Unlike Thanksgiving, the Christmas day meal does not have a universally accepted main course. In these United States, turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece around which we prepare a whole host of other edible goodies such as bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But the Christmas day repast is a more diverse culinary undertaking where our ethnic and/or cultural heritage largely determines what we put on the table that sacred day.
In homes where the ancestral heritage derives from the British Isles, Germany or other northern European locales, we Americans tend to lean toward either a repeat of Thanksgiving (with turkey and all the trimmings); we prepare a prime rib roast-centric meal; or we opt for baked ham as the featured main course.
In largely Catholic countries, like Italy, Christmas Eve dinner is just as important as the meal on Christmas day, and the menu is built around seafood. In my home, where I try to enjoy the best of both culinary traditions, my wife and I divide up responsibility for the two meals. I’m in charge of Christmas Eve while she prepares the Christmas Day feast.
So today, I’m going to recommend wines to accompany a Christmas Eve seafood dinner as well as vinous goodies to pair with Christmas day meals featuring prime rib, turkey or ham. Oh, and since New Year’s Eve is also rapidly approaching, I’ll suggest some sparklers to help you celebrate 2018.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian culinary tradition that many Americans observe. In my home, we sometimes exceed the seven fishes, but we always have at least calamari, cod, shrimp, smelts, oysters, mussels and salmon on the menu. Since many of these sea creatures will be deep fried, it’s best to pair them with wines that are medium bodied, refreshing and even thirst quenching
Italian whites: Arneis: Cortese di Gavi: Greco di Tufo; and Falanghina; California Chardonnay: Cakebread Cellars; Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains; Far Niente; and Dutton-Goldfield.
On Christmas day, if you’re preparing oven-roasted turkey as the main course, these wines will pair nicely: Chateauneuf Du Pape; Brunello Di Montalcino; Rioja; California zinfandel (I love the ones from Amador) or Chianti Classsico Riserva.
For baked ham with a sweet glaze, give red, white and rose these wines a try: Tavel Rose; Alsatian Riesling; Oregon or Sonoma Coast pinot noir; Malbec from Argentina; Teroldego (red) from northern Italy.
For the Christmas meal at Chez Brown, my wife will dry rub a bone-in prime rib roast with garlic, kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Then she’ll roast it in the oven until it’s medium rare. Here’s what I’m considering for a wine accompaniment: 10-year or older Bordeaux Red; Meritage from Napa Valley; Northern Rhone Red (syrah from Cote Rotie); or an Italian Super Tuscan Blend.
There is nothing quite like Champagne or sparkling wine to ring in the New Year. Give one or more of these Champagnes a try: 2005 Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime; Krug Grande Cuvee Brut; Nicholas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut; Veuve Cliquot Brut; and Piper-Heidesieck Brut Cuvée.
Sparkling wine (from regions other than Champagne): Mumm Napa Cuvee; Segura Viudas Reserva (Spain); Roderer Estate Brut Anderson Valley; La Marca Prosecco; Gruet Blanc de Noirs (New Mexico); Iron Horse Russian Cuvee; and Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace.
Have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a prosperous New Year’s Eve!