January comes with mixed messages for wine lovers. 2022 may start with a bubbly bang, a hit of indulgence before fresh routines set in. But by now many of us have reconsidered our goals for the new year. This may be attention to healthy behaviors, mindful drinking, trying new things, learning more about wine, opening unexpected bottles, or whatever feels inspiring right now.
One of our favorite ways to welcome the new year is to cleanse the palate with fresh and lively wine pairings. We're all craving light and bright meals that match wines that have zippy acidity, crunchy fruit, and linear mineral qualities—here are a few of the most appealing food and wine partnerships on our wish list right now.
Citrus Salads + Champagne
A true treat of winter comes wrapped in pith and rind: citrus. From grapefruit to blood oranges, there’s nothing like the burst of aromatics and juice delivered by a wedge of slightly chilled citrus fruit. What a mood booster when popped into a salad with bitter radicchio or peppery arugula then drizzled with homemade vinaigrette. A delight with the elegance and vibrancy of Champagne.
Alternative pairing: Viognier
Cold Seafood or Shellfish + Chablis
Fresh oysters come to mind immediately here, but that’s just for starters. Chilled lobster or crab salads tend to be overlooked this time of year, but they're much more than picnic fare. Cold seafood salads can also include grilled and chilled ingredients such as squid or octopus with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. The purity and minerality of Chablis has long been a staple partner with this category.
Alternative pairing: Vermentino
Goat Cheese + Sauvignon Blanc
Chèvre is welcome in many dishes. From salads to stuffed poultry to snacky spreads, it's one of the most beloved culinary cheeses. Keep a few packages in the fridge to add dimension — there are herbal, dried fruit, and honey versions to spice up a weeknight dish. Sancerre and Crottin de Chavignol, two Loire valley products, are a classic combo, but you can pair up different locales to include whatever you have available.
Alternative pairing: Chenin Blanc
Grain Bowls + Gamay
Farro, quinoa, barley, and the like are hearty grains, perfect for filling up winter hunger. They're satisfying and packed with fiber — a pleasing option all around. A bowl centered on grains is a blessedly versatile dish that can include your favorite dressings, veggies, proteins, greens, beans, or nuts. The sky is the limit! Consider light and bright reds with crunchy fruit notes such as Gamay from Beaujolais or Gamay from California.
Alternative pairing: Portuguese red blends
Bracing Greens + Gruner Veltliner
A salad made with an assortment of super fresh greens can include anything else you like to round it out: peppery herbs, sliced veggies, hard boiled egg, croutons, shaved cheese…you get the drift. Dressing will determine the overall vibe, but our favorite this time of year is vinaigrette made with high quality olive oil. Gruner Veltliner has white peppery, nutty, spicy, acid-rich profile that really pops when paired with something green and crispy.
Alternative pairing: Crisp white blends
Root Veg + Pinot Noir
Roasted root veggies, caramelized to tempting perfecting, are super satisfying and warming. They can be enjoyed as a side dish or incorporated into salads or grain bowls (see above) to add substance. We love the earthy spiciness of Pinot Noir when paired with root veggies because this is one of the most versatile and food-friendly varieties, encouraging the range of whatever flavors you come up with.
Alternative pairing: Chianti Classico
Looking back over this list, there are a plentiful mix and match of options. Gruner with goat cheese sounds delightful, as does Pinot Noir with grains. This a reminder that preconceptions about pairings can be shed with the past year. Cleanse the palate and your pairing creativity by looking for fresh ideas to satisfy your cravings.