There’s no time like Christmas to really let yourself go. Sure, Christmas is the season for family, joy, celebration and all that sentimental good stuff. But let’s face it, with all the holiday parties, happy hours and general merriment, ’tis the season to be drinkin! So what wines you serve at Christmas can play a pivotal role in the success of your family holiday.
First and foremost, as with any celebration, start with the bubbles! Champagne is a great option if it’s in the budget, and some of the more affordable ones like Piper Hiedsieck or Moet et Chandon Imperial can be just as tasty as some of the big names. But I tend to go the Prosecco route, such as Mionetto or La Marca, or with a sparkling from California like Gloria Ferrer or the Schramsberg Mirabelle Rose. I always feel like I get more value with those options, especially if its being enjoyed in a large group setting.
For those who partake in the Feast of the Seven Fishes, white wines may take center stage. The two white varietals I tend to lean towards when pairing with seafood are Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. New Zealand has become wildly popular for their SB, and for good reason. It’s made in a crisp and aciditc fashion with lots of tropical and citrus flavors. Brancott and Kono are consistently good value options for around $10-15.
Chenin Blanc can have a little sweetness along with the crisp acidity and citrus fruits, making an exotic combination with shellfish. The Vouvray region in France is notorious for wonderful CB, but in California Pine Ridge makes a Chenin Blanc/Viogner blend that would add a nice touch of lemon zest and florals to your seafood selection.
For those fish feasters that serve it with the classic marinara or fra diavolo sauce, as my family does, red wine is most likely what you will want to serve, particularly ones that can hold up to the sauce but not over power the fish. I try to stick with the Italian theme, as the right ones tend to be full bodied but not massive, and can bring out a lot of the spice and acidic nature of the sauce.
Chianti Classico is always a safe bet and a sure-fire winner. For some reason it seems Chianti has gotten a bad rap lately, however there have been some wonderful wines coming out of the region in recent vintages. The Rocca della Macie line of Chiantis are consistently stellar, as are the ones from Ruffino. If Chianti is not your thing, a Super Tuscan may be more your speed. These are wines that are made near Chianti but they can use many traditional varietals (i.e. Cab, Merlot and Syrah) in combination with Sangiovese and are not restricted to the rules of Chianti.
The one I’m going with this year is the 2008 Mediterra from Poggio al Tesoro. This blend is actually Sangiovese free, made from Cab, Merlot and Syrah. It is gracefully smooth and luscious with loads of cherry and berry, surrounded by spicey and herbal notes. Perfect for your typical Italian seafood feast, but will also pair well if you are going with a good old fashioned Ham or Beef Loin.
Whatever you decide to drink with your holiday feast, may your Christmas be full of love, laughter and joy. As that is truly what makes the season “the most wonderful time of the year”. Salute!