Holiday Wine Guide

White wine glasses on table with bright ornaments and a Christmas tree in the background.

It’s holiday time again! And this year is going to be a tight one. It’s the shortest time span between Thanksgiving and Christmas in years. So, let’s get to this Holiday Wine Guide. It’s full of helpful tips for fabulous wine pairings with appetizers, dinner, and dessert.

And if you’re one of the lucky ones who isn’t hosting a houseful of people, take a look at our suggestions for host/hostess wine gifts.

Appetizers and Wine Pairings

As you prepare your appetizer line up, consider starting with a light white or light red wine and then move to a heavier wine for the main meal. This naturally prepares your palate for the next course.

Below are appetizer suggestions that pair with Sauvignon Blanc, Oaked Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir.

Line up 1: Sauvignon Blanc and appetizer pairings

(Also, look for Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from France. Both are made with the Sauvignon Blanc grape.)

This wine works well with seafood, green vegetables, and light-colored cheeses because it is a light wine with a high level of acidity. Just make sure to stay away from creamy sauces, which pairs better with an oaked Chardonnay because it is a buttery, fuller wine.

  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Oysters
  • Ceviche: FoodandWine.com (lots of festive red and green in this recipe)
  • Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto: JoyfulHealthyEats.com
  • Goat cheese stuffed mushrooms: GirlGoneGourmet.com (Goat cheese is the key with this pairing.)
  • Cashews and pistachios
  • Cheese tray with light-colored cheeses:
                Goat cheese
                Gouda
                Sharp Cheddar

Line up 2: Oaked Chardonnay and appetizer pairings

An oaked Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine with toasty flavors that pairs well with creamy sauces and earthy, smokey flavors. Consider smoked seafood, light-colored smoked cheeses, and creamy dips.

Line up 3: Pinot Noir and appetizer pairings

Pinot Noir is a light red and actually pairs nicely with the oaked Chardonnay line up. However, I’ve brought in some red meat options to this grouping of appetizers, because it will pair well with the red Pinot Noir.

Holiday Dinner and Wine Pairings

For the main course, I’ve listed a few stars of the show along with wine pairing suggestions.

Glazed Ham:  Dry Riesling (look for Trocken on the label), Pinot Noir, Syrah

Pork Roast:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 

Beef Roast, Steak, Prime Rib:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah,  Bordeaux (French blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), Super Tuscan (Italian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese)

Lamb, Wild Boar, Venison:  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Super Tuscan

Turkey: Dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah

Goose, Duck:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux

Salmon:  Pinot Noir

Holiday Desserts

Dessert time! Bring out those holiday treats and cookies which will pair up nicely with a few selections below. Remember the key is to make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert or else the wine will taste bitter.

Dark Chocolate based desserts pair well with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir. 

Holiday sugar cookies and spritz cookies pair well with Sweet Riesling.

Buttery shortbread cookies pair well with Chardonnay.

Host/Hostess Wine Gifts

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or Russian River Valley, California. A French Red Burgundy (aka Pinot Noir) would also be a winning selection. This wine is extremely versatile because it’s easy to drink by itself and pairs with a wide variety of food.

White wine can be a bit divisive with ‘only Sauvignon Blanc drinkers’ or ‘only Chardonnay drinkers.’ Instead, consider a Riesling. Even though it’s often thought of as a sweet, entry-level wine, a nice Dry Riesling (look for Trocken on the label) is very sophisticated. It’s a versatile wine that is easy drinking on its own and pairs with a variety of food including the spicy variety. 



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