A romantic wine tour would be the ultimate Christmas gift! But alas, how many of us can go to the vineyards of Bordeaux or Tuscany or Castile-Leon on short notice to sample wines at their cellar doors? Short of going to Napa in California or Willamette Valley in Oregon, what we can do is order online and have them delivered right to our doorsteps, or in the spirit of giving this Christmas, order a wine basket and have them delivered to deserving people in your life. So you and your gift recipients appreciate the wines better, here’s a short guide on which food goes best with which wine.
The specialty of California, Chardonnay is one of the more popular wine varieties appreciated by a broader market. What better way to introduce someone to a well-established wine variety with ‘flinty’ notes, as California Chardonnay is generally described. Like most varieties, the wine flavor can be influenced by terroir and by the use of oak barrels. Regardless, Chardonnay goes well with pork loin, chicken and veal. For pescitarian family and friends, suggest pairing with halibut, crab and shrimp. Pasta lovers would want to pair it with pesto or cream, while carbo loaders may find Chardonnay complemented with potato, squash, mango and apple. Vanilla pudding and banana bread are fine desserts, especially with a glass of Chardonnay to accompany them. If you can’t whip up anything on short notice, open a can of almonds and pour a glass of Chardonnay to get your palate ready. Chardonnay-based Champagne can be quite versatile and makes an excellent gift to the novice wine aficionado.
Napa Valley has built a reputation around Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon but its Merlot is not to be overlooked. Ranging from vanilla, toasty baking spices and plums in aroma and juicy blueberry, cherry and a hint of dark chocolate and toffee in taste, Merlot is the perfect pair of the most popular of Italian cheeses, Parmesan. If that’s not on hand, try Romano. As chestnuts roast in open fire, don’t forget to have a glass of Merlot on hand, too. Meat lovers would be happy to know that Merlot goes well with steak and grilled meats, as well as grilled swordfish or tuna. For veggie lovers, plums, tomatoes and caramelized onions make the nicest pair, or any dish seasoned with mint, rosemary and juniper. Pasta lovers would want to have a heaping of Bolognese with Merlot, and then pair it off with berries, fondue or dark chocolate for desserts.
Sauvignon Blanc can be too sweet, and even unoaked ones can be crisp and fruity; some say one-dimensional. But if you like pine nuts and feta above all nuts and cheeses, or you like to stir-fry turkey with asparagus, then Sauvignon Blanc will not disappoint. If cooking with chicken, maybe you can try recipes that call for the use of chives, tarragon and cilantro. Scallops and oysters don't usually go well with green apple, but individually they can be joyfully washed down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Any dish prepared with citrusy or light sauce will also do, and to conclude the meal, sorbet is the dessert of choice for this wine. If you are sending a wine gift basket to a friend in Florida, tell them to wash off key lime pie with Sauvignon Blanc.