The busy season has begun! With the holidays upon us, we find that our time can be stretched very thin. It can all feel overwhelming with end-of-year work deadlines, Christmas concerts, parties, tournaments, and family gatherings. At Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer, we have everything you need to have the merriest of holidays and some fantastic pairing suggestions to ensure you are the host with the most!
Charcuterie and cheese boards are a must-have during the holiday season. It is the perfect addition to any holiday party, and if there is anything left over, it works as a great lunch too! The awesome thing with these boards is that you can get as creative as possible and get creative with what to pair with them. For a cheese board or cheese course in your dinner, I have the perfect pairings for you to try:
- Aged Gouda: Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most perfect wines to pair with this cheese. The higher tannin content and flavours of blackberry, tobacco, and blueberry from this wine balance well with the nutty, fatty flavours of the cheese. You can pair the Gouda with a popular Pinot Grigio if red wine isn’t your thing. It’s light, airy and effortless to drink. If you want to kick it up a notch, look for a Pinot Gris from Alsace to give a little smoke or honey note.
- Smoked Cheddar: A great wine to pair with your smoked cheddar would be a Syrah/Shiraz. Shiraz has a tobacco note which is one of the distinctive characteristics to the varietal. Because smoked cheddar has intense flavours, you need an intense wine to pair with it. Syrah works great because of the herb and dark fruit flavours. For those who don’t drink wine, you can pair the smoked cheddar with a stout.
- Manchego: Wines to pair with Manchego should be light and dry to complement the cheese’s flavours. A crisp Verdejo is a great wine to pair with this cheese because of its lack of sweetness and its citrus and green apple flavours. A little out-of-the-box pairing (or not so out of the box) would be a Fino Sherry! The flavours of almonds and herbs from the Fino pair beautifully with Manchego’s slight herbal undertones. Tempranillo is also a great match since its flavours of dark berries, and savoury notes offset the Manchego’s slightly tangy flavours.
- Brie: This is a soft-ripened cheese with nutty, tangy, and sweet flavours. It does well with white and red wines lighter in body and fruit forward. Because of the nutty quality of brie, I recommend a Chenin Blanc, which also has an almond note. In addition, it has flavours of apple and pear, which go great with brie. As brie matures, it takes on a bit of a mushroom note. A great red wine pairing would be Pinot Noir, as it also has a mushroom quality sometimes and still has great acidity and is light enough not to overpower the flavours of the brie.
Nothing quite says the holidays like a beautiful roast
Whether it be prime rib, roast beef, crown roast of pork, or roasted turkey, it warms the house and our bellies and is usually the showpiece of the meal. And with any outstanding showpiece, we need the perfect wine pairing to take it over the edge.
- For the prime rib, we have to think big and bold. You could choose a lovely Syrah from the Northern Rhone with its flavours of dark fruit, exotic spices, and excellent acidity to cut through the meat’s richness. You could also go with a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that screams to be paired with delicious Alberta beef. I would suggest a Gamay from the Loire if you prefer a medium-bodied wine. It complements the flavours of medium-rare meat and has a significant amount of acidity to cut through the fatty bits.
- For the roast beef, I would suggest a wine with some herbaceous notes like a Mencia from Bierzo or a Gamay from Beaujolais. You could also splurge a little for the holidays and pair it with a beautiful Chateauneuf-du-Pape! The blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre give you flavours of red berries, herbs, spices, a little earthiness, and even some minerality that wonderfully highlights the beef.
- When it comes to the crown roast of pork, I’m thinking royalty. I’m thinking Kings and Queens. That being the case, I would recommend the ‘King of Wines’ – Nebbiolo, particularly a Barolo. This is fun because it is a big enough wine to go up against this roast but also lean enough to cut through the fat. Rosé isn’t just for the summer; it can also go with the crown roast during the holidays. I would choose a Provence style rose that is Mouvedre dominant (Bandol). There are flavours of strawberries and peaches with a great punch of acidity. Not to mention that peaches and pork are a great pairing.
- Roasted turkey was always a holiday staple in my house as I’m sure it is in many others too. The wine that we always had with our roasted turkey dinner was a dry Riesling. Not only did it go so well with the turkey, but it also went very well with all of the side dishes on the table making it a versatile, crowd pleasing wine! A gorgeous Beaujolais (from a great Cru in the region) was also a staple with our roasted turkey, with its fresh red fruit shining through, some herbal notes, low tannins, and great acidity.
Serving seafood? Let’s talk about their perfect pairings
Seeing more and more seafood at your holiday celebrations? It’s a hot topic as of late! Seafood can also be a quick and easy snack or appetizer when friends or family unexpectedly drop by. For whatever reason, oysters and shrimp cocktails have resonated with me as being holiday and celebration food. Pairing wines to seafood may seem easy, but you always want to ensure that everything is in balance.
- With the shrimp cocktail, I have a couple of pairings for you. Firstly, I would suggest a dry Rosé. The flavours of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry fool your palate into thinking there is sweetness, which goes well with the ketchup in the cocktail sauce. Rosé is also high in acidity and low in tannin, which helps soften the spiciness of the sauce as well. Second, I would suggest a Torrontés. This is a medium to full-bodied, dry white wine that is very aromatic but is also high in acidity. It plays down the spiciness of the cocktail sauce, and it has a natural sweetness that pairs so beautifully with the shrimp.
- For the oysters, almost any seafood really, I highly recommend a Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lies. This wine is from the Loire Valley and is crisp and refreshing with lively acidity, saltiness, and some texture from aging on the yeast deposits. Another excellent wine pairing choice would be a Sancerre. Another Loire Valley wine made from Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a toned-down version of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with not as much grass, gooseberry and more minerality, which is perfect for oysters.
Fresh desserts and their holiday matches
For me, as much as potatoes, green beans, and brussel sprouts have a place at the table, so do fruits of the season like apples, pears, cranberries and oranges. Here are some suggestions for holiday desserts that feature some delicious fruits.
- With an apple pie or pear dessert, I would pair them with a Moscato d’Asti. This slightly sweet wine has a little fizz to it, making it even more festive. It has apple and pear flavours, making it a great pairing for the same fruit desserts without making the whole last course too sweet. Because Riesling also has similar apple and pears fruit profiles, this can make a great dessert wine with tree fruit baked goods. The best part of Riesling is that you can tailor the sweetness based on your own and your guests’ preferences.
- With any citrus curd dessert, this is where you can pull out the ice wine to pair with it! Because citrus curds can be very acidic, it is best to pair them with sweet wines. A little goes a long way too, as you don’t need to do a 5 or 6 ounce pour of the sweet stuff. Two ounces is perfect for your desserts. Late harvest wines are also a great choice, ranging from slightly sweet to very sweet, which balances out the citrus curds’ acidity. Last but not least, you can never go wrong with a beautiful sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and everything in between), as it pairs well with everything I have mentioned here.
Whether you’re hosting your first-ever holiday party or are a seasoned pro, we hope this guide can help on your pairing journey. At Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer, we are happy to help you find the perfect pairing for you and your guests to have a safe and happy holiday season!