Top Wine Pairings for Your Holiday Dinner – No Matter What You Celebrate

holiday dinner and wine pairings

Holiday Dinner and Wine Pairings

It’s the holiday season, and if there’s one thing we’re all looking forward to, it’s the food. So, indulge in these holiday dinner and wine pairings – no matter what you celebrate!

This time of year, we come together and we feast. And this year in particular, as we reflect and give thanks for making it through 2020, we deserve to treat ourselves to a special holiday meal with the perfectly paired wine. 

Our philosophy is to keep things simple whenever possible. You don’t need a new bottle of wine with each course. If you ask us, that just sounds like a lot of extra dishes to wash. 

Thankfully, the right wine pairing can satisfy the star protein and most of the (probably excessive) side dishes on the table.

No matter what you celebrate, or how you celebrate, this guide to holiday dinner and wine pairings is here to help you find the right wine.

Wine for Christmas 

Every family is different, and depending on where you live and your family’s traditions, your Christmas table might look a little different. Check out these wine pairings for any kind of Christmas celebration.

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Turkey

If Christmas is basically a second Thanksgiving in your house, you can think about wine pairings in much the same way.

Roast turkey pairs best with a white wine or light-bodied red wine that won’t overwhelm this delicate protein. Of course, you also want to consider the sides, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, as those are usually the elements that bring the flavor to the party.

Pair turkey and savory sides – like brussel sprouts and herbed stuffing – with Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine to bring out the herbaceous flavors in these dishes. 

If you have sweet sides on the table, like cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie, go with a slightly sweet wine like fizzy Lambrusco or an off-dry Riesling

Roast turkey also pairs well with dry reds like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, or medium-bodied white wines like Viognier

holiday dinner and wine pairings
Bright Cellars’ Watchkeeper Sauvignon Blanc

For this holiday dinner we like to go with a glass of Watchkeeper Sauvignon Blanc. This fresh and fruity white wine features flavor notes of citrus, green pear, and a hint of characteristic fresh herbs.

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prime rib - holiday dinner and wine pairings

Prime Rib

For some, Christmas is the time to celebrate your inner carnivore. Whether you’re making prime rib or roast beef, you’ll want a bold, rich red wine that can stand up to this substantive meat.

Go with a full-bodied red with structured tannins like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, or a Bordeaux blend.

Ham

A Christmas ham can be a real treat this time of year. Bear in mind that a spiral ham can run the risk of being a little too sweet for a dry red wine. Your best bet is a slightly sweet red wine like Lambrusco or a medium-bodied Zinfandel

White wine lovers can enjoy an off-dry German Riesling alongside a honey glazed ham.

Cabin 5 Zinfandel
Bright Cellars’ Cabin 5 Zinfandel

The Cabin 5 Zinfandel is the perfect pairing with your ham! You’ll taste notes of freshly cracked black pepper and contrasting ripe fruit notes.

holiday dinner and wine pairings

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

Italian-Americans traditionally celebrate Christmas Eve with fish, because in the Catholic tradition, eating fish is basically considered fasting.

Usually when you pair wine with fish, you want to think about the type of fish, but clearly, that can get a bit out of hand during this feast. So, here’s what we recommend:

If your antipasto includes fried calamari or crispy baked clams, start with a sparkling wine like Cava or a very light white wine like Chablis or Grüner Veltliner.

Then, consider the type of sauce you’re eating at dinner.

  • Red sauce or zuppa di pesce pairs well with an Italian red wine like Chianti. If you’re having Fra Diavolo or a spicy red sauce, look for a low-ABV red wine like Dolecetto or Barbera.
  • White sauce – like garlicky shrimp scampi, for instance – pairs well with an Italian white wine like Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio.

Goose & Duck

If you celebrate Christmas with a traditional British dinner of roast goose or duck, then you know that these dishes generally have a pretty high fat content. So, you’re going to want a wine with enough acidity to balance out the fat.

For a red wine, go with a Tempranillo or Red Burgundy – which is made with Pinot Noir grapes. 

White wine fans can enjoy a medium-bodied wine like Gewürztraminer alongside a Christmas goose.

grasp and grabble temp
Bright Cellars Grasp + Grabble Tempranillo

The bold and jammy Grasp + Grabble Tempranillo was aged for 20 months in French oak, giving it a slight taste of vanilla and coffee. You’ll also taste notes of juicy plum and black cherry on the palete.

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A Note for Vegetarians

We haven’t forgotten about you! If you’re making a meatless version of a traditional Christmas roast – like a tofurkey – you can typically choose the same wine as you would for the carnivorous version. 

However, you may find that there are different textures and flavors at play when vegetarian options are made with root veggies. If your vegetarian dish is slightly sweeter – from ingredients like carrots – go with a medium-bodied red wine like Grenache, Merlot, or Sangiovese

If you’re sticking with vegetable dishes, like a spinach and cheese souffle, try an herbaceous white wine like Sauvignon Blanc to bring out the savory flavors in the dish.

Wine for Hanukkah

For many, Manischewitz is the go-to wine for Hanukkah celebrations. Whether or not you keep kosher during the holidays, you have more options than you may think. 

holiday dinner and wine pairings - Latkes

Latkes

Who isn’t looking forward to a hot, crispy latke (or three)? Pairing wine with latkes really depends on the toppings you prefer – much like with pierogies

If you like applesauce and sour cream, go with an off-dry Riesling. Notes of green apple and lemon pair nicely with applesauce, while the acidity cuts through the creaminess of the sour cream. You could also go with Chardonnay.

If you enjoy latkes and lox, go with a very dry sparkling wine to balance the oiliness of the salmon.

If you prefer sweet potato latkes, dry Riesling makes a great pairing.

Bright Cellars Aromica Sparkling Wine
Bright Cellars’ Aromica Sparkling Wine

For Latkes go with a glass of Aromica Sparkling Wine! Made using the Traditional Method you’ll taste notes of green apple and citrus with toasted almond and brioche aromas.

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Brisket

Since beef brisket tends to be a fatty cut of meat, you’ll want a red wine with a decent amount of acidity. Syrah – a full-bodied wine with dark fruit notes – is an excellent pairing for brisket. Horseradish fans may want to go with an Argentinian Malbec.

If you prefer brisket in a tomato-based sauce, go with an Italian red wine like Sangiovese

Kugel

Kugel

Pair sweet noodle kugel with a slightly sweet white wine like a white Rhone blend or off-dry Riesling. 

Savory potato kugel pairs well with a dry red wine like Pinot Noir or Zinfandel

Wine for Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa gets its name from a Swahili phrase, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” During the holiday, many families eat soul food or African dishes. In general, soul food pairs well with a slightly sweet, brightly acidic wine like sparkling rosé, Gewürztraminer, or Nebbiolo.

Collard Greens - holiday dinner and wine pairings

Collard Greens

When it comes to collard greens, the key is to avoid an overly tannic wine, or the whole thing can end up tasting bitter. Go with a Moscato or off-dry Riesling.

Sweet Potato Pie

Similarly, a sweet dish like sweet potato pie pairs well with a slightly sweet wine like Riesling or Chardonnay.

humdrum chardonnay
Bright Cellars’ Humdrum Chardonnay

The Humdrum Chardonnay is a classic California Chard. The flavor notes of yellow apple, lemon, mango, and coconut all come together on the palate with a rich and opulent texture.

Jerk Chicken

Spicy, flavorful jerk chicken pairs well with a light, crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a light-bodied low-tannin red wine like Pinot Noir.

In Vino Finito

What are your favorites when it comes to holiday dinner and wine pairings? We wish you a happy holiday season! Remember to sip in moderation so you can drink to your health.

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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