Best Wines to Pair with Holiday Dinners
The holiday season means cheerful music, pretty decorations, fun presents and lots of traditional food we eat this time of year. Every family has their own holiday meal traditions, and, of course, the actual meal consumed varies in different parts of the world according to regional cuisines and local traditions.
One of the most fun parts of the feast can be food and wine pairing. Using a classic American holiday menu of appetizers, turkey, dessert and a cheese board as starting point, your celebrations can soar with these tips for our recommendations of the best holiday wines to pair with food.
How to pick the right holiday wines for dinnerUnless your holiday meal is just a festive backdrop for a gathering of wine enthusiasts, there really is no best single wine per se. If your family and friends find their way to your table every year because your cooking is the main attraction, let the wine share the same purpose and status as a good side dish. When you sit down at the Christmas table, the first duty of the wine is not actually to go with the food but to go with your mood: it must be festive and celebratory. The best advice is therefore to drink the wine you already love. The good news about holidays is there’s a lot of food to choose from, which means as long as you have two or three different wines to work with, you’ll have the perfect wine for your holiday party.
How much wine to buy
So how much of each wines to buy? As a rule of thumb, keep in mind you get about five 5-ounce servings per bottle. If you think that everyone will have two glasses, you can do the math to determine how many bottles you need.
Which wines to buy
Most people have preferences when it comes to red or white wines, but it’s nice to have a mix on hand to pair with the foods you’re serving. You’ll also want to consider having some sparkling wines or champagne on hand, and even a dessert wine or two on hand.
It’s best to begin your meal with lighter holiday wines — starting with bubbles — and slowly bringing out the big hitters as you move through the meal.
Wine for Starters and Dinner
White Wines: White wines are usually a good starting point with holiday dinners. They are light and pair well with many flavors of a holiday menu. Sparkling wines or Champagne are especially a good place to start.
Red Wines for a Turkey Dinner
Pinot Noir: This is a traditional favorite holiday wine. It has subtle earthy undertones to surround the fruit features and pairs well with turkey and stuffing.
Zinfandel: This is a fuller bodied red wine that ups the intensity while maintaining a balancing effect on side dishes. This is a classic turkey pairing because of its raspberry and tobacco flavors, making it an ideal match for darker meat.
Wine that goes from appetizers to dessert
If you are looking for wine to carry you from appetizer to dessert, sparkling wine is a great option. Sparkling wines bring elegant food-pairings to almost any meal making them perfect for your holiday menu.
Most sparkling wines carry a decent dose of acidity. They can handle many appetizers, particularly fried or salty fare, and make a delicious match for turkey and dressing.
The crisp bubbles also cut seamlessly through the rich layers found in many decadent desserts.
This sparkling wine features complex flavors of apple tart, grapefruit, peach, candied ginger, and roasted almond that are supported with a vibrant acidity leading to a fresh and textured finish.
Dessert Wines for Your Feast
The rule of thumb with dessert wines is that the wine should be sweeter than the “pudding” (or dessert). Here are 10 easy dessert recipes for Christmas day dinner you will love making this year.
Port Wines: Wines commonly paired with pies are fortified wines. Pairing port with pies is a popular choice because it brings a rich and concentrated flavor of honey to a variety of desserts. This type of wine offers the sweetness to support the rich flavors and robust spice of the pumpkin pie and caramelized pecan pie.
Wine to Serve with a Cheeseboard
Port Wines: It’s not just for reasons of tradition that people drink port with stilton cheese. They really are the perfect match: the sweetness of the port complements the saltiness of the cheese. Port is also magnificent with hard cheeses.
Chardonnay: If you are serving a soft goat’s cheese or brie, make sure you have some chardonnay.
Cheese Board Must-Haves
Party after party. Everyone is in the mood for gatherings and spending a great time with loved ones. One of my go-to appetizers is always a good party size cheese platter filled with all of our favorite items.
- Good quality cheese
- Gourmet Crackers
- Gourmet Nuts and Snacks
- Spreads and Jams
Learn how to build your own charcuterie board and make it your own.
Wines for cooking
Wine writers will tell you that you should never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink, but at the same time, you don’t need to use your best wines. And don’t worry if it’s been sitting around for a few days.
For making gravy, I much prefer white wine to red. It acts like a squeeze of lemon, lifting all those dark roasty flavors. A splash is also nice on the vegetables.
It’s also good to keep some fortified wine around; a tablespoon of port, sherry, or madeira at the last minute does wonders for gravy. Same goes for stews, soups, chili, and sauces.
Part of the beauty of wine is that there are so many growers and brands out there making all of the major types of wine in different ways. No matter what the meal, the occasion, or your personal taste, there is sure to be a type and brand of wine that will be perfect.
When it comes to holiday dinners and drinks of choice the most important factor is the people you are enjoying it with, and the memories made with them. Pop up a bottle of wine and let the holiday celebration begin. Cheers to a happy and joyful holiday season!