The end of every year abounds with opportunities to spend hours around the table with friends and family, enjoying holiday meals along with one another’s company.
Throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, social calendars are packed with holiday gatherings. Delicious dishes weigh down tables, and all that’s needed to make the food and the good company even better is the perfect bottle of wine.
Ruth Ryberg, a certified specialist of wine and a French wine scholar, has worked in the wine industry for 17 years. A sommelier at the 19th Hole Package Store on St. Simons, Ryberg is well-acquainted with the wine tastes of Golden Isles’ residents, and offers some sage advice on how to choose the best wines this holiday season.
As the weather cools and holiday events begin to fill our calendars, there are many opportunities to pair a great bottle of wine with a delicious meal. As a certified sommelier, what advice do you give those seeking the perfect wine to pair with holiday events and dinners?
Bubbles. Actually, the standard answer for turkey is Riesling, and for pork is Pinot Noir. But I have a thing for Champagne and its cousins, (Crémant, Cava, and Dry Prosecco). I made a dish with orange roughy in a dijon sauce and the Champagne was a perfect match.
How do people’s wine selections change from summer to winter?
In the summer, we sell a lot of Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. People want cool and refreshing. As the weather cools, we see people switching to hearty reds like cabernet. I might suggest a medium-bodied Italian or Spanish wine, just to try something different.
What’s your own favorite wine during this time of year and why?
It’s hard for me to pick. It’s like asking — who is your favorite child? It depends on the day! But, I will always be a huge fan of Pinot Noir, especially Burgundy. To keep it affordable, a Santenay or Savigny les Beaune would be perfect.
Are you seeing any new trends this year in the popularity of certain wines?
I’m waiting for people to catch on to the Italian wines from Etna or the lovely Portuguese reds. But in this area, people prefer to stay in their comfort zone. So California Chardonnays and Cabs, or Oregon Pinot it is.
A bottle of wine can also make a wonderful gift for friends, family or coworkers — what would you recommend?
Something different. Think outside the box. Try a Gattinara or a Soave. A Gavi di Gavi or Rioja. And if that’s too far outside of the comfort zone, try a Zinfandel. They can be lush and full-bodied or medium-bodied with layers of flavors.
What wine would you suggest serving with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners?
Thanksgiving standard is Riesling or Beaujolais (a light fresh red with plenty of cherry and cranberry). Christmas — go big or go home. We had Quintessa Cab with our beef Wellington last year, but it really depends on what you are serving. Remember that Pinot Noir goes with just about anything — salmon, foul, pork, and beef.
What dessert wine would you recommend?
I’ve been into Sherry lately, but again, it depends on the dessert. Ice Wine is a lovely option for stone fruit pies, and Port would be decadent with flourless chocolate cake.