Southern Wine Pairings for the Holidays


     If there’s anything we do right in the South, it’s the holidays. After all, these are times we bring loved ones together, over food, and you’d be hard pressed to find a folk better at that than us. Am I right, y’all?

     But between all the baking, stuffing, roasting, and mashing, it can be all too easy to forget the pairing -- wine pairing, that is. This year, don’t make wine an afterthought at your holiday gatherings. After all, what would Scarlett be without Rhett, or Blanche Devereaux without her sassy comebacks?

     This year, get those pairings right. I’ll show ya’ll how:

  • Green bean casserole: Amazing what some butter and cream to do to little ol’ green beans. Bring out the snap in those greens with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc that has vegetal notes and bright, lively acidity. There are some tasty examples out there from Chile, Western Australia, California (including Dry Creek Valley, Napa Valley, and Santa Barbara), and Italy’s Alto Adige & Fruili regions. If you prefer a heavier style of white wine, or if your casserole tends toward an especially rich and creamy style, Viogner—pronounced Vee-ohn-yay –-is a good bet. Our very own Virginia makes some delicious examples, as does the Central Coast of California. Prices vary, but I’d expect to spend between $20 and $25 for a quality bottle of either wine.
  • Sweet potato pie: No Thanksgiving supper is complete without this Southern staple. This storied dish, with its silky smoothness, pairs well with a medium bodied Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley (Vouvray & Sauvenieres are your best bets—look for the region to be noted on the label). If your guests enjoy a sweeter style of wine, pick up a German or Alsatian Riesling. Look for the label to read Spatlese if it’s from Germany to guarantee some sweetness—Spatlese means the grapes in this wine were picked later than during normal harvest, so they’ve had time to build up some extra sugar. Auslese on the label will give you an even sweeter version. If you want to drink American, Washington State produces some delicious Rieslings too. Delicious examples of each can be found for $20 or less.
  • The turkey: A perfect carving method may impress your guests, but any true Southern host or hostess knows that finding the perfect wine mate for your holiday bird is a must. If you tend toward a classic turkey preparation, a Pinot Noir from California (Russian River Valley or Santa Lucia Highlands) is an equally classic pairing, but don’t rule out the Italians for a delicious and typically less expensive option. Amore can be found in red wines from Northern Italy including Barbera d’Asti or Dolcetto d’Alba, each of which can be easily had for under $20. Generally, Barbera tends to have mouthwatering acidity; Dolcetto skews a bit fruitier.  A perfect mate for smoked turkey would be a more robust Syrah, from Southern California’s San Luis Obispo, or even a spicy yet elegant Zinfandel from Sonoma (Dry Creek Valley). And if you fry it, well, bless your heart—and break out the bubbly. Nothing cuts fat and leaves you more satisfied than a little carbonation on the palate.
  • Southern pot roast: Nothing keeps the stomach warmer or the heart happier than a holiday pot roast, and nothing gives you a better excuse to bring a big, bold wine to the table. Try a smooth, red blend from California or else a Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, Sonoma, or Paso Robles, where you can also pick up some bold Zinfandel. Our European neighbors may maintain other holiday food traditions, but they certainly shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to delicious, value-driven pot roast pairings. From Spain, look to Tempranillo-based wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, and in France, look to the south in Provence for Carignan and Mourvedre-based wines, for some spice and a full body.

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     Hopefully these suggestions will help make your holiday table complete—but the only thing that can truly do that, of course, is good company. And with good company, good pairings are that much better. Cheers, y’all, and happy pairing.

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