Holiday Wine Guide

Wine bottle on it's side surrounded by festive holiday decorations.
Photo by: Graphixchon

It’s holiday time again! This one is going to be very different for many of us with fewer gathered around the table. Even so, we can still put together a festive celebration. Here is your Holiday Wine Guide full of helpful tips for fabulous wine pairings with appetizers, dinner, and dessert.


Appetizers and Wine Pairings


As you prepare your appetizer line up, consider starting with a light white or light red wine, and then move to a heavier wine for the main meal. This naturally prepares your palate for the next course.


Below you'll find appetizer pairings based on the wine you plan to serve. If you plan to start out with Sauvignon Blanc, then check out the appetizers in Line Up 1. For Oaked Chardonnay, check out Line Up 2. For Pinot Noir, see the appetizers in Line Up 3.

Line Up 1: Sauvignon Blanc and Appetizer Pairings

(Also, look for Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from France. Both are made with the Sauvignon Blanc grape.)


This wine works well with seafood, green vegetables, and light-colored cheeses because it is a light wine with a high level of acidity. Just make sure to stay away from creamy sauces, which pairs better with an oaked Chardonnay because it's a rich, buttery wine.


  • Shrimp cocktail

  • Oysters

  • Ceviche: FoodandWine.com (festive red and green in this recipe)

  • Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto: JoyfulHealthyEats.com

  • Goat cheese stuffed mushrooms: GirlGoneGourmet.com (Goat cheese is the key with this pairing.)

  • Cashews and pistachios

  • Cheese tray with light-colored cheeses: Goat cheese Gouda Sharp Cheddar



Line Up 2: Oaked Chardonnay and Appetizer Pairings

An oaked Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine with toasty, buttery flavors that pairs well with creamy sauces and earthy, smokey flavors. Consider smoked seafood, light-colored smoked cheeses, and creamy dips.


  • Smoked salmon

  • Stuffed mushrooms

  • Artichoke, spinach dip: AddAPinch.com

  • Baked Brie: thekitchn.com (My sister makes this. Love it!)

  • Red pepper hummus with pita bread or vegetables

  • Black olive tapenade on ciabatta toast slices: NotEnoughCinnamon.com

  • Salted almonds

  • Cheese tray: Brie Gruyere Camembert Smoked Gouda



Line Up 3: Pinot Noir and Appetizer Pairings

Pinot Noir is a light red and actually pairs nicely with the oaked Chardonnay line up. However, I’ve brought in some red meat options to this grouping of appetizers, because it will pair well with the red Pinot Noir.




Holiday Dinner and Wine Pairings


For the main course, I’ve listed a few stars of the show along with wine pairing suggestions.

  • Glazed Ham: Dry Riesling (look for Trocken on the label), Pinot Noir, Syrah

  • Pork Roast: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

  • Beef Roast, Steak, Prime Rib: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bordeaux (French blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), Super Tuscan (Italian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese)

  • Lamb, Wild Boar, Venison: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Super Tuscan

  • Turkey: Dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah

  • Goose, Duck: Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux

  • Salmon: Pinot Noir


Holiday Desserts


Dessert time! Bring out those holiday treats and cookies which will pair up nicely with a few selections below. Remember the key is to make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert or else the wine will taste bitter.


  • Dark Chocolate based desserts pair well with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir.

  • Holiday sugar cookies and spritz cookies pair well with Sweet Riesling.

  • Buttery shortbread cookies pair well with Chardonnay.



Host/Hostess Wine Gifts


When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or Russian River Valley, California. A French Red Burgundy (aka Pinot Noir) would also be a winning selection. This wine is extremely versatile because it’s easy to drink by itself and pairs with a wide variety of food.


White wine can be a bit divisive with ‘only Sauvignon Blanc drinkers’ or ‘only Chardonnay drinkers.’ Instead, consider a Sparkling wine or Champagne. It will keep the fun, festive holiday theme going.

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