Domenico Winery + Osteria

Holiday champagne toast

Your Guide to Holiday Food and Wine Pairings

If there’s one thing for sure: wine is a much-welcomed guest at any holiday dinner. There are so many kinds of wines to pair with the variety of dishes on any holiday table. So, we put together a bulletproof guide to holiday food and wine pairings that any host or guest can rely on, no matter the holiday feast or occasion.

Don’t miss these game-changing holiday food and wine pairings!

Holiday champagne toast

Did someone say bubbles?

One of the best ways to start any celebration is with a toast. Something bubbly puts everyone in a good mood. Of course, you can go the traditional route and opt for champagne (because who doesn’t love champagne?) It not only is a great way to begin a party, but it also pairs wonderfully with all kinds of hors d’oeuvres. That could be baked brie, salmon canapes, or even deviled eggs. As long as you pick a brut, extra brut, or brut nature (dry, extra dry, or the driest!) champagne, you should be as good as gold.

You can also skip the traditional route, and go for another kind of sparkling for your guests. Italian spumante, or sparkling wines, are wonderful. Apart from the usual prosecco, you may really adore Franciacorta, the Italian take on Champagne. There’s also more obscure and fun spumante, from Southern Italy in fact. Historia Antiqua makes a spumante from Aglianico, an ancient grape from the Campania region in Italy. It’s fresh, unique, and definitely a conversation starter for any holiday party.

Keep it relaxed for appetizers

There’s no doubt that you can stick to bubbles for appetizers. But, there’s no harm in moving on to something different. Whether it’s a red or white wine, they both can make an appearance with your plate full of appetizers. It all depends on what you’re serving or eating and, most importantly, what you prefer to drink!

What is a holiday appetizer table without cheese and charcuterie? And, what better pairing for a luscious cheese board than a crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling. Both wines exude floral, citrus qualities that match both hard or soft cheese (baked brie with apricot jam anyone?) These wines could go with even salty snacks, from nuts to olives to even delicious salumi.

Chardonnay is also a solid pick for appetizers. Plus, a more rounder-bodied Chardonnay is something you can easily continue drinking through your main course (we will get to why shortly!)

For red wine lovers, Pinot Noir or Gamay are great for appetizer time. These wines usually are lighter-bodied and taste fantastic with a slight chill. Their cherry and earthy flavors really pair well with all kinds of bites, from stuffed mushrooms to bacon-wrapped scallops. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule that you can’t drink red wine with fish.

pouring red wine at a holiday dinner

Pairing wines with holiday meats

Beef

Roasts, steaks, you name it – beef finds its way onto holiday tables. It also may be one of the easiest holiday food and wine pairings, as we all know that rich beef dishes love a big and bold red wine. So, we’re here to lay out all your options.

For a roast, Cabernet Sauvignon, from California, is a reliable pick. You can also go more international, with a full-bodied Malbec from Argentina or even a Rioja Reserva from Spain. These wines all have enough body, tannin, and spice to make a perfect roast taste even more divine.

Perhaps you’re having a steak dinner for the holidays. For fattier cuts, like ribeyes or N.Y. strips, pick a Syrah or Zinfandel (as well as any of the wine listed above for roasts.) Looking for something extra special? Try a good vintage of Amarone della Valpolicella, a bold, velvety Northern Italian wine that enriches the flavors of a juicy, perfectly seasoned steak. 2006, 2008, and 2012 are amazing Amarone vintages.

Leaner cuts, like sirloin, taste great with a medium-bodied red, like Sangiovese. An elegant Chianti Classico, right from the heartland of Sangiovese in Tuscany, is always a crowd-pleaser.

Turkey

The famous bird of the holidays deserves the right wine to pair with it. What is fabulous about turkey is that it is a win-win for all wine lovers. Turkey can be paired with red, white, AND sparkling wines!

Remember how we said it’s always time for champagne? Yes, turkey time does mean champagne time. Champagne’s acidity, along with toasty, nutty flavors go superbly with a herb-centric turkey. You can also try rosé champagne, which offers a little more body and cranberry flavors. And, we all know turkey pairs oh so well with cranberry.

For white wines, high acid and round-bodied white wines are fantastic with turkey, especially when it’s covered in gravy. Chardonnay’s bright acidity, minerality, and butteriness found in both old world and new world varieties of the wine compliment turkey with ease. A dry riesling is also a reliable pick. It boasts a stone fruit and oftentimes herbal character, that highlights the flavors of a festive turkey cooked in all. the herbs.

As for red wine lovers, put aside the big and bold reds. Turkey calls for more mild and soft red wines, like Pinot Noir and Gamay. These two wines are lighter-bodied but have the acid structure and red fruit flavors that are complement turkey marvelously.

What kind of Pinot Noir or Gamay, you ask? A smooth red burgundy (which is always 100% Pinot Noir) is a snazzy pick. You can also find refreshing Pinot Nero from Alto Adige, in Italy. As for Gamay, Beaujolais is a good way to go. Just make sure it is not Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a whole other version of Beaujolais.

roasted holiday pork

Pork

Pork loin, porchetta, and other pork dishes are becoming more popular on holiday tables. Like turkey, pork is a very versatile white meat. It can be paired with white or red wines, making pork a more incentivizing main course for a holiday feast.

Like a steak, pairing wine with pork comes down to the cut. If you’re serving a leaner cut of pork, such as pork tenderloin, then it is best to go for white wine. Light or medium-bodied wines like Sauvignon Blanc or a Soave Classico (a refreshing Northern Italian white wine) cater to lean pork dishes, with their citrus-driven personalities. You can even go for a bright, high acid chardonnay too, like Chablis.

On the other hand, fattier cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, belly, or butt, need a wine with more acid and structure. Look for a medium-bodied red wine with great acidity to balance out all the pork fat. Sangiovese, Barbera, or even a Grenache can show richer pork dishes some love.

Duck

Let’s keep this one simple: duck loves Pinot Noir. They’re best friends, really.

Duck has more fat than most other poultry, meaning it needs a high acid wine to complement it. Pinot’s acid, along with earthiness and red fruit, makes it a natural wine pairing for this bird. It is one wine that can surely balance out the duck’s bold flavor.

Holiday wine pairings for side dishes

Who can forget sides? From mashed potatoes to sweet potatoes to even green things, the holiday table is famous for its side dishes.

Of course, you wouldn’t sip wine with only your side dishes. Well, you can if you want (the holidays are about abundance, right?) But, still, it is important to know what will make your favorite sides sparkle.

Mashed potatoes? Or anything creamy delicious? Easy. A round, acid-driven white wine like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, or Petit Manseng will do just the trick. You can also opt for a Pinot Noir or Gamay-based red, as they have those red fruit flavors that creamy side dishes love.

As for the yams, you can keep your glass full of Pinot or Gamay once more. These two wines are excellent with sweet potatoes. You can also get a little bolder with a Gewurztraminer. The sweet-spice nature of this wine makes it an awesome pair with sweet potatoes seasoned with holiday spices.

And, for all things green, you ask? Sparklings or crisp unoaked white wines will do just the trick. Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are two fine examples of wines that love fresh greens. These have enough acidity to keep up with any zesty dressings.

Don’t forget wine for dessert!

Dessert wines exist for a reason. There are tons of options when it comes to dessert wines, meaning you can have a little fun.

For the seasonal desserts, like a perfect pumpkin pie, a late harvest riesling or sherry enhances all the holiday spices. As for chocolate lovers, there’s nothing like a ruby port to pair with anything rich and chocolate. Port has those deep berry flavors that compliment chocolate just perfectly.

Looking to pair something with your fruity desserts? Whether its a trifle or tart, a Sauternes and its irresistible honey flavors are a reliable way to go.

If you’re curious to learn more about wine and pie pairings? We have all you need to know if our ‘Wine and Pie Pairings that Will Change Your Life.’

It is quite surprising how much wine there is to drink in this world. Why not experiment during the holidays? We truly hope that this holiday food and wine pairings guide inspires you to enhance your holiday meal and makes your celebration a little more merry and bright!

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