Feel free to jump right down to my holiday pairing suggestions!
There’s just something electric about this time of year. The anticipation is everywhere. Of a new year, new resolutions, new goals and dreams. I don’t like it. I’m serious. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a holiday JUNKIE. But I hate the way we rush from Labor Day through the end of the year. We slip out of our bikinis and before we know it we’re thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s. But we don’t focus on what is around us. People get lost in the shuffle and don’t take the time to just calm down and breathe. We should savor the anticipation of the season.
Instead, we’re buying our next year’s planner. We’re thinking about all the great things we’re going to do in 2020. Worst case: we’re lamenting the things we didn’t do in 2019. This year, I challenge you to take each moment as it comes and remember that this time next year nothing’s going to be how you thought it would be, so why not just slow down and take it as it comes? And what better way to do that than curling up with a glass of wine and planning your holiday food and wine pairings?
Celebrate The Holidays with Loire Valley Wine
Whether you’re lighting candles or a tree, celebrating the unity of your culture, or airing your grievances and engaging in feats of strength—or a combination of these—you’ll want to pair your holiday meals with wine. This year, I recommend exploring the diverse wines from the Loire Valley when thinking about what to serve—or bring—at holiday meals.
I attended a beautiful event thanks to Sopexa and Loire Valley Wines at Sézane last week. Sarah Tracey was our guide through the evening and Sézane provided the perfect setting. Last year I was introduced to the region through Claire de Lune and the InterLoire at the Val de Loire 2018 Millésime.
Welcome to the Loire Valley: An Overview
There’s one thing Loire valley wines have in common: what the French call nervosité. Karen MacNeil describes this in her Wine Bible, “In great years, the best of wines can have such dynamic tension they seem poised on a tightrope, or even spring loaded.” Is there any better metaphor for the anticipation of the holiday season? There’s not!
Here’s what you should know about the Loire:
- It’s the most diverse French wine region. White, red, rosé, including sparkling wines. Dry and sweet. You can find anything youŕe looking for in this region.
- The Loire has a cool climate. The region is almost too cool for grapes. This is what gives all of the region’s wines their anticipatory vibe.
- It encompasses 63 appellations. These include Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the east; Chinon, Vouvray and Rosés d’Anjou in the middle; and Muscadet in the west.
- Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are the major white grapes in the region. These grapes are used in still and sparkling, dry and sweet.
- Cab Franc and Pinot Noir are the major red grapes. Grolleau, a native red grape, is usually the dominant grape in Rosé d’Anjou.
- These wines can be found at affordable prices at your local wine shop. There are plenty of premium bottles coming out of the Loire but you can also find them in that $15-22 sweet spot!
How to Pair Loire Valley Wine with Any Holiday Meal
You know how they say “what grows together, goes together” when helping people learn to pair? In this case, my pairings match the anticipation of the season with that amazing, ready-to-be-shot-out-of-a-cannon feel of Loire wines. I think you’ll enjoy these pairings across your holiday celebrations. And for that reason, I’ve created pairings for Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and Festivus. Just click the links to jump to the ones you need.
Bringing the Loire to Chanukah Celebrations
First things first: If you keep Kosher or are bringing wine to a home that observes, be aware that most wine is not Kosher. You can check out Kosher Wine for wines that are Kosher, Mevushal, OU. There are a variety of Loire Valley producers making Kosher wine so you can absolutely find the perfect Loire wine for Chanukah.
Crémant de Loire with Latkes, Brisket and Savory Kugel
Crémant is a French sparkling wine made in the same way as Champagne throughout France’s wine regions. It must adhere to similar strict rules. All wines labeled this way have been hand harvested, whole-cluster pressed with limited must extraction and aged for at least nine months on the lees. Cremant de Loire is mostly made up of Chenin Blanc with Cab Franc and Pinot Noir although there are other grapes allowed. Expect aromas of yellow apple, lemon, quince, honey, pear and even hints of chammomile.
At a recent event with Sarah Tracey (NYC-based somm and bringer of the #youcansipwithus movement) exploring the Loire Valley she paired Crémant de Loire with a delightful little bite: potato pancake, goat cheese and baked yellow apple.
First: girl knows what’s up. Bubbles and fried food is one of the greatest combos ever. The bubbles and acidity keep your palate completely fresh and the juxtaposition of acid and fat is sublime.
I loved that Sarah included a nod to Hanukkah and decided to come up with a few other good Loire and Jewish food combinations as Chanukah approaches.
Consider bringing a delightful, budget-friendly Crémant de Loire to your Chanukah celebrations. It pairs perfectly with savory Kugel, brisket and all those latkes. It’s also perfect for passed or plattered hors d’oeuvres and cheese courses.
Off-Dry Vouvray Works with Turkey, Ham and More!
Vouvray is home to the Loire’s finest Chenin Blanc. Off-dry Vouvray makes Christmas dinner sing. I love these wines because they are silkier Chenin Blancs that still have a perfect strike of acidity and nice minerality thanks to limestone. So don’t worry: these wines won’t come off as flabby.
If you do the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies you’re in luck. Furthermore, you can enjoy a delightful roasted pork tenderloin with your Vouvray. I recommend a fruit sauce with your pork.
Got vegetarians at your Christmas? Vouvray pairs perfectly with root vegetables and I plan on pairing it with my signature dish, butternut squash lasagna.
Rosé d’Anjou and Groundnut Stew
I was first introduced to these wines by expert Elizabeth Gabay—if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, GO!—while in the Loire Valley on a press trip in 2018. It was eye-opening as I hadn’t known much about the hugely diverse rosés out there. Needless to say, I was very happy to see that Sarah had chose to pair a rosé d’Anjou at last week’s event.
This deeply colored, off-dry rosé is made from Grolleau, a grape that also makes lighter red wines (think Gamay). You’ll find aromas of roses, red berries and even banana in these wines that go nicely with flavorful, spicy dishes and lighter meats. It also makes it perfect for Kwanzaa.
During Kwanzaa families and friends gather and may make creole, Groundnut Stew (a delish peanut soup from the West Indies), jerk chicken and Cajun catfish.
Kwanzaa is a cultural, secular holiday celebrated by people of African-descent in the Americas (those affected by the diaspora) from December 26-January 1. It is not a “replacement” for Christmas (neither is Hanukkah!).
A Festivus for the Rest of Us
Look, I’m from New York so there’s no way you weren’t getting a Festivus pairing in here. While Frank never tells us the official meal of his AlternaHol, there is what appears to be a meatloaf on a bed of iceberg lettuce on the table along with wine glasses at each place setting.
If you’re making a delicious mushroom and beef dish, consider a red Sancerre as the pairing. You read that right: red Sancerre. Sancerre, known for incredible, aromatic whites, is also home to firm, fruity reds made from Pinot Noir.
The cherry aromas and lingering finish make these wines perfect for chilling and pairing with earthy flavors. At the Loire Valley Wines pairing with Sarah Tracey at Sézane, we tried these with mushroom profiteroles. This is perfect if you’re celebrating the holidays with veg folk.
Pssssst! Break the Rules!
Whether you enjoy Chinese on Christmas or gather around a large table for Kwanzaa, you can pair affordable (or premium!) Loire Valley wines with a variety of foods. Here’s your cheat sheet:
- Bubbles go with nearly everything but definitely try them with fried or richer foods.
- Off-dry wines are great with savory dishes.
- Bigger rosé wines love light meat, spice and also go really well with cheese.
- Light red wines, like those from the Loire Valley’s Sancerre, wants to samba the night away with ‘shrooms
No matter what your plans this holiday season, pick up some wine from the Loire Valley to pair at home, bring to dinner and give as gifts. And while you’re at it, do with this time of year what you do your wine: savor every sip!
If you’re curious about the gorgeous backdrop for the pics in this post, most were taken at Sézane which is on Elizabeth in Soho, a quick walk from Broadway-Lafayette. This is the only US store. They carry absolutely gorgeous clothing, accessories and home goods like candles and bath products.
…there’s not a single thing that’s turned out quite like I intended.” – Christine Kane