An overhead view of a table of food, with arms cheersing glasses of wine

Wine Traveler - December 2017

Holiday Food and Wine Pairing Guide

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, that means indulging in our favorite foods and drinks. November and December call to mind wintry landscapes, ugly sweaters, large turkey dinners and fun with friends and family. But what wines pair best with all of this excitement?

We went out and spoke with a number of certified sommeliers to get their opinions on the best holiday food and wine pairings. Throughout this guide, we’ll look at various styles of food, styles of wine (varietals and blends) as well as brand-specific recommendations you may be able to find at your local liquor or grocery store. Feel free to ask us in the comments if you have any specific questions about pairings or where to find some of these wines.

Turkey is one of the most popular main course dishes served in the United States around the holidays. Given the assortment of spices, marinades and side dishes that can go along with it, you’ll have several great wine pairing options to consider. Founder at The Wine Militia and Advanced Certified Sommelier Lamar Engel gave us his thoughts:

“When speaking of Turkey I instantaneously think of Zinfandel from Dry Creek in Sonoma. More known for its complimenting flavors of cranberry and sweet pipe tobacco smoke, this duet is timeless.”

For a little different and more Old World take on a Turkey pairing alongside a stuffing dish, Bret Heiar — Wine Director of Nico Osteria and Publican Anker in Chicago — recommends Cabernet Franc by Bernard Baudry from Chinon, France.

“It has grit and character and a touch of funk, like Bootsy Collins riding on Merle Haggard’s Saddle. The tannins, however, are suave and elegant and do not overpower most holiday dishes. Soulful but effortless, wine nerds and Aunt Kathy will both be happy.”

Not a fan of red wine but still want something nice to drink alongside turkey? We’ve got you covered. Head Sommelier Adam Sweders of DineAmic Group recommends a California Chardonnay (typically oaked), such as “Unity” from Fisher Vineyards.

Further still, Sparkling Wine can work with turkey as well! Sommelier ColyDen Haan — one of Los Angeles’ first female sommeliers and co-owner of Silver Lake’s new female-driven wine shop, Vinovore — notes that Bubbly is great with a turkey dinner with all kinds of spices and side dishes.  

“I love a great real Champagne such as Gremillet Selection Brut from Anne Gremillet. If you’re looking for something more affordable, another Dry Sparkling Wine like Cava or Prosecco would be fantastic as well.”

Coly Den Haan notes that sweet food needs sweet wine but the trick is balance. Dessert wines need to have a tremendous amount of acidity to keep it from being cloying.

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