Choosing the Perfect Holiday Wine: A Comprehensive Guide

The holiday season has returned. Many have begun planning meals, gifts, and safely navigating visiting friends and family this year. Aside from making the perfect dishes to don your holiday table, some are still not sure about the wine that should be served with dinner.

Often, the wine chosen at holiday mealtimes is more of a family tradition and isn’t considered alongside the meal. Picking the ideal wine depends on how well you understand the other flavors that go into your holiday dinner.

Pairing with Turkey

Most holiday meals will include protein, dry spices like cinnamon and clove, roasted dishes like stuffing or potatoes, and winter fruits and vegetables. This makes it difficult to choose a wine that will pair well with your meal–there are so many flavors and aromas at work! Below are the best flavors that pair well with turkey:

Zinfandel: Zin has become a Thanksgiving Day staple wine—it’s one of the best wines with turkey. The obvious fruit notes pair with both light and dark meats, as well as an array of sides. It also goes great with the dry spices of the season and tartness of cranberry sauce.

Lambrusco: This slightly sweet wine won’t overpower your turkey and will work with other slightly sweet side dishes. If your family loves yams and other marshmallow-covered casseroles, this wine is a great choice.

Pinot Noir: The subtle flavors of Pinot Noir make a good ‘catch-all’ wine. It pairs well with light flavors but also can complement more complex tastes. Pinot also matches perfectly with many kinds of cheese due to its bright, high acidity.

Chateauneuf du Pape: This unique wine not only pairs with turkey but works wonderfully with roasted vegetables. The generous amount of alcohol in this wine helps it hold its own with stuffing and sides.

Pairing with Beef

If your main dish is beef instead of turkey (say, a delicious holiday brisket) You’ll want more of a full-bodied wine with liberal amounts of tannin. Go for wines with a sharp, mineral flavor to enhance the flavor and texture of the beef. 

Shiraz: A full-bodied, dry wine, Shiraz wines have hints of black pepper, smoke, and cloves. This is a good choice for meals with fattier cuts of meat because of its high acidity and a smooth balance of tannin. 

Bordeaux: Another full-bodied, dry wine that pairs well with beef is Bordeaux. Many varieties have a sharp mineral flavor that tends to enhance the flavor of beef. Bordeaux varieties can vary, so you might want to try out the brand before making the final choice. 

Cabernet Sauvignon: If you’re looking for a wine to pair with richer cuts of meat, you might choose a cabernet sauvignon. The tannins in this wine add pucker-filled notes of oak that match well with seasoned roast beef or prime rib. 

Merlot: another staple holiday wine, merlot carries notes of vanilla, cloves, currants, and black cherries – all great pairs with holiday meals. It’s a good option for wine drinkers that aren’t as partial to the strong tannins of other full-bodied reds. 

A Note About Dessert Wines 

After the meal is cleared, it’s time to break out the desserts. Often, you’ll want to choose a different wine with dessert than the one you serve with dinner. Especially if you have helpings of chocolate desserts or pumpkin pie, steer towards wines with a sweet finish, such as Moscato, Gewurztraminer, or a Port wine.

For more holiday tips and wine pairing options, visit the Infusion Spiral blog page, or follow us on Facebook