Holiday Wine Pairings: Natural Wine Edition

By Diego Vasquez

The holiday decorations are out, candy prices are obscene, and the in-laws are making plans to stay at your house for an unspecified period of time. With everything to think of during the fall season, worrying over which wines to pair with what unexpected dishes relatives bring over shouldn’t be one of them. Rest assured—we’ve got you covered on your fall food and wine pairings.

How should I approach pairing natural wine with food?

Do the “rules” still apply? The only rule, as far as I’m concerned, is taste before you pair.

Natural wines tend to be lower in typicity, meaning the taste could differ from bottle to bottle, and therefore pair differently. Typicity refers to how much a wine tastes like the varietal it’s supposed to be (for instance, how much any one bottle of tempranillo tastes like a tempranillo). Our wines tend to be higher in typicity than other natural wines (when possible, an intentional choice on our part), making them easier to pair accordingly. With natural wines lower in typicity, however, it’s best to sample first.

What are some classic fall food and wine pairings?

With cooling temperatures comes the craving for heartier, warmer foods, especially for those holiday meals. Take a traditional holiday staple: turkey, mashed potatoes, maybe a side of stuffing or baked cauliflower. With this plate, you can’t go wrong with a classic white, specifically a chardonnay. The lighter tones of the wine will compliment the lighter meat of the turkey, especially if it’s cooked using white wine. Whites also pair well with foods cooked using lots of spices that have a heavier, richer flavor because the wine cuts through the sharper taste and serves to balance out the meal.

If you’re looking for something to stand up to those denser or more flavorful foods—say ham or roast lamb and a side of cranberry—you’re going to want a red. Our tempranillo, with hints of oak and spices, would be ideal with the richness of the meat. The similar undertones of the berries would provide the bold flavor to match up to the sweetness of the cranberry. If you’re going for a more casual yet still delicious approach, try a pizza and rosé pairing. The light burrata cheese lends well to the crisp, fruity flavors of the rosé.

The number one criteria for a great pairing: you enjoy it

Holiday dish pairing is tough. Think of how many flavors make up Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. There are the dishes the host/chef makes, but then also the dishes the guests bring. Your cousin’s shrimp mold could really throw a wrench in your pairing strategy. Cranberry sauce alone presents a challenge: canned or homemade? The former is sweet and the latter bitter.

There’s nothing wrong with serving more than one glass. Allow yourself and your guests to try one with one dish, serve a different glass and try a new food, and then return back to the previous. After all, holidays are a time to feast—if you’ve got more than one type of food on the table, why not more than one type of wine?

Not all flavor combinations will work for everyone, which is why we offer three different varietals for you to try this holiday season. If you’re tired of buying store-bought pastries to pass off as homemade for Sunday dinner, bring a bottle of RedThumb to your next family gathering. We can’t guarantee it’ll marry well with a shrimp mold, but we do know it pairs perfectly with a good time.