By: Todd McDonald

Todd McDonald is national director of fine wines and spirits for PMA Canada, a leading wine and spirits agency. He is also a corporate member of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.

Todd travels the world for PMA Canada in search of excellent wines and spirits and meets with winemakers, winery owners, restaurateurs and chefs who enrich his extensive expertise of wine and food pairings

The holiday season is upon us and our schedules are quickly becoming packed with special holiday gatherings. If you are planning to entertain guests, you may find it difficult to select the proper wines to go along with your meals. Don’t stress over this, wine pairing is not as difficult as you might think!

There are a couple of ways to ensure the perfect pairing between wine and food. One way is to choose wines that show similar flavours that complement each other. For example, you can enhance flavours in dishes with herbal notes (such as ginger, cinnamon and mint) with reds, whites or rosés that have similar notes. This method works quite well when serving savoury dishes.

Another method is pairing food and wine that offer opposite characteristics. For example, a hot, spicy dish can be complemented with a sweeter wine that is served cold. Doing so, intensifies the spiciness of the dish. In addition, the wine will serve as a palate cleanser to keep your taste buds fresh. Every bite will taste like the first.

A key to successful pairings is to serve wine at the recommended temperature. Wines are made to be served at a specific temperature. Sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio need to be served quite cold to enjoy them to their fullest. To reveal the true character and flavours of chardonnay, they should be served cool, but not cold.

A common misstep in serving reds is serving the wines too warm. Most people serve reds  at room temperature (22-22 C). Doing so can rob you of the full fruit, herbs  or chocolate notes that might be hidden in the bottle. To show the full potential of red wine, I like to chill them in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before serving. Bring them down to 15-18 C and red wines will display more character – much brighter fruit and other notes from the various available varietals.

Follow these simple tips and you can be confident your wine pairings are holiday winners. Cheers!

Todd’s picks for the holidays

These wines pair well with a variety of dishes – including Asian cooking. Due to their flavours and unique character, each can also be enjoyed on its own, or as a wine cocktail during your holiday celebrations.

Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec The malbec grape is originally from France, but this Argentinian wine proves why it has become a favourite amongst many red wine drinkers around the world. The Barrel Select Malbec offers rich, full, and ripe dark fruit flavours with hints of spice and sweet tannins, and pairs well with red meats. LCBO#: 400556; $12.95

Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay This chardonnay, when served cool, is very well balanced. Its sweetness and acidity is balanced with fruit and wood. The wood finish is not typical for barrel-aged wines, and  brings out a fuller, richer and longer-lasting flavour. This pairs well with many foods, especially seafood. LCBO#: 358960; $12.95

Nugan Estate Annelise Pinot Grigio Brightened by its tropical flavours, this pinot grigio has refreshing citrus, pear and apple notes and a delightful crisp finish. It is great on its own but is also perfect when matched with spicy seafood or chicken dishes. LCBO#: 483230; $14.95

Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere/ Cabernet Sauvignon Hailing from the largest organic winery in the world, this Chilean wine is a real crowd pleaser. Chile has made carmenere famous again after it was thought the varietal was extinct. Combined with cabernet sauvignon, this wine is vibrant with cherry notes and intense aromas of blackcurrant and strawberries. The carmenere gives spicy black pepper and chocolate tastes, offering a full-body to stand up to any red meat dishes. LCBO#: 434662; $15.95

Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot This red delivers rich berry flavours with soft elegant tannins and a smooth finish. It pairs well with many dishes, including fish and is a safe pick if you are not sure what your guests usually drink. Two Oceans has been in the Canadian market for 25 years and typifies what much of the population looks for in a red wine. LCBO#: 340398; $9.95

These wines are readily available at LCBO stores across Ontario. For additional information or to order online, visit lcbo.com.