Instead of the same old recommendations of what wine to serve with your traditional holiday dinner, let’s have a little fun with Christmas movies and wine! My husband and I have watched the classic holiday films we love this time of year, and we focused on what foods were discussed and shown on screen. Then, we started opening bottles and grabbing food from the pantry. All in the name of research for all of you Texas Wine Lover fans!
My husband’s favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, and he can debate this with anyone who disagrees. Bruce Willis in the Nakatomi Plaza with terrorists during a company holiday party. The only food mentioned in the movie is the Twinkie John McClane finds in a lunchbox and eats while talking to Al, the cop, on the portable radio. While this certainly isn’t your typical holiday food, it is a great snack for a long car drive to see the family. The original Twinkie pairs nicely with Hilmy Cellars 2021 Tejas Blanc. This blend of 85% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne has a crispness to balance the fatty cream center but is still light so as not to weigh down the spongy cake. If you prefer a more traditional holiday meal of turkey and dressing, this wine is a perfect fit.
Next on our list of favorites is Elf, with Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised at the North Pole with Santa’s elves. The silliness of this film is its beauty. Buddy is clear that an elf’s four main food groups are candy, candy cane, candy corn, and syrup. He takes a simple plate of spaghetti with a topping of tomato sauce and covers it with syrup. You may cringe at the idea. But when I make tomato sauce, I balance the acidity of the tomato with honey. Syrup zig-zagged across the top of the dish is just taking this balance to another level. I would pair this with a high-acid wine to balance that extra sweetness. And I’d add a bit of little red pepper flakes to up the complexity. Pair this sweet version of pasta with Noblemen Wine’s 2021 Picpoul Blanc. The acid and bright tropical fruits will balance the sweetness of the syrup and the kick of red pepper. The wine is also ideal with holiday dinner appetizers such as cantaloupe wrapped in Prosciutto or bacon-wrapped jalapeño stuffed with cream cheese. With this crisp, clean white wine, you want food that is the opposite, so add sweetness or fat.
Four Christmases is funny because of its reality – the challenge of spreading our time between all of the family. Kate and Brad plan Christmas in the tropics, but their canceled flight leads to visiting all of their four families in one day. There are only two foods shown in this film, spray cheese on Ritz crackers at Brad’s dad’s house, and at the end of the movie, we see a whole roasted turkey on the dining table with Kate’s family. The cheese and crackers will pair with Wedding Oak Winery’s 2021 Terre Blanc. This white blend of 51% Roussanne/49% Marsanne was aged nine months in neutral oak, so it’s both crisp and full. A nice cheese and charcuterie board as an appetizer will also be a good fit with this wine. Or a surprisingly delicious pairing is a traditional deviled egg with crispy bacon crumbled on top. The roasted turkey shown at the dining table is exactly what I grew up with at our dining table for lunch on Christmas day. It used to be that the large bird was readily available throughout most of America and could easily serve a large family, which is how it became a tradition. I like this wine with just a little fat, so the gravy on your turkey is a nicely balanced pairing.
The Holiday has a fantastic cast that shows the emotions of relationships and the Christmas season. Amanda drinks red wine out of the bottle while shopping for groceries in England. And when she first learns that Graham is a widower with two daughters, they drink hot chocolate, complete with precisely five marshmallows in each mug. But the most memorable food is pasta. Miles suggests to Iris that he make Christmas Fettuccini and open a bottle of bubbles. I’m currently loving an older vintage of Messina Hof Brut. Also, consider a crisp white wine such as Whisper Path Cellar’s newly released 2021 Viognier. The creamy sauce will balance out the wine. Add some leftover turkey to up your pasta game.
No holiday movie binge would be complete without A Christmas Story. Ralphie wishes with all of his heart that Santa will bring him a Red Ryder air rifle. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes are on screen when little brother Randy is encouraged by his mom to eat like a pig. Of course, the most iconic food scene from any holiday movie is the duck served at the Chinese restaurant at the film’s end. Texas Heritage Vineyard 2019 Petite Sirah is bold enough to hold up to gamey meats like duck. I love to roast a duck breast seasoned with herbs de Provence and top it with blackberries and a drizzle of honey which is perfect with this wine.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a favorite from my childhood. Whether you prefer the cartoon or the more modern Jim Cary version, the dish that stands out most is Roast Beast. A simple take on this fictional dish is prime rib. It looks fancy and may be intimidating but is actually simple to prepare. It will pair nicely with a bold red wine such as Wedding Oak Winery 2020 Tannat. As a tannic wine, the fat of the beef balances it out nicely. And the fresh herbs on the meat will bring out some fruit notes that sometimes get lost in a bold wine.
Probably the most often remade holiday movie is A Christmas Carol based on the book by Charles Dickens. I love the version from 1984 with George C. Scott playing Mr. Scrooge. Goose was the traditional meat for Christmas dinner during the 1840s and roasted chestnuts were also deemed a special treat. Try Fall Creek Vineyard’s EX Terra 2017 Syrah from the Salt Lick Vineyard in the Texas Hill Country. The wine is bold but with acidity to create balance. The tannins in the wine will hold up to the slightly oily skin of the roasted goose and can ease right into the desert of Christmas pudding which has a mix of dried fruits and nuts. If you don’t want a whole roast goose, a delicious alternative is goose liver mousse pâté on a crostini or fresh French bread. It is quite decadent and an indulgence I like to add to a nice charcuterie board.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation gives us the age-old problem of creating a perfect holiday for the whole family. And there are so many great food scenes in this film. There’s eggnog in Clark’s memorable scene when he rants and ends with a glug of eggnog and ‘pass the Tylenol.’ There’s the Jell-O mold brought by Aunt Bethany, which just happens to be topped with cat food. And then the Christmas dinner of roast turkey and dressing. The turkey is dry, and Catherine cried over leaving it in the oven too long. The food on the table is similar to my own childhood holiday table – turkey and gravy with dressing and mashed potatoes, a green salad, some crackers and cheese, and the infamous gelatin mold. One fun play on this movie is a lime Jell-O topped with Cheerios to replicate the kitty kibble. Pair this with the Picpoul I mentioned earlier. It is commonly understood that white wines go with white meats, but many of us love a red wine with dinner. Airis’Ele Vineyard 2020 Nichol is a blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, nicely balanced with tannin, fruit, and acid. The herbs in the turkey and dressing play off the dark fruit notes, and if you make dressing with sausage, it’s a particularly perfect pairing. The wine also pairs well with prime rib and ham, so if you have a huge spread with lots of different foods, this wine is a winner.
As a side note, eggnog can be made with wine. Here’s my recipe:
Use a hand mixer to beat four egg whites until stiff and set aside. In a large saucepan, combine one bottle of dry white wine, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup honey. Stir and let warm. Then add 6 cups of whole milk and 1 quart of half and half, stirring continually until heated through. Remove from the burner and fold in the beaten eggs. Pour into mugs and garnish with a little lemon zest, a sprinkle of ground nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick. Merry Christmas!