Holiday meals are special occasions which usually call for a festive bottle of wine. Traditional holiday meals often include either ham or turkey, which causes some debate, and confusion, over what wine should be served.
Pairing wines with these two main dishes can be a little tricky. Let’s take a look at these holiday meals and see if we can break them down and determine which wines would pair well.
Ham – Glazed or Smoked
Many holiday hams are cooked using a heavy sauce of some sort, glazed to form a crispy crust, which makes them sweet to the taste. There are also hams with more of a smoky flavor, the type that are cured and aged. In general, the heavier flavors of a glazed ham should be paired with a wine that has higher acidity levels, such as a Riesling, or a simple White Zinfandel. Lighter hams, those that have a smoky flavor usually go well with a Pinot Noir or a Vouvray.
The reasons these different flavors go well together is that the meal becomes more balanced. The acidity of the Riesling will help cut through the sweet, sugary flavor of the glazed hams, while the fruity undertones of the Pinot Noir will help taper off the smoky flavor of the cured or smoky ham. Heavier wines will drown out the flavors of the ham by overpowering them with either heat from the alcohol or too much pizzazz from the rich flavors.
Turkey – White or Dark
The white meat of a turkey has a drier texture than dark meat. In order to balance out the texture of white meat, it would not be wise to serve a dry wine as this would not help to quench that need for moisture. Sweeter wines are generally the go-to for white meat as they force the palate to salivate. Any light, sweet wine will do. You may wish to try a sweet German wine.
Dark meat of a turkey retains more moisture when cooking. Because it is a more tender, juicy meat, it pairs well with a drier wine which helps cleanse the palate. Wines like Riesling and White Burgundy have a dry, oakey flavor that pairs well. You may want to try a Gewurztraminer which will also pair well with dark meat.
Let Common Sense Prevail
The most important thing to remember when selecting wines for a party is to know your guests. What do they prefer? Having a variety of wines available for your guests to choose from may be the simplest answer.
Sample a few different types of wine a few weeks before the big event. While wines can help enhance the experience of a meal, it all comes down to individual tastes. Stop worrying about the wine and enjoy the company!