Choosing a wine, or wines, to go with your holiday dinner can be a challenge, in that not only do you want to pair your wine with what you're serving, but also to whom you're serving it.
"If I've got a good-sized crowd, I want to endeavor to find something for everybody," said Michael Satzberg, owner of the and Wine Shop.
Satzberg suggests having both a red and a white wine on hand, especially if you're not sure of your guests' tastes.
Since many folks serve turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, Satzberg recommends Rhône varietals, namely syrah, grenache, mourvedre and blends made from these grapes the red wine.
"On the white side, I'm going to do chardonnay just because that seems to please the widest audience," Satzberg said.
Roberto Rogness, general manager and wine director of , in Santa Monica, pointed out in an email sent to Patch, that just about any well made wine, from lighter whites to hearty reds, pair well with roasted turkey.
But Rogness also made some additional suggestions for other dishes. For example, while a Bordeaux (made with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc grapes) is considered a safe bet for a beef roast, Rogness also suggested an Amarone, an Italian red wine, or a merlot with some concentration and age—basically a "phatter, plummier red," he said.
You can always serve a duck or goose with a red wine, but Rogness wrote that which one will depend on whether or not you'll include fruit in your stuffing. If you're not using a fruity stuffing, reds such as syrah, grenache or an Italian varietal known as teraldego will work nicely. If you are using fruit, then you'll want "lighter, zippier reds like Cru Beaujolais, Chianti Classico, Crianza Rioja," the last being a wine from the the Rioja region of Spain.
Both Satzberg and Rogness suggested a sparkling wine, such as Champagne or some of the California ones, with smoked salmon, with Robness emphasizing a rosé bubbly, in particular. However, if you are serving salmon as a main course, you can serve it with a pinot noir, one of the exceptions to the white wine with fish rule. Salmon has a stronger flavor that blends well with a lighter red like pinot noir.
In fact, that's all wine pairing is really about—matching flavors. Satzberg thought that a white Burgundy (a French wine made with chardonnay grapes) would enhance the delicate flavor of Cornish game hens.
In general, Satzberg said, wines made outside of the United States, and European wines in particular, tend to go better with food.
"The internationals are easier. They're just less dominant wines," Satzberg said. "They don't get as much oak and they're a bit lower on the alcohol content."
One of the reasons for that is that Europeans tend to drink wine with food rather than by itself, as many Americans do, Satzberg said.
And if one of your relatives is a big fan of the dreaded white zinfandel, Rogness suggested some lighter, sweeter wines such as "Schiava from Alto Adige, Orvietto Amabile from Umbria, entry level German Riesling, Rosé Prosecco," he said. Prosecco is a lightly sweet sparkling wine from Italy.
Satzberg also suggested some of the California rosés but also said that if white zin is what your uncle wants, that's he wants.
"I'm not going to have any, but I'll buy a bottle for them," Satzberg said.
Finally, if you're still confused about what to serve with dinner, there's always the easy way out. Buy Champagne. A good sparkling wine does remarkably well with a very wide variety of foods.
"Bubbly really IS good with everything!" Rogness wrote.