dreidels and fruitcake and in-laws, oh my! by rosy rodriguez

New month, who this? When on earth did December get here?! Since our social lives have been on hiatus for the past couple years (we’ll just call it SHMOVID) I feel extremely out of practice for the task at hand. In addition to gift shopping and gift giving we’re now back to holiday parties, holiday meetups and the inevitable extra 5-10lbs on your hips! To top it all off we need to get together with our families…again…and make sure our children act grateful as they receive some questionable gifts. Thankfully, all these events all come with wine!

Christmas and Hanukkah completely overlap this year giving everyone just a couple minutes to come up for air before 2023. So, before you get New Year’s Eve Whiplash, take a moment and consider some of these wine and food suggestions for the holidays. There’s a little something there for all of us here in Miami and if you’re truly blessed with friends, you just might get invited to more than one of these gatherings.

Hanukkah Wine Pairings

Hanukkah Sameach! What to drink with latkes, sour cream and apple sauce? Well, Champagne of course! The bubbles will cut through the fatty oil in the latkes and make an excellent complement to the tart sour cream and sweetness of the applesauce. Even better if your aunt Rachel’s goy boyfriend springs for caviar! If your family really goes the distance and roasts a brisket then I say you break out a bottle of Syrah. The deep cherry notes and spiciness are an excellent pairing with the richness of the meat. If any of my Jewish friends want to invite me over for one of your 8 Crazy Nights this little Cubanita promises to bring some good booze or even “gin and tonica”! L’chaim!

Noche Buena Wine Pairings

Oye gente, vamos a comer!!! For those of you new to South Florida, us Latin folks celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve in what’s known as Noche Buena (which directly translates to the “Good Night” or “Drunken Throw-Down”).  At Noche Buena alcohol of any kind is acceptable, permitted and absolutely necessary. We’re not drinking to pair wine with our superb plate of food but actually to mute out the incessant bickering and “loving” criticism of our families. What’s that? You think I look good except that I’ve gained wait in my face? What does that even mean?!  Honestly, this is starting to sound a lot like what my Jewish girlfriends go through at Hanukkah. Oy vey y de madre! But I digress. My family happens to get along oddly well for Cubans and we’ll start our evening off with some Rosé and then move on to Spanish Reds. Roasted pork, black beans and rice, fried plantains and yucca need a little acidity to cut through the fatty options and the tannins complement the complex flavors. When in doubt always go with a wine from the same region as the fare you’re eating. Food with Spanish roots most likely pairs best with a Spanish wine. Ta Bueno ya!

Traditional Christmas Wine Pairings

For those of you with a more Norman Rockwell flavored holiday you’ll likely see magical spreads of turkey, ham, roast duck, goose or lamb. For turkey and ham pairings I’m going to advise you re-read my Thanksgiving suggestions (it’s also a pretty funny article so you should read it a few times). However, duck, goose or lamb are three of my favorites! Unlike Thanksgiving turkey, these are extremely flavorful meats so it’s a safe bet to pair your wine selection to the protein and not the side dishes. When it comes to duck or goose I love to drink Pinot Noir! These not so white birds bring in a powerhouse of flavor and have much fattier skin than chicken. Pinot Noir’s deep fruit notes make an excellent complement to the often sweet glazes that accompany these birds. As for lamb it really depends how it’s prepared but you’re safe with a Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Bordeaux Blend. The rich gaminess or the lamb needs a bold wine to bring out all its flavor.

If you’re picking up a bottle to take to a friend’s house remember to shop from the upper shelves in the wine store where the higher quality wines usually reside. Don’t be a cheap guest when you don’t even have to do the dishes after you leave! Also, be sure to make friends with all the new Miamians we picked up during SHMOVID and invite them to share in a little family insanity with you.  Living down here should truly require a passport so make sure you adopt a “foreigner” for the holidays!

While the holiday season is likely going to pass in the blink of an eye I hope you all take a moment to enjoy the blessings you have in your life and reflect upon the health of your liver and its ability to carry through like a decorated soldier! Happy Holidays!

Rosy Rodriguez