Picking the right wine for your holiday dinner

From our Sommelier, Ken Schroeder

Successful wine selections for holiday meals are strongly influenced by what’s being served, how it’s prepared and your palate. There is no one classic meal served for the holiday feast but here are some common pairings. They range from celebratory sparklers and aromatic whites to powerful reds.

Read more to learn what we recommend with poultry, ham and beef meals.

Poultry-based meals

Classic wine pairings include Sparklers, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For sparklers, consider French Champagnes, CA Sparklers (creamy tasting) or less expensive but great tasting Spanish Cavas (dense lemony flavor). For Chardonnay-based wine try either a partially oaked or an un-oaked release, which will expose more of the food flavors. For top-flight Pinot Noirs try a Sonoma Coast, Carneros (Napa) or Willamette Valley (Oregon) selection. In order, they range from usually lighter more strawberry fruit flavored and “ethereal” textured to bolder, earthier ones with tones of mushroom, figs and darker shades of red cherry flavor. All offer enticing hints of spice and smoke.

Baked Ham Meals

Classic pairings for ham-based meals include lighter Pinot Noir (red) to Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viognier. These last three wines are aromatic whites which add complex floral or spiced perfume aromas to the meal. Gewürz is the spiciest of them (think perfume not heat) and Viognier is the most floral (white flowers). Many wine geeks profess Riesling with its apricot and pronounced minerality to be the most elegant and refined of all white varietals. Last but not least Gamay wines (a light body red) from Beaujolais (France) are a great pairing too, especially the “Cru” designated ones which taste very Burgandy Pinot-like but at a lower price.

Beef Meals

Classic pairings with beef dishes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. These are bolder wines which pair well with full body foods. The first two have serious tannic structure that counter balances the fat and protein in meat and cheese. They pair well with grilled or charred red meat. California Cabs and Syrahs are first-rate, but try others from Chile and Australia. These Cabs have fruit aromas of blackberry, black currant and eucalyptus. Syrah offers stronger fruity aromas of wild blackberry and adds smoky and peppery overtones. Zin is the all-American grape which offers flavors of jammy black raspberry, boysenberry and plumy fruit accented by a bit of black pepper and spice along with less tannins.