6 Easy Tips for Pairing Wine with Holiday Food

A few surprise tips that will make your holiday wine and food pairings FUN!

pair wine with chocolate
Disclosure: I’ve been a huge ALDI fan for 8 years. So I was excited to be invited to the #InsidetheALDIKitchen event. Thanks to ALDI for sponsoring this post. My thoughts are my own.

So, when you hear the words “old world wines” vs. “new world wines” – do your eyes glaze over?

That used to happen to me.

But recently, I got the inside scoop from one of the premier women sommeliers in the country – Leslee Miller – who also advises the wine program at ALDI. Yup, ALDI.

pairing wine with holiday food

Now honestly, I had always zipped my shopping cart right past the inexpensive wine display at my local ALDI store. While loving budget friendly prices for quality cereal, dried fruit, milk and more, let’s face it: Quality wine didn’t seem possible for $3.99 and up.

One taste of ALDI’s Herres Brut Sparkling for $7.99 changed all that. This is a seriously good sparkler – and this, my friends is the PERFECT THANKSGIVING WINE…because:

  • The bubbles help cleanse the palate between bites of widely varied food from spicy sausage corn bread stuffing to sugary sweet potatoes to the briny bird or ham.

Pair wine easily with holiday food

I’m certainly no sommelier, but in my former position with the dairy council, I led wine and cheese tastings for artisanal cheese makers. So, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way on pairing wine with food and learned even more during the #InsidetheALDIkitchen tasting at their headquarters in Chicago earlier this month. Me and a few other food bloggers were lucky enough to taste nine ALDI wines and I was pretty blown away by the quality.

So here are my 6 easy tips for pairing wine with holiday food based on past knowledge + tricks I picked up from Leslee Miller:

1. When in doubt, go with bubbles (see above.) Bubbles and acid cleanse fat that can coat the tongue and dull the sense of taste between bites; acid also helps cut saltiness of Christmas ham.

2. For a hip hostess gift, give a bottle of Lambrusco. Lambrusco is “hot” right now according to Miller. No longer stodgy and too sweet; modern Lambrusco wines are fermented in the bottle and have nice fruit that’s perfect with heavier winter fare. Tiny, refreshing bubbles help it pair with appetizers, desserts and it’s lovely to just sip.

3. Is it Old World or New World? ==> Check the label for place of origin:  Old World simply means it was made in Europe; generally these wines are lighter in color and have aromas of the earth. Old world reds smell of soil/leather and whites of stone/mineral. New World wines are from outside Europe – from Australia, US, etc; they are deep dark reds and rich straw-colored whites and smell they smell of fruit first. Pair an Old World Syrah with turkey or New World Zinfandel with ham.

pair wine with chocolate

4. If it grows together, it goes together:  Chianti is a typical Italian wine, so it goes with Italian foods like oregano, rosemary, tomatoes, zucchini, hard Parmesan-like cheeses; think Italian-style cioppino fish stew for a Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner or Italian-style cheeses on a cheese board.

5. Small dessert + small sip:  Trendy restaurants serve small bites of dessert and the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine includes a spread on the License to Splurge on small indulgences. Serve dessert bites with a Moscato or ALDI’s Vina Fuerte Tempranillo in tiny stemmed cordial glasses (Find inexpensive sets at antique or thrift stores – my latest set of 6 was $12.) Tempranillo helps bring out dark roasted chocolate, hazelnut, nutmeg, and vanilla flavors of dessert – and makes the small bites seem extra special.

6. Have fun!  Find inexpensive quality bottles and if possible, buy a few bottles – then taste and see what combos of food and wine you like. (And if you don’t have an ALDI wine section near you, chances are you will soon as ALDI is opening 650 new stores in the next few years.)

wine with chocolate

For more fun wine & holiday food pairing combinations, try these:

PISTACHIOES, DRIED PLUMS, PEARS & BLUE CHEESE CRACKERS + juicy New World Zinfandel or Cabernet wine
PISTACHIO, APRICOT & RICOTTA CHALLAH TOASTS + Riesling wine
ROSEMARY SHRIMP SKEWERS & CHAMPAGNE PAIRINGS

What do you like to drink during the holidays?

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