In one week, families throughout Northern Virginia will be catching up with extended family members, wrapping their last-minute presents and gathering around the dining room table for a special feast.
Whether you’re hosting the immediate family or an entire potluck with the neighbors, there tends to be a wide variety of food options to choose from, including finger-food appetizers and a gourmet roast. This year, local experts recommend you take the time to consider what sips will be paired with the meal, as wine has the ability to change the flavor of the food on your plate, both in positive and negative ways.
From bold cabernet sauvignon to nontraditional dessert wine, here’s what three connoisseurs in Northern Virginia suggest you add to the table this Christmas.
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Right before the Christmas holiday, Javier Patron of McLean-based Chain Bridge Wine Cellars tends to see a desire for red vintages that pair well with the traditional meal of beef or honey-roasted ham.
“People usually look for big, bold reds,” says Patron. “Those vary from cabernet sauvignon all the way through Chateauneuf du Pape.”
“For dessert wine, it’s been even across the board with people going for the ruby port and tawny port, as well as sauterne, which is a French sweet wine,” says Patron. “People are also going toward a Hungarian dessert wine called tokaji, which drinks similarly to a sauterne but has a bit more of a honey characteristic, where as sauterne has a grilled, apricot flavor. They both really fit the pallet with holiday dessert”
“The most important thing we think about wine for Christmas is what will go well with meat, like pot roast, ham, beef,” says Andrew Napier of The Whole Ox Butcher Shop. “When I supply the shop, I try to look for whites that have some body and acidity to them.”
Right now, Napier is featuring a wine from Ovum Wines in Oregon called Big Salt, which is a complex blend of grapes, creating a flavor he describes as fresh, light and not too sweet, yet festive.
While most people tend to pair meat with heavy, deep reds, Napier takes a different approach.
“With reds, when thinking about roasts, we want rich, structured wine. One thing that I always try to keep in mind is that it’s a mistake to go for something too heavy,” Napier explains. “When you have a big meal, a hearty drink can get exhausting. You want something that has a fair bit of depth, but isn’t overbearing.”
According to Napier, sparkling is consistently requested throughout the holiday season. This year, The Whole Ox Butcher Shop is pushing three varieties of Champagne from a small grower called Laherte Fréres.
“They are so incredible and have so much character,” Napier explains. “You can’t go wrong.”
This Christmas, Juan Navarro of Clifton-based The Wine Attic suggests sipping two specific labels from producer Cantine Pellegrino in Pantelleria, Sicily.
Navarro’s first recommendation is Gibelè Zibibbo, a strong white.
“It’s an aromatic white wine (from the original Arabic term “zabib,” which means raisins),” says Navarro. “On the nose, this wine shows generous stone fruit and basil. The grapes are grown in volcanic soil and feature exquisite minerality on the plate with orange peel and honeysuckle hints.”
According to Navarro, it will pair best with seafood or a poultry dish this Christmas.
Navarro’s second recommendation, Finimondo!, translates literally to mean “the end of the world.” The wine is primarily made of the grape nero d’avola, ultimately pairing well with roasts, ham and turkey due to its dark fruit tones and soft tannins, according to Navarro.
“It’s juicier and chewier than the holiday-standard pinot noir.”