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Wine options for your holiday meal

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

There are no rules for food and wine enjoyment at Christmas. As families evolve, so do their traditions: turkey or ham as the centerpiece, with minimal alcohol when the children are young, to a broader selection of both food and wines as they mature and move out on their own.

Food choices run the gamut of turkey, ham, roast beef, fish, or any other meat as your main course. Or you may have moved to charcuterie nibblers as you watch TV waiting for Santa to arrive, or for circulating guests dropping in for a touch of cheer.

Let's start with the last first — charcuterie. Good dry rieslings from the Mosel region of Germany will keep the alcohol level low, and with the crisp taste such a riesling would offer would cut through the fatty and spicy sausages. A good Prosecco would also go well with these snacky foods.

The color red represents Christmas in gifting, and of course, with Santa's suit. What better match than any number of red wines like light pinot noirs from cooler climates — Germany possibly — called Spathburgunder — on the label, or from wineries in cool regions like Oregon, Washington or the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

Fish courses are served all over the free world at Christmas feasts. I was in Rome with my Italian-American shipmate visiting his family for the holiday, when I got my first taste of calamari and probably a good Italian Prosecco — at age 20, I didn't know any better, but enjoyed it anyway.

For other fish dishes such as shellfish, scallops and lobster, a good Viognier (Vee-on-yay) from the Rhone Valley in France, or one of the several good California selections would pair well. Viognier is a good aperitif, or equally enjoyable with pork or veal.

For those who want to go European or British for the Christmas feasting, look to birds other than turkey — which you may still be enjoying as a leftover from Thanksgiving.

Goose and duck are both richer and fattier in taste than turkey, so a different selection of wines would be necessary. Keep in mind bird sizes when considering these two alternatives. Goose is a bigger bird that will provide leftovers for a typical American family into 2018. Duck is like the roasted whole chicken available at many supermarkets as far as size goes as it is good for one meal.

Good pairings for these alternative birds would be high-acid white wines that would cut through the richness of this meat like the Mosel off-dry rieslings, or the vouvray from France. Any well-oaked chardonnay like a Kendall-Jackson selection within your pricing point will complement this meat selection.

If you are a dedicated red wine person, look for top line pinot noir or merlot wines. Both have moderate levels of tannins and acidity that will show a sufficient fruit impact to complement the richness of the duck and goose meat.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at