Classic Pairings For the Celebrations

It’s holiday time once again, which means celebrating with family and friends. And the best part of it all is the sharing of wonderful meals.

Published December 6, 2011 5:51 PM
3 min read


VOVthumbIt’s holiday time once again, which means celebrating with family and friends. And the best part of it all is the sharing of wonderful meals.


By Lou Campoli

It’s holiday time once again, which means celebrating with family and friends. And the best part of it all is the sharing of wonderful meals.

Gift-giving is also an integral part of these celebrations, especially for those nearest and dearest. Wine books, magazines, glasses, decanters, and other wine paraphernalia have always been on our list of suggestions. Your local book dealer and the Wine Enthusiast in Mount Kisco (800-356-8466, are excellent sources of the newest and best wine-related items in a range of prices.


But they don’t provide memories. Our fondest memories are of the little things, the personal touches that we can look back on with big smiles. Many of our treasured moments are brought on by remarkable wine and food. In the past we have talked about favorable wine and food pairings, mostly in general terms.


In trying to blend the thoughts of wine and food with the gift of giving, we thought we might suggest some individual pairings that have proven to be very personal and enjoyable.


Instead of just giving someone a bottle of Port, why not include some Stilton cheese? This is a classic combination. The tangy blueness of the Stilton coats your palate when you add the Port. Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port and Vintage Character Port (e.g., Fonseca Bin 27, Taylor First Estate, and Graham’s Six Grapes) work especially well.


Another classic match for Port is dark chocolate (dark works immeasurably better than milk chocolate). The richer the chocolate, the better. In addition to the rich Ruby Ports mentioned, Tawny Port (especially 10- and 20-year Tawny) makes for a wonderful tandem with dark chocolate. The richness and deep berry fruit flavors of Port are exquisite. And if you pay close attention when you sip LBV Port with a bit of age on it, one of the flavors you will notice is actually that of chocolate.  


Another pairing that will captivate your taste buds is foie gras and French Sauternes. They are absolutely incredible together. The blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc of the Sauternes produces a honeyed, apricot-flavored sweetness that, with its crisp acidity, remarkably enhances the taste of the foie gras.


Sauvignon blanc on its own is part of another classic pairing – goat cheese (chèvre). We recommend French Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, both of which are 100% sauvignon blanc. New Zealand and California sauvignons can be used as well, but they tend to fruitier, racier, and more intense. Goat cheese and sauvignon blanc both tend to have grassy, herbal flavor notes to them and the acidity in the wine enhances the flavors of the cheese.


Almonds, now what can you say about almonds? If you want to enhance manifold the nutty flavors of almonds, try them with a sip of Fino or Manzanilla Spanish Sherry. The Sherries are dry and have a clean, nutty quality about them. Be careful as you sip the Sherry because it has 19-20% alcohol.


A perfect ending to any meal is Italian biscotti, and a perfect match with biscotti is Italian Vin Santo. Vin Santo (“holy wine”) is usually made from trebbiano and malvasia grapes that have been dried on mats for months after they are picked. Once the wine is made, it is aged in small barrels for a minimum of three years. During that time, the barrels are not topped-up, meaning that an air space develops in the barrel as a result of evaporation. This contact with air oxidizes the wine.


The result of this entire process is a sweet wine (though not too sweet) that is golden in color and has a remarkable nutty apricot quality to it. Do as the Italians do: dunk the biscotti in a glass of Vin Santo and your taste buds will go … nuts!


These tasting gifts are for sharing, and what better gift can you give than the gift of sharing?


We wish everyone a Very Happy Holiday Season shared with your family and friends.

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