The toasts of the Christmas holidays are the most anticipated of the year, and usually the ones on which the most is aimed to drink well: to celebrate the stroke of midnight that marks the “miraculous birth” or the passage between one year and another are a must the bubbles – whether they are Italian, French or otherwise it does not matter. To accompany instead the moment of the dessert that marks the (momentary, in the case of New Year’s Eve if you plan to bring to the table also cotechino and lentils) end of the Eve dinner or festive lunch, instead, it will be better to focus on something more suitable exploring among the many possible nuances of “sweet” or dessert wines.
We therefore see some combinations of sure success – but not necessarily for granted, indeed – with the sweets of the most loved festivals or typical of some Italian regional traditions, between marriages between regional excellences, unpublished north-south meetings and some gambit across the border.
Let’s start from a rather tried and tested and decidedly territorial combination: the panforte, traditional Sienese dessert with a spicy character based on dried and candied fruit, honey and spices – also recognized by the PGI Panforte di Siena, in the white version (with icing sugar) or black, covered with other spices – goes perfectly with the Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice di Avignonesi, the result of a yeast handed down for generations and a very long aging that give it notes of dates and figs dried fruits, candied citrus fruits, honey and peppery notes and sweet spices, while maintaining a beautiful freshness.
Going down to the South, we find the rich repertoire of Neapolitan Christmas sweets that combine almonds, spices and sometimes chocolate, from delicious roccocò to munching putting a strain on the mandibles (they are called “splits” for their extreme crunchiness) to mostaccioli, spicy biscuits in the shape of a turbot covered with dark chocolate. What to drink next door? Our proposal is to aim straight north, choosing a “cross-regional” combination with a late harvest gewurztraminer such as the Joseph Hofstatter Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten: sweet wine with a marked freshness, thanks to the acidity of the grapes and the thermal excursions, which combines notes of citrus and flowers with mentholated and mountain herbs, for an overall result of great elegance and not at all cloying.
Certainly on the tables of the holidays can not miss the king of Christmas: the panettone. Since, at least ten years ago, it has become the new frontier of artisan pastry, conquering the South – both in consumption and production – there are now infinite variations, with local or exotic ingredients. We remain for the moment on the classic, that of the Milanese tradition with raisins and candied and without almond icing but fragrant as much as we should: in this case, it tickles us a lot the idea of going beyond the obvious and combining it with a great sweet wine out of the box. Let’s talk about Josko Gravner’s 8’9’10: obtained from botritized ribolla grapes of three different – and very large – harvests, it has an amber color, hints of dehydrated fruit, saffron and resin and an enveloping taste, with a sweetness balanced by savory notes, which goes perfectly with the opulence without ostentation of a panettone made according to tradition. If instead you prefer to “exaggerate” by choosing a stuffed panettone, perhaps chocolate – with the cream inside further confirmed by the external glaze – then there will be a need for something more decisive even in the glass, such as the Recioto della Valpolicella Classico A Roberto di Quintarelli, from Corvina and Corvinone grapes, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Croatina and Sangiovese, withered after the harvest for 120 days. Matured for a few years in small oak barrels of Slavonia, it is a warm and velvety wine, with an intense garnet color, with memories of marasca, cherry and jam.
However, we do not neglect “the other” great protagonist of Christmas, the pandoro: for many years overshadowed by panettone – also because making it handcrafted is much more complex than panettone, but they find themselves of amazing – has a profile only apparently less rich than the leavened “cousin”. A real explosion of aromas of sugar, butter and vanilla that can find an ideal accompaniment in a bottle that approaches the myth: the Chateau d’Yquem, the prince of sweet wines – and the only white to be recognized Premier Cru Supérieur – produced in Sauternes, with a sweetness perfectly balanced by acidity and texture, able to cross the passing of the decades without the charm being scratched. For a toast you will remember over the years.
– Luciana Squadrilli 09.12.2020
Luciana Squadrilli is a professional journalist specialized in food and wine, she collaborates with Italian and foreign guides and newspapers telling the best side of Italy (and not only). Editor of Food&Wine Italia and food editor of Lonely Planet Magazine Italia, she deals with pizza and oil with particular attention, loves Champagne and is the author of several titles including La Buona Pizza (Giunti) and Pizza and Bolle (Edizioni Estemporanee).