Some ideas for adding even more holiday “spirit” to your cookie swap!
Moscato d’Asti from Italy – This wine’s spiced apricot flavor profile complements anything with dried fruit, gingery or buttery flavors. The frizzante bubbles make it extra festive, and the lighter alcohol (typically around 7%) is welcome during a season of culinary and vinous indulgence. You get the same flavor profile (but higher alcohol due to fortification) in Muscat Beaumes de Venise from Southern France, Muscat of Samos from Greece, and many other classic dessert wines based on versions of the Muscat grape. The fruit cake-y Yalumba Museum Muscat from Australia was amazing, too–probably the one I’ll leave for Santa!
Malmsey Madeira from Portugal – The orange marmalade flavor make this wine based on the Malvasia grape a delicious match with buttery, gingery flavors as well as–and this might surprise you–dark chocolate. Most people don’t consider Madeira to be a classic wine match for chocolate but they should. It’s that good. I have always loved Blandy’s 10-year-old Malmsey. Broadbent is another favorite
Tawny Porto from Portugal – I prefer tawny over ruby-style ports for pairing, because their long again in oak barrels result in spicy, toasted–and-candied nut flavors that pair so perfectly with almost anything in the cookie jar. I don’t think you can beat 10-year-old tawny for value in the dessert wine realm–I love Calem, Croft and Fonseca. If you are hosting wine geeks, colheita, or vintage-dated tawny such as Noval, would be just the kind of splurge the holidays call for.
Sherry – Top quality versions of the sweeter styles of Sherry – Amontillado and true Cream Sherry – are harder to find, but worth a search and a splurge. The Barbadillo Eva Cream Sherry and Pedro Domecq Amontillado, matched everything I paired them with masterfully.
Sauternes – The honeyed apricot flavors cozy up beautifully to buttery shortbread cookies, cinnamon-y snickerdoodles, and anything with pumpkin or persimmon. Chateau Coutet is legendary for its American Thanksgiving dinner pairings. They should add Christmas cookies to their tradition.
And what about chocolate-peppermint? Though I flirted with late-bottled vintage Port, I found no shippable suitors for the peppermint–so that’s your holiday homework! Let me know if you find a wine match!
The range of flavors on the Thanksgiving table is tailor-made for the core pairing principles of complement and contrast, so why not open several wines and put them to the test? Below are my best-bet wines, and what to look for when pairing them.
When I discovered in my work choosing wines for Delta Air Lines how incredibly well they show in-light, my respect for the region reached a whole new level (or, perhaps I should say altitude?). Here’s what makes drinking a Rioja flight when you are in-flight so fantastic.
Napa Valley harvest: it’s not merely picking the grapes. In these videos you’ll see how, when and what’s next, all of which are crucial keys to quality.
How do you handle a big wine list (without having to stick to beer)? It can be intimidating for both the waiter and the waited on. Here are some great tips and tricks to help both sides of the transaction. At Windows on the World where I worked, we had over 2000 selections. Here’s how we made that accessible for everyone.
Why even bother to blind taste? The greatest value to the exercise is to assess a wine’s quality without having your impressions–positive or negative–influenced by the label. So I often blind taste multiple wines of a category, say New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or French NV Champagne, so that only what emerges from the glass (not reputation, a critic’s high score, or price point) drives my conclusion. It’s always fun, often surprising, and occasionally, when upstart or value wines make the top of the heap, a really great day.
America’s “cheese coach” Laura Werlin has spoken, and the winners of the Gridiron Grilled Cheese Bowl pairing contest have been chosen