Ahh the holidays, the season for giving and of course…indulging in delicious food and wine. This is a personal favorite part of the holiday for me. It doesn’t get much better than spending time with friends and family over a beautiful meal and a perfectly paired wine. As a follow up to my favorite rosés of summer post, I thought it’d be fun to talk about my favorite red wines for the holiday season.
Since we all have our own holiday traditions, especially when it comes to what to eat, I'm going pair this list with a variety of classic holiday meals. Starting with the lightest on the palette to the ones that really come alive with complimentary food pairings, let’s begin…
This sparkling red wine from Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region was first introduced to me at a holiday party a few years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. When I was first offered sparkling red wine, my immediate assumption was that it was going to be sweet and well, not so good. My host was quick to discourage that notion and encouraged me to at least taste it. Much to my delight, the sips of the ruby red Lambrusco was effervescent with subtle notes of fruit, yet dry not sweet. It went perfectly with the salty snacks of salami, prosciutto, pecorino romano and cornichons. Now a tradition in my own home, I love serving this sparking red to my guests and usually end up introducing it to one or two, while I'm at it.
I was recommended this lambrusco at my neighborhood market recently, and was suprised to see that it was made here in California. It certainly holds up to the Italian ones I've previously served, so I'm excited to try something new this year. If you're looking to learn more about this regional Italian red, I found this article to be very interesting and informative.
If you're someone who doesn't like a heavy red wine or tends to avoid reds in general, then this is the wine for you and now is the best time to drink it. Beaujolais Nouveau has a celebrated history in France, where it gets its name from the Province of Beajolais, a wine producing region, north of Lyon. Generally light bodied with relatively high acidty, this wine is fermented for just a few weeks before it's bottled and made available on the 3rd November of every year. In fact, the uncorking of the bottles in France is marked by parties, fireworks and other festivities. Like I said, it is celebrated!
Here's 15 Things You Need to Know about Beaujolais, I would suggest reading this whilst sipping a glass of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais paired with some patê, crackers, and a lovely soft cheese. He's credited as popularizing Beaujolais and his colorful labels are pretty easy on the eyes, too.
As we move out of the appetizer portion of your holiday evening, might I suggest a wine that's sippable at any point throughout the night? I discoverd Elouan earlier this year and have been picking up this affordable Pinot on the regular, ever since. Pinot's are known for their drinkability but this one has a bit more going on that your typical Oregan Pinot Noir. It's rich and full bodied but still is refined and delicate. I would confidently serve this wine with heartier seafood dishes like salmon or a chicken dish with a lot of flavor, like coq au vin.
Have you ever seen the movie Sideways? It stars Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church; they play two friends who go on a bachelor party trip to wine taste along the Central Coast of California. If you've seen it, then you know where I'm going with this as Paul's character, who loves his Pinot Noirs, notoriously and famously exclaimed, "I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!" It's definitely worth a watch but more importantly, it should be noted that the Merlot in this region is quite delicious and not something anyone should be disappointed to drink. Nonetheless, it made for a memorable moment in the movie and helped put Pinot Noir on the map.
With that little Hollywood trivia acknowledged, I'm happy to share this Merlot from the winery, Gainey, with you all. In fact, Gainey is located in the area where Sideways was filmed, and they've won many accolades for their Merlots. For this holiday season, I think it'd be the perfect addition to a traditional holiday duck recipe or for those who double down on turkey for this month's holiday meals.
I first picked up this Zinfandel over the summer for a backyard barbecue as Zin's are great for that kind of fare. The price was right, so I gave it a try and I am so happy that I did. It went great with the burgers and ribs, but I felt like it'd also go well with a variety of meat dishes, including more refined ones. For the holidays, I'd pair this bold and flavorful red with a pork tenderloin. Its fruit fowardness would pair perfectly with the savoriness of the pork.
For a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner of pasta, you can't go wrong with a Sangiovese or Chianti from the Tuscan region of Italy. I love Sangioveses, in particular, as they're such easy drinking wines. In a way, I'd equate them to a Pinot Noir from the states. Light enough to go with a variety of foods but with enough flavor to simply enjoy on its own. I don't quite remember how I first discovered Villa Antinori, but I'm sure I was enjoying some standard Italian fare at the moment.
Ready to finally talk BIG Reds? Cabernet Sauvignon's are globally recognized, which makes sense considering these grapes grow in pretty much every wine producing country. Known for being full bodied and high in tannins (which are what makes a wine taste dry), the main identifier is typically based through the climate the wine was produced as different tasting notes come forward, such as specific fruits and plants. Since there are so many, I'm going to share two of my favorites from one particular region, Napa Valley in Northern California. The first being Flora Springs, which I love for how fruit forward it is with the first sip yet not too dry. For this particular wine, I think it'd go very well with a holiday briskett, which is a traditional Hanukkah dish. Flora Springs would compliment the rich flavors of this main coarse, as well as not over power complimenting dishes.
If there's ever a wine for red meat, it is a Cabernet Sauvignon and you pretty much can't go wrong with Groth. I first got turned on to Groth via their Sauvignon Blanc and ended up exploring the other varietals, as I liked the Sauv that much! When it comes to the vineyard's reds, I love treating myself to a bottle of this Cab..or treating someone else, for that matter. It's a great gift for the wino in your life. This rich and full bodied wine will go perfectly with the holiday prime rib, beef tendeloin or rack of lamb.
Woo! That's a lot of wine! I know I'm just scratching the service but like I said, these are just a few of my personal favorites. Also, one of the best parts about this list is that all of them are under $30....some well under, except for the two Cabernets. That's not to say, there aren't plenty of delicious Cabs well in the affordable zone. These are just the two that I like, especially when it comes to pairing with yummy holiday meals. I hope that you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!
Cheers to a Joyful Holiday Season with LOTS of Merriness!