By Charles Fredy
Looking at an Italian calendar, I noticed five holidays in November and December alone. That got me thinking how festive it would be to go Italian for the holidays. Let’s begin as they do in the Veneto region, where it’s a tradition to start the meal with a splash of Venetian bubbly. My choice is a sparkling Prosecco, a snappy, fragrant, crisp native white. Combined with fresh peach juice or nectar in a festive Bellini cocktail, it is dazzling.
For some versatile pairings, I suggest a Barbera from the Piedmont area of Alba or Asti. These enticing red wines are refreshing and fruity, and their rustic charm works well with chicken, turkey and roasted meats. If you prefer a bigger boost, consider an Amarone- or Ripassa-styled Valpolicella. For something exotic that also delivers value, try a wine made from the spicy Aglianico grape. This quintessential southern varietal imbues any event with bold flavors at very comfortable prices.
Whites, too, can offer adventure. Gavi, while a bit obscure, is well worth the hunt. It comes from the hills of Piedmont and has a bright, crisp, lemony zest and just the right touch of minerality that pairs beautifully with everything. The south is also home to the up-and-coming region of Campania, whose indigenous varietals create some very interesting whites and reds. The Falanghina grape from this area has incredibly appealing tropical flavors.
For a slightly richer white, try one of the very good Chardonnays from Tuscany. You may spend a bit more, but if you choose a quality producer, it will be well worth it. If you prefer a touch of spice, Gewurztraminer from Alto Adige in the Italian Alps is a seductive choice. It pairs with many foods; use it as you would a Riesling from Germany.
For dessert, I suggest the effervescent fruitiness of Moscato d’Asti, which can also be poured directly over fresh berries, mango or guava.
My top picks for holiday feasts:
+ Bele Casel, Prosecco, Veneto, DOCG, N.V., 2007
+ Coppo, Moscato d’Asti, Moncalvina, DOCG, N.V, 2007
+ Elena Walch, Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, DOC, 2008
+ Mastroberardino, Falanghina Sannio, Campania, DOCG, 2008
+ Bisceglia, Terra di Vulcano, Aglianico del Vuture, DOC, 2007
+ Prunotto, Barbera d’Asti, Fiulot, Piedmont, DOC, 2007
+ Tua Rita, Guisto di Notri, Super Tuscan, Cabernet blend, Merlot, Tuscany, IGT, 2004
+ Zenato, Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, DOC, 2005
Note: My previous column misidentified the coastal region of Rias Baixas; it’s in the northwest corner of Spain. And Jorge Ordonez no longer imports Finca Luzan.—CF
Charles Fredy is an advanced sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a certified specialist of wine with the Society of Wine Educators. A thirty-two-year veteran of the wine-and-spirits industry, he is director of sales and marketing for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants Hawai ‘i.