Past & Present Christmas Wines

The culinary journey, a traditional and multi-cultural endeavor to pick an accompanying wine

Article by Greg Neruda

Photography by Tara Bruner + Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

Above all, nothing triggers the emotions like the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Christmas and especially Christmases long ago.  

It’s not easy to recall the wines of Christmases Past, with the exception maybe of Mogen David red wine, but much more has evolved since the mid-century in wine on the Holiday table.  As a kid, did you ever ask for seconds on the wine. “Please sir, may I have some more”.  Silence at the table.   

Years ago, a beloved friend came at Christmas and brought several bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape from France and unabashedly declared that this was the best wine in the world.  So, moments like this help fuel our curiosity about wine. How, over time we develop our palate; our nose and taste for better wine, than we had years ago.

Which brings us to the present.

The Present

Present trends show more popularity in pairing food and wine and what better teacher than the internet to sharpen our skills at whatever level we desire. 

Old and traditional recipes are being replaced with healthier trends.  Bad fats, preservatives and artificial tastes are disappearing.  Locally sourced, organically grown foods are now abundant.  Grandmother’s recipes are not gone, just morphing into healthier versions.  The culinary journey now is both traditional and multi-cultural and much more creativity is needed in picking out an accompanying wine.  

Beginning with appetizers, there will be lots of bubbly, which is timeless, like Champagne. Our new adventure this season, Petillant Naturel, or Pet Nat for short is a sparkling Rose’ wine that goes well with salmon and shellfish appetizers. Our other choice for appetizers is lighter weight reds like Burgundy from France or Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, which sets the stage for fuller bodied reds later in the meal.

The main attraction then:

A glazed ham likes a lighter style, lower alcohol wines such as a German Riesling or a Beaujoulais from France.  

Turkey likes a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, aromatic Viognier or a Gewurtztraminier.  

This year, duck is surprisingly paired with a Roero Arneis, a white wine from Italy. 

Another new wine this year is a Picpoul, a white wine from Southern France called La Petite Frog. Three bottles in a box wine and quite good for larger groups, with fish and poultry.  Will it survive the test and be here next year?  We think yes.

Prime Rib is a favorite with big reds.  Bordeaux style, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, some Carmenere and brand new for the feast this year is a Gigondas, a blend of Rhone Valley, French reds, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.  

And finally, desserts!  Heavy, mega sugary desserts are slipping away. How about locally sourced fruit for pies, cobblers and crisps that are easy to make for a crowd? For the specialty cheese course, try a Sauternes, Vin Santo or Tawny Port.  A soul satisfying finish with the cheese — dried fruit, toasted hazelnuts, a drizzle of honey with fig jam.  

Happy Holidays!  Old and New.

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