We’re very thankful here at At Home in Arkansas to work with and for wonderful people, one of them being Adam Japko. When Adam isn’t serving as President of the home design division of our company, flying into Arkansas to keep us in the know about the latest in social media technologies and such, he is educating his loyal readers on the intricacies of wine consumption through his super popular wine blog, WineZag. When we asked him if he’d be willing to participate in our Holiday Guest Blogger Series, he didn’t hesitate to say yes, and he prepared a thoughtful, in-depth post on pairing wine and holiday food that will bring good cheer to your holiday table this year…and for many years to come.
Happy holidays, or should we say, Bon AppÃ©tit!
Christmas dinner is looming and the angst associated with wine and holiday food pairing emerges once again, bubbling at medium simmer compared to the heavy boil fanned by the challenging flames of a sweet, salty, and savory Thanksgiving meal. At this time of year, wine columns and blogs glow cranberry with every possible pairing recommendation proving only one point; it is ok to drink whatever you like with your food of choice. White, red, beef , fowl, residual sugar, dry, sweet, and savory elements create an amalgam of perfect pairing hurdles and options. So, as the final holiday meal of the year approaches, don’t sweat the details and open wines that you and your guests prefer. Christmas and New Years are good opportunities to celebrate successes and discoveries that are unique highlights of the year in wine. I have been really excited about a few genres throughout 2009 which I can recommend without hesitation for your holiday celebration: 1) 2007 Southern Rhones: The 2007 vintage in Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cotes du Rhone , and Chateauneuf du Pape is one of historic quality.
A combination of hot but not blazing daytime temperatures combined with cool nights, low rainfall, and record September Mistrals produced wines with gorgeous aromatics, amazing richness, round mouthfeel, great balance, and excellent acidity. These are wines to cherish and buy by the caseload. In a vintage like this, the Cotes du Rhones selling between $10 and $18 a bottle are world-class values. I am recommending the 2007 Delas Freres Saint-Esprit Cotes du Rhone that I previously reviewed here noting its rich black cherry, blackberry, pepper and herb characteristics flowing from the Syrah dominated cuvee. It is a great wine to drink with the cross section of strong holiday flavors or just with veal, lamb and beef dishes. It is so good and of such great value that I drink it with everything. If you can’t find the Delas Freres, keep in mind that I have tried at least a dozen different 2007 Cote du Rhones and they have all been delicious. 2) Muscadet: This is actually a relative new discovery for me (while 2007 and 2008 were not stellar vintages in the Loire, the Muscadets I have been tasting this year are special and represent an important new appellation in my wine selection tool box), an appellation in the western most part of the Loire Valley in France that is often overlooked by American wine enthusiasts.
As a result the wines are cheap and it is hard to pay more than $15 for a bottle. The wines are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are world-class in the sense of their immediate pleasure, purity of fruit, originality and sense of place, food friendliness, and ageability. If you are a traditionalist and submit to a Christmas Eve seafood dinner, then these wines represent a perfect pairing choice. It has been my experience that it is hard to go wrong with 2008s by staying focused on any Muscadet that comes from the top sub appellation of Sevre et Maine, and which is also produced Sur Lie (left to lay on its lees for an extended period leading up to bottling). It will amaze you that all your wine and food friends have not been drinking these wines by the caseload over the years. 3) 2007 Mencias (from Bierzo or Ribeira Sacra): Wines made with the Mencia grape from these Spanish wine growing regions are not only new personal discoveries but are also unfolding as the new rage in the Spanish wine market.
A once overlooked region offering old vines and terraced hillside vineyards, the Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo are attracting lots of new attention by producing wines with great earthy character and deep blackberry-like fruit. Most of the wines sell between $15-$25 while some, like the 2007 Raul Perez El Pecado can cost closer to $80 and are of the highest possible quality on the stage of world class wines. Look for the 2007 Losada and 2007 Petalos, two of my favorite sub $25 wines. It would not be a fair holiday wrap up to exclude some bubbly. I don’t invest enough of my focus on Champagnes to comfortably represent personal preferences as top recommendations. Fortunately I closely follow The Brooklynguy whose palate I have learned to respect and whose experience with Champagne is formidable. In a recent post about a blind tasting he participated in of 15 major brand Champagnes, a line up that did not include a single more desireable grower Champagne, the Piper-Heidsieck NV jumped to the top of the tasting chart. Based on Brooklynguy’s impeccable Champagne recommendation track record, I will be seeking the P-H out this holday season for larger gatherings calling for something bubbly. So as the holidays approach, don’t sweat the pairing trauma and produce food and wine that excites you. Use some of these recommendations or rely on your own experience. Your guests will appreciate it.
Adam Japko fell in love with wine 25 years ago growing up in New York City and has been collecting and promoting wine as a lifestyle component ever since. Since getting his journalism degree from NYU in 1979, he has made his career as a magazine executive and is currently President of a group of luxury media brands including At Home in Arkansas at Network Communications, Inc. Most recently he has been helping his company reshape traditional media models in a fast changing world of free quality content and enabling social media technologies. Adam regularly writes about wine at his blog Adam Japko’s WineZag, promoting his perspective on “wine as a lubricant for human connection without bias”.