Happier holidays with Ohio wines

By Matt Reese

Different Ohio grape varieties produces wines that pair well with different foods. Matching the right Ohio wine with the right food can add an elegant local flair to any holiday gathering.

The holidays are here and so are the countless parties and get-togethers with family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. All of these events can be very fun, but they can also be stressful, especially for the host. The decorations, the preparations, the guest list, the food and the entertainment are plenty to think about. The inclusion of wine can add a whole new set of challenges, but a fine Ohio wine can also make the party.

“All of the holidays and celebrations get people thinking about sparkling wines, ice wines and dessert wines which are great for holiday parties and meals and are also done very well in Ohio,” said Bruce Benedict, with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “Wines are meant for consumption with food and these great wines are even better when they are matched with great food.”

For those who are less than wine savvy, these pairings can be daunting, so Benedict offers some advice on how to dazzle guests and partygoers with Ohio wines. When turkey is the main course, there are a number of wine options to consider based upon how the featured dish is prepared.

“Turkey especially pairs well with a wide variety of wines. Turkey is fairly neutral and it can go very well with Riesling and other sweet wines. Smoked turkey goes very well with richer wines,” he said. “Buttery turkey goes very well with a buttery Chardonnay. And, several Ohio wineries have cranberry wines that go great with turkey. You can take a bite of turkey and a sip of the wine and they go great together.”

The best wine to go with pork dishes can also differ based on the way it is prepared. The turkey rules apply to many pork dishes.

“Ham can be a challenge,” Benedict said. “My pick is a nice Rosé. It can be a little sweet, which goes with a nice salty ham. The nice thing about a Rosé, especially a sparkling Rosé, is that it is also a wonderful looking wine that looks Christmasy.”

Red wine is the choice for beef, including Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, or other Hybrid reds, Semi-Sweet Reds, and Rosés.

“Roast beef and red wine are about as wonderful a food/wine pairing as anything in the world,” Benedict said.

For delicious leg of lamb or lamb chops, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Hybrid Reds, or Chambourcin are great options. Seafood pairs well with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris/Grigio, and Seyval Blanc. Lighter fare of vegetables and salads goes well with light reds, Rosés, Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris/Grigio.

The sweeter wines that are typically the most popular wines from Ohio producers go best with decadent holiday desserts.

“Ice wines and dessert wines are great at holiday parties and with meals that have a lot of desserts. A Port is also an excellent choice for dessert,” Benedict said. “People do not drink as much port, ice wine or dessert wine because they are so sweet.”

In general, sparkling wines (whether dry or sweet) are ideal for the holidays because they are associated with celebrations.

“Some people are intimidated by opening a bottle of champagne,” he said. “You need to twist the bottle and not the cork.”

Whatever wine is selected for the various holiday occasions ahead, Ohio wines can add a local flair to any gathering. Ohio wines are piling up international awards and growing in world renown as the wine industry in the state has been making dramatic strides in recent years. The number of Ohio wineries has grown from 124 in 2008 to 152 in 2010, and wine production increased nearly 500,000 gallons from 2006 to 2008. Ohio wine production now contributes more than $580 million to the state economy and creates 4,000 jobs with a payroll of $124 million.

Ohio offers wine for every occasion (or gifts for those who may be hard to shop for) during this fun, but potentially stressful time of year for planning gatherings. So call the caterer, hang some mistletoe, get some fantastic Ohio wine and let the party begin.

There are more great resources for tips on pairing food with wine, entertaining with wine and buying wine at http://www.tasteohiowines.com/wff.php.

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