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Ask a Somm: Your guide to holiday food and wine pairings

November 18, 2021

Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner or an elaborate holiday feast, finding the right wine can feel like a daunting task. With so much to choose from, where do you begin? To make your holiday meal even more spectacular, here’s some tips and tricks to finding the perfect food and wine pairing for any festivity:

General pairing rules

Holiday festivities and wine go hand in hand and there’s nothing quite like the sensation of the perfect pairing. Understanding the rules behind food and wine pairing practices is the first step to finding the right bottle!

  1. Wine must be sweeter than and more acidic than the dish at hand.
  2. It’s best to keep the weight of the wine and the weight of the dish the same. For example, a rich dish will merit a richer, heavier wine, while a light dish pairs well with a lighter wine.
  3. Spicy food pairs best with wine with a little sugar, just like pad thai and off-dry riesling.
  4. Fatty rich foods are a good match for tannic wines, which are wines that give you the mouth drying sensation commonly found in reds. Wines like nebbiolo and cabernet sauvignon are high in tannins, as an example.
  5. Sometimes, it’s better to pair the wine with the sauce rather than the protein. Take the instance of Chicken Madeira, which pairs great with a red Burgundy or pinot noir. The sauce changes the pairing entirely.
Read Also: Ask a Somm: Answering your questions about decanting wine
Food and Wine

Food and Wine: Chardonnay is an excellent match for your turkey dinner, but Champagne or any dry sparkling wine will also work brilliantly.

Favourites for festive dinners

Whether your preference is red, rosé, white or something sparkling, wine is a special accessory to any celebration. I usually gravitate to old world wines throughout the festive season, as they encompass the perfect touch of earthiness that pair nicely with all the flavours of the holidays. From viognier and chardonnay to grenache, pinot noir and Champagne, old world wines work well with everything from root vegetables and roasted meat plus all the holiday fixings we love like gravy, stuffing, herbs and spices.

  • Viognier and chardonnay – these wines are known for their nice weight and slightly rich structure that go well with the earthy flavours of the season.
  • Grenache, pinot noir, Rioja, gamay (Beaujolais) and valpolicella – medium bodied wines that are low in tannin and high in fruit, which offsets all the festive flavours and act as the cranberry sauce to your dinner.
  • Champagne, Champagne rosé and rosé – it wouldn’t be the holidays without a celebratory toast! These wines are very food versatile and work well with all the traditional dishes we love.
  • Ontario Icewine or medium sweet German riesling – there’s never been a better time to end off with an extra special dessert. Either of these wines work well with sweet finishes, however, for the optimal pairing, it’s important to make sure that the food isn’t sweeter than the wine.

Searching for the perfect crushable pairing as you plan your holiday feasts? Try out any of these classics that are sure to impress your guests and palate:

Turkey and stuffing with chardonnay or grenache: Domaine Faiveley from Noble Estates or  Le Devoy from Nicholas Pearce Wines

Duck and game birds with pinot noir: Grange of Prince Edward Pinot Noir

Ham with grenache or rosé: Rosé Vulcânico from Le Sommelier or GX-Garnatax from The Living Vine 

Roast beef with Rioja, Bordeaux: Bordeaux Château La Grolet, Cuvée Classique Rouge

And just like that, all your holiday food and wine pairings just got a whole lot easier!

-Jordan Mazzanti is the Head Sommelier at Langdon Hall


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