[PRESENTED BY WINERIES OF NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE]
When planning the perfect Holiday dinner selecting the best wines to pair with all your Holiday fare may seem challenging, but don’t fret! Choosing the perfect wines can be rather straightforward when you consider some of the basic rules of wine and food pairing. These guidelines will ensure that your wines will enhance your delicious meal even with the cornucopia of flavours.
When it comes to wine and food pairing, we often think about the aromatics of a wine, and while aromatics can be an important consideration, the structure of the wine is even more important. The elements that contribute to a wine’s structure are: sugar (dry or sweet), acidity (refreshing and mouth-watering quality), tannins (dry and astringent sensation in your mouth), alcohol, and weight.
The wine’s viscosity (i.e. liquid consistency) is a good indication of the weight of the wine. A light-bodied wine has a low viscosity so it will have a very light mouth-feel, often compared to the consistency of water or skim milk. On the other hand, a full-bodied wine has a high level of viscosity- on the palate, it will have a heavier and richer mouth-feel, similar to whole milk or cream. The weight of the wine should match the weight of the food. Acidity in wine is another very important factor. Higher acidity wines are generally more food-friendly than low acidity wines and that’s why the wines produced in cool-climate regions like Niagara-on-the-Lake are perfect dinner companions.
So which wines should you serve with your Holiday dinner? It depends on what’s on the menu.
Turkey is a popular Holiday dinner in many households. But when it comes to pairing wine with turkey you must consider all the fixings that go along with it – stuffing, gravy, potatoes, green beans, yams, cranberry sauce and much more. To stand up to this complexity of flavours you need a wine with high acidity. The bright acidity in the wine will complement the myriad of flavours and cut through the richer and fattier foods cleansing the palate between each bite.
A white wine that perfectly fits the bill is Riesling – with its bracing acidity and fruity aromatics of apple, citrus, and apricot it stands up perfectly to the big flavours of the day.
o Konzelmann Estate Winery, 2016 Riesling Reserve Old Vines
o Ravine Vineyards, 2017 Sand & Gravel Riesling
o Riverview Cellars, 2016 Riesling
Take some pairing clues from the vast array of side dishes. Sauvignon Blanc with its zesty acidity and herbaceous aromatics pairs very well with green veggies like green beans and Brussels sprouts.
o Inniskillin, 2016 Discovery Series Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc
o Wayne Gretzky Estates, Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris is what I might call a fail-safe pairing. It’s a clean and crisp wine with vibrant acidity and delicate aromatics. It’s an ideal companion to the mild flavour of turkey as well as the plethora of flavourful sides that accompany it. It can handle all the herbs and spices and cut through the high-fat dishes.
o Coyote’s Run Estate Winery, 2017 Pinot Gris
o Lakeview Wine Co., 2017 20 Bees Pinot Grigio
o Pillitteri Estates Winery, 2016 Pinot Grigio
Another white varietal that works particularly well with turkey dinner is Chardonnay. A full-bodied Chardonnay can be a delightful accompaniment to a rich roasted poultry dish like turkey.
o Lailey Winery, 2013 Barrel Select Chardonnay
o Palatine Hills Estate Winery, 2016 Neufeld Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay
o Strewn Winery, 2016 Terroir Chardonnay French Oak
Since turkey is a lean meat with a mild flavour you should steer clear of high tannin wines as they will overpower the meat and your taste buds and cause excessive dryness on your palate. If you go with reds you should choose low to medium tannin reds like Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah/Shiraz.
Gamay is an ideal partner for turkey and ham. It ticks all the boxes - light to medium-bodied, fresh and fruit forward, low tannin content, bright acidity and incredibly easy drinking. It’s a foolproof option. Its aromatics of fresh juicy berries, subtle spice and floral notes make it the perfect addition to your festive table. It will work with almost anything in a traditional Holiday dinner.
o Château des Charmes, 2016 Gamay Noir
o Reif Estate Winery, 2018 The Fool Gamay Nouveau
o Stratus Vineyards, 2015 Stratus Gamay
Pinot Noir is an excellent choice for both turkey and ham. Its snappy acidity cuts through rich flavours and its earthy notes and red berry aromatics perfectly complement a juicy slice of ham, turkey and earthy side dishes.
o Hinterbrook, 2016 Pinot Noir
o Marynissen Estates, 2015 Pinot Noir
o Small Talk Vineyards, 2012 “Conversation” Pinot Noir
Syrah produced in cool climate regions like Niagara-on-the-Lake has a very distinct style. In a cooler climate, Syrah grapes ripen more slowly, allowing for longer hang-time which leads to more acid development. The resulting wine has a delicate structure, great balancing acidity, lower alcohol and showcases red fruit aromas with subtle spice and peppery notes. A perfect pairing for turkey and herbed stuffing.
o Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, 2015 Grand Reserve Shiraz
o Stratus Vineyards, 2014 Stratus Syrah
Also keep in mind that nothing kicks off a special celebration better than a glass of bubbly. So pour your guests a flute of sparkling wine upon arrival to spark some great conversation. And due to its incredible versatility it can pair with just about anything. So if you want to opt for a wine that can take you from appetizers to turkey all the way to dessert, sparkling can be a great option. Check out our recent article on sparkling for some great options.
Be sure to visit the websites of all our member wineries for an extensive selection of premium VQA wines that are perfect pairings for your Holiday feast!