Wine Dinner or Holiday Dinner
Unless your holiday meal is just a festive backdrop for a gathering of wine enthusiasts intent on testing your wine acumen, there really is no best single wine per se. If your family and friends find their way to your table every year because your cooking is the main attraction, let the wine share the same purpose and status as a good side dish; save the best bottles for dinners that are focused on the wine as much (if not more) than the food.
A Veritable Feast for the Senses
If you build your dinner around the bird like the rest of us, with all the fruits of your labor on the table at one time, your holiday spread is likely a feast of tantalizing aromas and tastes, not to mention textures and temperatures. Forget about the turkey for a minute, because almost any wine, save for a few overpowering reds, will go nicely with it.
Think instead about all the wonderful elements that you assembled to complement it; like the earthy black truffle bits and salty, buttery goodness in the mashed potatoes; the fragrant apples, almonds and woodsy sage of the wild boar sausage in the dressing; the roasted Brussels sprouts with ventrèche, savory chanterelles sautéed with shallots, and the rich, velvety pan gravy. All followed closely by yams in brown sugar and bourbon under toasty marshmallows; ginger and orange peel in your mother’s tart cranberry sauce and the heady spices in your vegan sister-in-law’s curried tofurkey loaf.
Take Note of the Notes
Now, just relax and don’t drive yourself crazy trying to think about pairing to all of those elements individually. For the complexity of this kind of holiday fare a single white wine, with some structure, balance and acidity is the best ticket. For the simplest solution, just read the flavor notes, think fruit forward and Pinot Noir grapes first. Look for descriptions of fruit aromas and tastes with bright acidity at the front end of the description that you feel are pleasantly complementary, much in the way you put together your menu. Stick to fruit notes and prominent acidity to help to balance out the components of the wine and the meal.
For a white, consider an aromatic and bright Pinot Gris or a medium-bodied Pinot Blanc.
Some think that champagne is too delicate for a meal, but a rosé Champagne has all you want from the red grapes: fruit, high acidity, and savory elements. It makes a festive and delicious pairing.
A good sparkling wine also has high acidity, and one made of Pinot Noir grapes, or even a good Pinot Noir Rosé, would also be a great choice.
Prefer a different grape? A dry, fruit forward Riesling or less assertive, more citrusy Sauvignon Blanc without the oak would also fill the bill. For a good red choice instead, or as, a second offering, try a fruit forward Pinot Noir or Syrah.
One more thing to keep in mind; if your holiday is really about breaking bread in the company of family and friends, the less ambitious your choice of bottle is, the more people it will please. Just remember that you get about five 5-ounce servings per bottle, and then do the math to determine how many bottles you need.