While the holidays are still a few weeks away, I thought it might be a good idea to prepare an article with several holiday wine suggestions before the shopping and cleaning madness kick in.
Festive holiday meals are usually an excellent opportunity to serve and sample a variety of wines, ideally a different wine with every course. Here things can become a bit complicated. Do you start off with a dry or semi-dry white wine? Perhaps a light red or a sparkling wine would be a better way to get the evening started? Do you really have to serve dessert wine alongside the dessert? At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that while there are several general rules of thumb, when it comes to food and wine pairing, there is no right or wrong and your personal taste is the one that counts most.
Sparkling wines are a great way to get things started. The hollow clout and the aromas released when one opens a bottle of sparkling wine serve as a signal to let the festivities begin. There are currently a variety of Spanish (Cava), Italian (Prosecco) and French sparkling wines that offer very good value for the cost and are much more affordable that even an entry level Champagne.
I recently had the opportunity to sample a couple of kosher bubblies that were very enjoyable. The Distilliria Bottega, Prosecco, Sole, Brut – imported by the Scottish Company offers generous aromas of white flowers and fruit and will go well with light starters or fish dishes. The second one was quite surprising and at 25 NIS a bottle, you really cannot go wrong. Imported by the Shaked Company, Cruse, Blanc de Blancs, Brut (N.V) is made exclusively from white grapes, in this case Chardonnay. Serve chilled with fish or vegetable based starters or even mix in cocktails to impress your guests.
Golan Heights, Gamla, Chardonnay, 2009 was recently released and will go well with fish or light meat dishes. Aged for 4 months in oak barrels, the wine is medium bodied with pleasant aromas of green apples, melon, lemon zest and oak. Another option in this category is the Chardonnay, Reserve 2009 from the Mony Winery - Medium bodied, showing aromas of yellow and green fruits with a pleasant balancing acidity.
Binyamina, Special Reserve, Merlot, 2007 is medium to full bodied, with overtones of sweet cedar, generous aromas of dark berry fruits, raspberries, cherries, plums and a touch of fresh herbs. Serve alongside sweet Moroccan tajine or coq-au-vin using the wine for preparing the dish as well.
Dalton, Alma, 2008 is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (47%), Merlot (47%) and Cabernet Franc (6%), aged for 14 months in barriques (both new and used). Dark ruby in color, still firm, the wine reveals aromas of various black and red fruits, plums, cloves and peppery notes all leading to a long finish.
Tulip, Mostly, Shiraz, 2008 is produced using 85% Shiraz and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from vineyards in the northern parts of Israel (Kfar Yuval). The wine was aged for 15 months in both French and American oak barrels. The result is a medium bodied, concentrated red wine, offering aromas of dark berry fruits, toasted oak, tobacco and a touch of eucalyptus lending a lightly alcoholic finish. If you get a chance, I also highly recommend the winery’s Syrah, Reserve 2007.
Last, but not least, is the Golan Heights’ Heights Wine from the 2008 vintage. When it comes to dessert wines, the only rule is that the wine served has to be sweeter than the dessert. Chocolate-based desserts can be tricky, but the Heights Wine will go very well with fruit, cream or honey based desserts. A play on the words "Ice Wine," since the Israeli winters are not cold enough to produce traditional ice wines, the Golan Heights’ team artificially freezes the grapes and then crushes them eto extract the sweet, concentrated nectar.
Other dessert wine suggestions include: Carmel’s Kerem Sha’al, Late Harvest dessert wine from Teperberg, the “Or” dessert wine from Tzora or even pomegranate-based dessert wines from the Rimon or Granada wineries.