The official kickoff to the holidays is right around the corner, and chances are you’ll be hosting at least one gathering during the season. As a host, you’ll be faced with many decisions such as what food to serve and which wine to serve with it.
The world of wine can be confusing, especially when pairing it with food. Does it really matter what you serve? Wine is wine, right? According to Tricia Rasar, wine director at Bottle Shop at Mancy’s Italian, “It’s very important. The right wine pairing elevates the food and the wine experience. It makes your food taste better. A wrong pairing can really make your food taste terrible, and that’s the last thing you want when you are spending a lot of your time on a holiday feast.”
To take some of the guesswork out of planning holiday events, Rasar offers expert advice to help you create perfect food and wine pairings, choose which glass to serve with which wine, and decide how much wine to have on hand for each guest.
Pairing wine with holiday food
With turkey, Rasar suggests serving a medium-sweet riesling or rosé wine. Rieslings and rosés also work well with ham. An Oregon pinot noir or a Burgundy, a dry wine from France’s Burgundy region, are also good choices.
For shellfish such as crab legs and shrimp cocktail, Rasar recommends prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine; Champagne; or a Sancerre, a dry white sauvignon blanc.
With lamb, Rasar prefers a northern Italian red or a Syrah, a smoky and spicy wine which pairs well with gamy meats.
“I think people automatically go for cabernets with beef, but sometimes a cab is too much wine for a delicate filet. I would go with something more elegant and softer. A pinot noir would be wonderful or a softer merlot or red blend,” Rasar offered. She suggests saving the bolder, more masculine wines like Napa Cabernet, Bordeaux, or Brunello di Montalcino for meats like rib roast where there is a lot of fat and connective tissue.
“Sparkling wines are best for aperitifs. Prosecco is a very popular sparkling wine. It’s not too dry or too sweet and great for a larger crowd. If you want to do something more elegant for a toast, go with Champagne,” said Rasar.
For dessert, Rasar recommends, “a Moscato d’Asti, which is sweet but light and refreshing. This goes with lighter desserts such as cheesecake, creme brulee and fruit pies. It tastes like sparkling peach juice.”
“A Tawny port could serve as the dessert,” explained Rasar. “It’s a rich and very sweet wine that pairs well with creamy desserts, chocolate desserts and pies. Its flavor is like caramel which goes with anything.”
Looking for something more eclectic? Rasar has a few favorites. “Chiroubles, a reserve wine from Beaujolais, is similar to a pinot noir but it’s a little richer and darker in color and slightly drier and spicier. Hexamer is a white pinot noir from Germany. Use this anywhere you would use a Riesling, Chardonnay or rosé,” Rasar explained. Both wines are available at Bottle Shop and are under $25. “A wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be special,” she added. Also available at Bottle Shop is another of Rasar’s favorites, “Ciacci Fabivs from Tuscany, which is 100 percent Syrah.”
For those who don’t like wine or don’t drink alcohol, Rasar suggests serving sparkling ciders, non-alcoholic cocktails enhanced with extracts and infusions, or a non-alcoholic cranberry punch.
Choosing the glass
Rasar recommends serving reds in 14- or 18-ounce glasses. “When you have a large group, a 14-ounce glass is perfect for everything. If you do a stemless glass with white wine, a bigger bowl is better because it won’t warm too quickly from your hand. It
has just enough room to let the wine breathe,” she offered.
Planning the event
Should you serve a different wine with each course? “It depends on the type of meal you are having,” answered Rasar. “With a buffet, serve a few different varieties to please different palates. If the occasion is formal, have two or three options on the table.”
If the event is a more informal occasion with appetizers or grazing, Rasar recommends serving a white, a rosé and a red. “For Thanksgiving, I would serve a medium to drier style Riesling; a dry rosé, probably French; and a medium-bodied pinot noir from Burgundy or Oregon,” said Rasar. “On Christmas, I would shift because the cuisine usually shifts to heartier food like beef and a lot of seafood. Serve rosé, sauvignon blanc, a crisp chardonnay, or cabernet sauvignon or a similar blend to a cab.”
Deciding on the amount
“At Thanksgiving or Christmas, most people have at least two glasses. For a sit-down dinner, I would plan for a bottle of wine for every two people. If it’s more of an informal event where people are standing and socializing, plan for a bottle per person,” suggested Rasar.
Attending tasting events
Bottle Shop at Mancy’s Italian,
5453 Monroe St.,
celebrated its first anniversary on
Sept. 27. For those interested in taking their knowledge of wine to the next level, Bottle Shop offers weekly wine tasting events on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Flights of six to eight samples are available for $15, or individual samples begin at $2. Beer flights are also available. “You can learn as much or as little as you’d like about the wines we offer on Thursdays,” said Rasar. “The most important thing I want people to take away from a tasting is to be more familiar with their own palettes. Wine tastings are a great opportunity to try a lot of great tasting wines at little cost.”
For more information about Mancy’s Restaurant Group see