Christmas Dinner Wine Pairings

Karen Frazier
Christmas Wine

Christmas dinner provides the perfect opportunity to pair delicious food and wine. While dishes you serve for Christmas dinner may vary, there are classic pairings that work well with traditional Christmas meals.

Appetizers

Whether you are having simple cheese and crackers or a more complicated appetizer such as paté, sparkling wine makes an ideal pairing for your pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres. While French Champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine, you can enjoy many delicious sparkling wines from all around the world.

Sparkling wines work well with appetizers because they are light with toasty and/or fruity flavors that aren't too heavy at the start of a meal. Sparkling wine also works as an aperitif to accompany a pre-dinner course. Off dry to dry white or rosé sparkling wines pair well with many appetizers.

Prosecco

A frizzante (lightly frizzy) Italian prosecco pairs beautifully with many foods, such as antipasto, vegetables and dips, or cheese and crackers. Prosecco is a very affordable sparkling wine - often costing less than $15 per bottle. Some to try include:

Cava

Gran Bach Cava Brut wine
Gran Bach Cava Brut wine

This Spanish sparkling wine comes in white or rosé varieties. It is made using the traditional méthode champenoise used in France to make French Champagne. The result is a warm, biscuity wine with fine bubbles. Cava can be dry, off-dry, or sweet. Dry and off-dry cavas work best with appetizers such as olive tapenade or bruschetta. Try the following cavas:

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Champagne always comes from France, while America makes sparkling wines using the méthode champenoise that are equal in quality to those from France. Champagne and sparkling wines vary from budget-friendly wines for under $20 to splurges costing $200 or more. These wines work well with flavorful appetizers such as sliced sausages or smoked cheeses. They also pair well with seafood appetizers such as crab cakes. Try the following sparkling wines:

Salad/Soup

The salad or soup course works well with white wines that have a tiny bit of sweetness and a nicely balanced acidity. These types of wine can cut through the herbs and spices in soups and salads, as well as complementing creamy dressings or soup bases. Because they are light wines, they also work well with broth-based soups.

Moscato d'Asti

Many people new to wine love this Italian wine from the Piedmont region. The wine has a tiny amount of fizz, along with a light sweetness and a touch of acidity. Flavors in Moscato d'Asti include peaches and almonds with a delicate floral scent on the nose. Some to try include:

Riesling

Some of the best Riesling wines come from Germany, although you can find excellent examples of the varietal from Washington State and California, as well. German Rieslings have well-balanced acidity, spiciness, minerality, and a touch of sweetness. Those from the United States have nice sweetness and acidity as well. These wines pair very well with all kinds of flavors without overpowering them. They enhance spicy flavors very well. Some to try include:

Main Courses

The wines you choose for your main course will vary based on what you are serving. While there are no hard and fast rules with wine and you can make any pairing that appeals to you, some of the following wines pair well with classic Christmas dinner courses.

Bordeaux Varietals

Bordeaux varietals are those made with grapes traditionally found in wines from France's Bordeaux region. While the term Bordeaux is used to describe the grape varietals, these wines come from all around the world, including South America, Australia, France, Italy, and the United States. These full-bodied and tannic reds pair well with red, fatty meats such as prime rib or beef Wellington. The fat in the food softens the tannins of the wine on the palate, creating mellow, round, delicious flavors. Bordeaux-style wines may have a single varietal, or they may be a blend of grapes, which might include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot, among others.

Try the following Bordeaux varietal wines if you are serving a fatty red meat as your main course.

  • Spring Valley Uriah from Washington State's Walla Walla region is a delicious Bordeaux blend with intense flavors of plum and cherries. The wine is made primarily from Merlot, with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec blended. It costs around $50 per bottle.
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Central Coast is an excellent budget selection with well-integrated tannins and aromas of blackberries, vanilla, and spice. It costs between $10 and $15 per bottle.

Pinot Noir

Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir
Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir

The earthy flavors of Pinot Noir pair well with game meats such as duck, goose, venison, and lamb. Pinot noir is an inky-colored, medium-bodied red that can be powerful, fruit-forward, or subtle with great finesse. Pinot Noir is made all around the world, including Oregon, France's Burgundy region, and California. Some to try include:

  • Mouton Noir O.P.P. (Other People's Pinot) from Oregon's Willamette Valley costs around $20 per bottle and has earthy flavors with a hint of cherries and spice.
  • Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir from California's Arroyo Grande Valley is peppery and earthy with flavors of oak, cranberries, and cherries. It costs around $40 per bottle.

Rhone Varietals

These wines are made from grapes traditionally found in France's Rhone region, although they are made around the world. Excellent areas for Rhone varietals include Australia and California. Just a few of the grapes found in Rhone varietals include Grenache, Syrah (or Shiraz), and Mourvédre.

Rhone varietals are spicy and fruity. They pair well with spicy foods with bold flavors such as Beef Burgundy, pepper steak, and tenderloin. They also work well with turkey, goose, and duck. Try the following Rhone varietal wines:

  • Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz from Australia's McLaren Vale is jammy and spicy with flavors of berries. It retails for around $30 per bottle.
  • Mas La Mola Priorat is a Spanish red made from Spain's version of Grenache, Garnacha. The wine is smoky with aromas of black fruit, and it costs around $40 per bottle.
  • Guigal Chateanueuf-du Pape comes from France's Rhone region. It is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvédre and has dark berry flavors. It costs around $50 per bottle.

Chardonnay

Toasty, oaky Chardonnay pairs well with lighter Christmas dinner fare, such as chicken, seafood, and dishes with cream sauces. Many regions make wonderful Chardonnay wines, although the West Coast of the United States is especially well-known for its delicious Chardonnays. Some to try include:

Dessert

Delicious desserts deserve a delicious wine pairing. Classic Christmas favorites are enhanced by delicious wines.

Sauternes and Barsac

These French sweet wines from the Bordeaux region are classic pairings for creamy crème brûlée. The tropical flavors also pair well with other creamy desserts such as ice cream and pudding. Try the following Sauternes or Barsac wines:

Late Harvest Whites

d'Arenburg The Stump Jump Sticky Chardonnay
Stump Jump Chardonnay

Late harvest white wines come from white wine grapes that have been allowed to remain on the vine after traditional harvest so sugars concentrate in the resulting juices. Ice wine is a form of late harvest wine in which the grapes have frozen on the vine, and the sugars are even more concentrated. These lively wines are sweet but acidic, and they pair well with all kinds of fruity and spicy desserts with flavors such as cheesecake, cranberries, oranges, fruits, or mint. Some to try include:

Tawny Port

While true Port wines come from Portugal, many wineries around the world make Port-style wines that have a golden tawny color and rich, caramel flavors. These wines pair well with flavors like chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, and desserts such as sticky toffee pudding and pumpkin pie. Some to try include:

  • Penfold's Club Tawny is an Australian Port-style wine with deep toffee flavors. It costs around $10 per bottle.
  • Dow's 10 Year Old Tawny Port is priced around $35 a bottle. It features a mix of old and young wines with flavors of citrus and vanilla.

Happy Holidays

These are a few of the many wines that will pair beautifully with your Christmas dinner. Your local wine shop owner may also have recommendations to help you enjoy the perfect food and wine pairing this Christmas.

Christmas Dinner Wine Pairings