Have a Vintage Holiday

Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro's Fine Wine & Spirits on seasonal food and wine pairings


Chris Gasbarro owns Gasbarro Liquors. This month we ask him about pairing wine with food for the holidays.

Tell us about Gasbarro's Liquors.
The Gasbarro family came from Italy to Rhode Island before prohibition. Most of us have become involved in the retail wine business. I opened my first store in Seekonk over 30 years ago. Since then I have moved and expanded the Seekonk Route 6 location and opened in Swansea on Route 136 and most recently opened my newest, largest store in North Attleboro across from the Emerald Square Mall.

A lot of people are intimidated by the concept of wine. What is one general rule of thumb when selecting wines?
I believe the intimidation comes from the fear of being "wrong" when choosing a wine. Honestly, there is no need to overthink wine. There is no rule that must be followed. Wine knowledge is not necessary for enjoyment. That being said, there is discovery to be made with regard to personal preference for wine styles. The easiest way to experience many different wines with little or no investment risk is by attending as many tastings as possible – preferably where food is served so that you can appreciate the flavor enhancement that wine lends to various dishes.

What have you found to be some of the most common customer questions regarding wine?
Is the wine sweet or dry? Often the real question is about intensity of fruit and level of tannins. It is always important to try and interpret what the customer is really asking.

Are there any wines that pair well with turkey?
We have a tremendous selection of wines that will be feature priced during the holidays. The 2010 Burgundies are arriving this week and of course the Beaujolais Nouveau comes just before Thanksgiving. There will be Riesling and Pinot Noir specials for turkey and ham dinners.

Does your taste/preference in wine change according to the seasons?
Absolutely. In the warm summer months we prefer cool, refreshing, lighter styled whites, rosés and slightly chilled reds. As we get into fall and winter we enjoy heavier reds and warm, comforting ports and cognac for sipping by the fire.

You’ve traveled to many wineries around the world. Have any stood out?
I must say that Vignamaggio in Greve in Chianti was especially memorable for several reasons. I was there during harvest, which is always a time of expectation and high energy. The wonderful private lunch with a group of friends and a very animated wine maker providing entertainment all at a breathtaking historic estate where legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci first sketched the Mona Lisa will always be a favorite.

What will you be drinking this Thanksgiving?
I always start with a sparkling aperitif – probably a prosecco – and then proceed to some white burgundy – a Chassagne Montrachet preferably – and then I will offer some pinot noir, both Burgundy and domestic. Friends always contribute some favored bottle from their cellars that they are anxious to share.

What will you be eating this Thanksgiving?
My Thanksgiving is a conglomeration of regional dishes prepared by a wonderful group of family I chose. It will range from Italian wedding soup to Southern pecan pie and all that comes in between.

What dessert wine pairs best with pie?
Depends on the pie. However, the pecan pie that is my favorite is just perfect with a nice Vin Santo from Tuscany.

Is there anything else we should know about you or your stores?
Just that we truly enjoy what we do. Serving our customers, especially during the festive holiday months is a real pleasure. Bring us your holiday menu and we will happily offer our suggestions for the perfect wine, craft beer or cocktail.

Chris Gasbarro’s Fine Wine & Spirits, 27 Market Street, Swansea. 508-379-9667