Learn how to enhance your holiday meal experience with Cruise Manager Abel’s wine expertise.

Cruise Manager Abel was born and raised in the vibrant city of Madrid in Spain. Once he got his Tourism Management degree, Abel worked as a tour leader and a local guide before joining the AmaWaterways fleet in 2014. He enjoys adventure traveling as much as pairing world gastronomy with unique wines.

What is your favorite wine?

Do I really have to choose only one? The best wine for me, regardless of its price, its origin, or its style, is the wine sipped at a special moment, with the right food pairing… and the perfect company. This said, I have a particular passion for the Syrahs from the Rhône, the dry Spanish Sherries, and the Italian Amarone della Valpolicella.

What is your favorite wine region to sail through?

I can highlight beautiful places in the wine regions along almost every European river we sail. The rolling hills surrounding the town of Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux, the honey-colored stone winemaking villages of Beaujolais on the Saône, the impossibly steep vineyards of the Moselle and the Rhine. But my favorite wine region is definitely the Douro Superior, with its undulating terraced hills forming a myriad of microclimates and conditions for the grapes.

What inspired your interest and education in wine?

This is how I see it: When we open a bottle of wine and pour its content, we are releasing much more than just a delicious drink. In a way, we can smell and taste a bit of the territory where the wine has been made. We can connect with the people who live in the territory and work in those vineyards, their history, their traditions and their culture. I find it fascinating to learn more and more about all the inspiring things that are encapsulated in a simple glass bottle.

Which wine would you pair with traditional holiday dishes such as turkey or ham or perhaps a vegetarian dish such as pasta or tofu?

Turkey meat has a relatively mild flavor. So, it is wiser to choose the wine according to the sauce or the stuffing instead. A Beaujolais Villages or a Garnacha from Aragón will nicely enhance a cranberry or any other redberry sauce. If the turkey recipe is richer in orange or candied fruits, a Brachetto d’Aqui will be a great match.

When it comes to traditional roast ham, the predominant notes are smokey and sweet. A German Riesling or a Moscato can handle that quite well, but so can reds such as a Zweigelt from Austria or even an Italian Sangiovese.

Vegetarian dishes are also available to be enjoyed with fantastic wines, such as Italian Primitivo or Nero d’Avola for tomato-based pasta or Gewürztraminer from Alsace for an Asian-style mildly spicy tofu dish.

What is your favorite bubbly for New Year’s and other holiday toasts?

Nothing beats the subtle tastes and elegance of good Champagne. I would pick a blanc de noirs brut to toast and start the year off right. However, other wines produced under the same traditional method, such as the Crémants from Alsace or the Loire; Spanish Cava; Italian Franciacorta; or even a sparkling wine from England’s Kent County, can also be excellent and more budget-friendly choices.

Which dessert wine pairs best with popular desserts like chocolate or pumpkin pie?

For a dessert rich in dark chocolate, I would go for a Recioto della Valpolicella or a Vintage Port. If it is a white chocolate, a Moscato d’Asti, or even a Pinot Noir can be a surprisingly pleasant match. And if the dessert also has nuts, such as pecan or hazelnuts, a Tawny Port from Portugal would be a perfect choice.

Pumpkin pie, or any other dessert with intense spice aromas, pairs exceptionally well with a noble rot wine, such as a French Sauternes, a Hungarian Tokaji or a German Trockenbeerenauslese from the Moselle.

For more holiday inspiration, explore our online Holiday Recipes. Experience other fantastic wine pairings and more from your expert Wine Host on our Celebration of Wine River Cruises – contact your preferred travel advisor to learn more!

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