Surprising Seasonals: Outside-The- (Giftwrapped)-Box Holiday Pairings
Autumn is here, that quixotic season filled with both new possibilities (think freshly-sharpened No. 2 pencils!) and rigidly-scheduled holiday obligations from Labor Day to the New Year. Traditional celebratory beverage pairings, while enjoyable, have become to seem a little ho-hum: Thanksgiving’s twin pillars of merlot and chardonnay; Christmas’s eggnog; New Year’s Eve’s champagne. Sure, your wine palate may be forced off-duty around this time of year, but these expected holiday offerings have lasted through the ages, so why fight tradition?

There’s no need to fight, just an opportunity to expand: here are three unexpected holiday wine pairings, all steeped in tradition.

Turkey Day with St. Laurent & Ziegelt
Depose merlot as the reigning Thanksgiving table crowdpleaser by instead choosing a brand new red with strong cranberry notes to complement the traditional turkey meal. Pinot noirs from cooler climates (like Oregon, New Zealand, and Burgundy) will feature a cranberry flavor profile, but the Czech Republic’s St. Laurent (in the pinot family) and Austria’s Ziegelt (a cross between St. Laurent and Gamay) offer a guaranteed tart, cranberry punch, plus the fun of watching relatives try to pronounce their names.

Amped-Up Christmas Gluhwein
Feuerzangenbowle (or Fire-Tongs Punch) is just your basic winter recipe for spiced, mulled wine—gone nuclear, that is. A bottle of dry red (like merlot) is simmered with clove-studded slices of orange and lemon, a few cinammon sticks, and a splash of fresh orange juice. After transfer to a fire-proof punch bowl (very important, class; now is a good time to use those No. 2 pencils!), place a cone of sugar (or zuckerhut) on a slotted metal holder over the bowl, soak the cone in 151-proof rum, and set afire. It will take about twenty, cozily romantic minutes of firelight for the cone to melt completely and drip into the punch. Stir and ladle into mugs for intense Christmas enjoyment, but beware: the sweetness and warmth of this drink belies its high alcohol content, so keep track of your sips.

Have A Verde Happy New Year
The Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve (one for each stroke of midnight) holds both superstition and danger: skip the grapes—risk a year of bad luck; gobble the grapes—risk receiving the New Year’s first Heimlich manuever.

Want to try welcoming the New Year with competitive timed fruit consumption, but fear you’ll regret missing your usual sip of champagne? There is a way to combine the two: vinho verde, the often fizzy Portuguese white wine that tastes just like biting into a firm, chilled green grape.

Low in both alcohol and price, vinho verde is made with a blend of uncommon grapes like azal, loureiro and treixadura. Often viewed as a summer wine, vinho verde’s crisp flavor profile nevertheless makes it the perfect substitute for both a good luck cup of grapes and a flute of bubbly this year. Feliz Año Nuevo!