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PT 3: ITALIAN WINES TO PAIR WITH ALL OF YOUR VEGETABLE SIDE DISHES THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

(This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Italian Trade Commission. All opinions are 100% mine.)

For many years at the holidays, I drove to San Diego, where most of my northern California family had moved to, from San Francisco, where I lived. If timed right to bypass the worst of snarled traffic at both ends, it felt like I had won the lottery by avoiding one of the biggest stressors of holiday travel. I would spend a night or two in LA with some of my oldest friends. I loved the long drive along I-5 for the space to listen to podcasts and music, and untangle my thoughts. And I could bring so much more food and wine along: glorious Dungeness crab, which favor colder waters, and aren’t local to Southern CA; my varying gluten-free sourdough experiments; a cake, perhaps; and, of course, a few bottles of wine. In the days before leaving, I loved to stop in at a wine shop to pick up a few bottles of something suitably special to share with my family at the table.

While I’m not vegetarian, most of my cooking is. At the holidays, our meals are often lighter, reveling in the glory of winter produce: the brassicas and the citrus, the pomegranates, persimmons, apples, pears, and cranberries. And I love to think about how to match wines with these dishes, because so often, wine and food pairing is more focused on the traditionally meat-centric main course. Here are some ideas to get you started!

Discover more: wines of Italy

Lambrusco di Sorbara: One of my absolute favorite holiday wines: it’s pink, and it’s bubbly! The Sorbara clone of Lambrusco is unique in it’s lack of intense color and is more of a Rosé. It’s a lighthearted wine that makes an easy gift, and for easy quaffing. Tart, mineral, light, with subtle whiffs of strawberry, I selected this Lambrusco clone because it can be matched easily with lighter holiday desserts (apple cake, anyone?), along with fruity appetizers, shellfish, and some spicy foods. But all varieties of Lambrusco are fun to explore, especially if you’d like to try something with some effervescence that’s a little different than a standard holiday sparkling wine. If you’re looking to match a Lambrusco with something heartier, look out for one of the other types of Lambrusco, such as Grasparossa, or a blend of the various clones, which are a deeper, heartier red cloro, and make sure it’s secco, or dry.

Pair with: lighter holiday desserts with apples or pears, oysters, shellfish, salmon, and big holiday salads with fruit and cheese.

Also try: other Lambrusco clones, which range from a newer Lambrusco Rosato, which is similar to a sparkling rosé, to the Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, a bolder varietal with more structure and tannin.

Dolcetto: a lighter-bodied (though deeply hued), accessible and rustic red for the table, with lower acidity. Dolcetto can be tannic – that sensation that makes you want to pucker your face when you drink it. Per my friend Dana’s suggestion, I took a Dolcetto d’Alba with lower tannins, making it easy to pair with a diverse holiday table. Softer, round, fruity, tart, with earthy and delicate baking-spice notes. Try lightly chilling a red wine to tone down its tannins – this is a great way to bring a red to a table full of veggies. This should be a great wine for enthusiasts of lighter reds.

Pair with: Rustic mushroom dishes, earthy winter vegetables like beets; hearty vegetables dishes like squash pasta with tomatoes.

Also try: delicate, light-bodied Schiava, from the Dolomite Mountains in far northern Alto Adige, and juicy, fruity light- to-medium-bodied Frappato, from the southeastern corner of Sicily, two other versatile reds for the holiday table.

Etna Bianco: Grown in the volcanic soil of Sicily, and made primarily of Carricante grapes, this is a mineral, herbal white that’s often thought to carry elements of the salt air that wafts across the vineyards from the nearby coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Think of the sea and Sicily’s regional foods when pairing: salty umami notes like olives or capers, and of course, seafood. It’s a quiet, refined, supple white.

Pair with: vibrant winter salads with arugula or citrus; olives; dynamic grain dishes with quinoa or rice, such as an herby pilaf or quinoa salad; dishes with alliums, such as shallot, leeks, or onion; wild mushrooms with a more delicate flavor, such as chanterelles.

Also try: Crisp, dry, mineral-driven Verdicchio from Le Marche on the Adriatic Sea, or Vermentino, common to the Mediterranean coastlines along Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia, which can be either creamy or acidic depending on fermentation. Both are a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

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  • Peter Stafford - Kimberly:

    You photograph and write about foods and drinks so superbly. As I read this my mind was turning to cravings of the wines I knew and a readiness to explore those that were new. Loved the photos and the descriptions.

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Walt - Once again Kimberley your writing and photography really convey the essence of tasty cooking, good foods and now wines. I enjoy Italian wines and will give one or two you mentioned a try.

    Alla vostra salute!ReplyCancel

  • Walt - I have to mention that the link to learn more about the “wines of Italy” is very informative, especially about the wine regions.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - Fabulous post Kimberley!! The photography is amazing as usual, and the wine pairings are a perfect match. I’ve always enjoyed Italian wines and your descriptions brought back fond memories of Lambrusco. Something tells me ‘Italia’ will be making an appearance at one or more holiday tables this year!ReplyCancel

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