. It is a nice precursor to heavier style wines and a great sipper on its own or paired with cheese, charcuterie and shrimp cocktail. Most are under $15. My pick: Curvos Superior Vinho Verde – it displays notes of Granny Smith apple, pear and peaches with a fresh, vibrant acidity.
Kosher wines: Today there are a plethora of high-quality wine options that are certified kosher, and we now are not just limited to Manischewitz. Winemakers use any grape varietal to make kosher wines, which makes pairing them with food great fun. There is not a “kosher or non-kosher wine technique.” Rather, certain rules apply to who, how and when a wine is made that makes it certified kosher. My pick: La Fille du Boucher, Butcher’s Daughter Bordeaux is certified kosher. It is a red blend full of cherry, blackberry and plum notes that come together with a lengthy soft, yet vibrant finish. It is a great partner for various meat and chicken dishes.
Brunello di Montalcino: I always treat myself, and my family, with a renowned top-shelf style wine. One of my favorites is Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello is made from the grape Sangiovese Grosso specifically from the Montalcino area of southern Tuscany. This wine is one that can last for 10-20+ years if you want to hold onto it for that long. It garners a higher price tag but is a staple for a special event or person. My pick: 2015 Paradisone Brunello di Montalcino – at seven years of age, it is an option to open now, showing impeccable roundness in the mouth with Bing cherry, raspberry and mocha notes. However, it has enough tannins to still last in the bottle for another 10+ years. Whether you are a now or later sipper, this wine will check both of those boxes.
Rye Whiskey: There are many distinct types of whiskey – American, Canadian, Irish, Scotch, Japanese – all with different production techniques and unique flavor profiles. After holiday meals, my 80-year-old father and I always take out a rye whiskey, with one ice cube, to enjoy alone or with desserts. Rye has an exuberant spiciness to it that makes it a good partner for sweets, particularly pecan and mince style pies and chocolate. My pick: WhistlePig 12-year rye – this is dear to my heart, because I worked with WhistlePig distillery in Vermont earlier this year to help select and create this 12-year rye whiskey. It exudes the classic rye baking spice notes with a nutty caramel finish.
Enjoy, happy holidays and sipping!