Christmas Dinner Wine

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You may feel like you have just cleaned up Thanksgiving dishes but before you know it, Christmas dinner will be on the table! If you are assigned to bring wine, keep reading!

The only real requirement for pairing wine, in my opinion, is to drink what you like. Of course, when you’re in charge of choosing for many people with a vast array of food, it can be difficult to figure out the wine to satisfy everyone. The best way to ensure happiness is to choose wine that pleases many palettes. A decent solution is wine that hits in the middle – medium acid, medium tannins, medium body.

If you would like some guidance, consider these styles options ranging from light to heavy depending on your menu:

Rosé – a light bodied, off-dry to dry wine that can vary depending on grape variety and production. Rosé pairs well with the plentiful lineup of holiday accompaniments, but probably a bit delicate for beef or lamb.

Gamay – you may have heard this grape variety cropping up at Thanksgiving tables under the name “Beaujolais Nouveau.” It is fruit filled with huckleberry, raspberry, violet and maybe even banana. If you want quality, look for Gamay from a designated Beaujolais Cru: Brouilly, Chénas, Cóte De Brouilly, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-Á-Vent or Régnié.

Pinot Noir – cool climate Pinot Noir is the way to go. It will be leaner and pair well with many foods. Oregon has exceptional Pinot Noirs but pass on the “jammy” ones. Look for medium bodied, low to medium tannin, medium acid Pinot Noirs where you’ll find flavors such as cranberry, clove and mushroom.

Barbera – I’m a big fan. It pairs well with a myriad of foods, is enjoyable on it’s own and pleasing to many. You’ll find flavors like sour cherry, licorice, blackberry, and dried herbs. Italy is it’s greatest producer. Look for Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti or Barbera del Monferrato.

Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a classic wine for good reason.  It is full bodied, elegant and can pair nicely with beef and lamb.  Flavors of black cherry, black currant, blackberry, tobacco, and black pepper will make this wine the perfect accompaniment for the heartier fare.

Now go out there and enjoy your holiday…and please, drink responsibly!

Barbera – Joining The Popular Crowd

I’ve been noticing an appealing trend on wine shelves lately – more and more Barbera. This lovely wine is easy to drink and easy to pair with food. Because it is so “quaffable,” Barbera is also a safe bet when selecting wine to take to a dinner party.

My admiration for Barbera began in 2007 when I moved to Italy for 3 years and became a big fan of the wine and food of Bella Italia. More recently, I visited friends who are grape growers in California and rekindled my fondness of Barbera as I tasted various styles throughout Amador and El Dorado Counties.

Barbera’s origins come from the Piedmont region in Italy and is the most widely planted grape of that region. Barbera, a high acid, low tannin grape was generally reduced to use as a “filler.” It wasn’t until the 1980’s, when Barbera was treated to barrel aging, that its virtues emerged, and it became a stand-alone wine. By barrel aging, tannins increase and the wine becomes fuller bodied. Barbera varies greatly but usually showcases red fruit (cherry, currant, raspberry) and can have nuances of chocolate, licorice, fig, dried herbs and tar.

The three Italian DOC’s (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) of Barbera are Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera del Monferrato. The Barbera from Asti and Alba are probably the best known versions. Barbera is also widely grown in California, specifically booming in the Sierra Foothills region.

Keep a watchful eye on Barbera; it may soon be the “it girl” in the popular crowd.

Barbera to Try ~

Cooper Vineyards Barbera, Amador, County $29

Sobon Estate Barbera, Amador County, $15

Renato Ratti Barbera d’Asti, $18

Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba, $20

Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato, $22

Vietti Barbera d’Alba Tre Vigne, $26