From cocktail parties to festive feasts, wine is at the center of the holiday season. We asked Jennifer Ingellis, our partner in Williams-Sonoma Wine and one of Food & Wine‘s 2012 Sommeliers of the Year, to share her top picks for the ultimate wines to serve with every meal — and on every occasion. Read on, then visit Williams-Sonoma Wine to find your perfect bottle. Cheers!
Baking spices like nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon are popular for holiday cooking. Complement these flavors with a Chardonnay, Viognier or a white Rhone blend, which tend to feature similar notes. These wines pair wonderfully with vegetarian dishes like pumpkin ravioli, or a roasted turkey or ham.
Try: Bacigalupi Chardonnay, a creamy, rich wine with flavors of apple, toast and spicy vanilla; or the Keswick Vineyards Estate Reserve Viognier, which is complex and sophisticated, with a dusty minerality that will refresh your palate.
Ham & Turkey
Turkey and ham can work well with white wines, but when accompanied by mushrooms and dried herbs they’re a match made in heaven with lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir, Grenache, or an Austrian Zweigelt for something different.
Try: Sage-Rubbed Turkey with Hazelnut and Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing with Chanin Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir. The smooth tannins and delicate structure of the Chanin Pinot Noir make it a good match for lighter, finer proteins like turkey. Or, serve a ham with wild mushrooms and root vegetables alongside the Zweigelt-dominant Netzl Edles Tal, Carnuntum; its silky texture and earth notes play off the woodiness of the mushrooms, while the black fruit plays off sweeter ham and root vegetables.
If beef is what’s for dinner, then look to rich, robust red wines from around the globe. A helpful hint: look to the background notes in your recipe and the marbling of the meat itself.
Try: Beef tenderloin in a red red wine sauce (like Bordelaise) with Chateau de la Grille Chinon, a Cabernet Franc from Chinon. Alternatively, serve the Chateau d’Agel Caudios, a French Syrah, with an herbes de Provence-crusted Prime Rib — your guests will talk about the match for years to come.
No matter what you’re serving with your latkes — smoked salmon, zucchini — you can’t go wrong pairing them with Champagne or another sparkling wine.
Try: If smoked salmon is topping your latkes, serve a sparkling wine with a bit more fruit, like this Val de Mer Nature Rose from Burgundy. Made with Pinot Noir, it has wonderful alpine strawberry and wild cherry notes that will complement the richness of the salmon. If you’re going for a twist on the traditional and adding zucchini to the latkes, this Dominio de la Vega Cava Brut Reserva Especial will pair nicely.
Pair brisket with medium- to full-bodied red wines. The best pairing really depends on how you prepare the meat.
Try: Brisket seasoned with warm spices pairs well with this Corina Vigna Giachini Barolo; the notes of bright cherry intermingled with savory spices, herbs and light leather will complement the spices. A traditional brisket works will with the richly layered Field Stone Merlot from the Alexander Valley, which has a toastiness that complements the smoky meat.
Sparkling wine is a must-have for any holiday gathering — it not only awakens your palate, it refreshes your taste buds after sampling rich appetizers.
- Val de Mer Brut Nature Rose: Here’s a delicious Pinot Noir-based sparkling wine that won’t break the bank — perfect for serving a big group.
- Dominio de la Vega Cava Brut Reserva Especial: This Cava has great savory notes along with citrus, apple and lemon brioche. It’s a fabulous complement to those bacon-wrapped scallops that just passed by!
- Nani Rizzi Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry: This sparkler boasts crisp flavors, light body and minerality, with a hint of apples, pears and white flowers that pairs well with fish, shrimp, scallops and other seafood.
Look for white wines that will please many different palates. Keep two different styles of white wines on hand to cover your bases: one that’s light, fresh and vibrant (such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Gruner Veltliner) and a medium- to full-bodied white (Chardonnay or Pinot Gris).
- On the lighter side, try the Strauss Sauvignon Blanc or Diemersdal 8 Rows Sauvignon Blanc.
- For richer whites, try the Louis Latour Meursault Blanc or True Myth Chardonnay.
The same idea applies here as for white wines: choose two different styles that will please many different palates. Look for a red with a lighter, juicier style like a Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Zinfandel, along with a fuller option like Merlot, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
- For light, juicy reds try Masút Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir or Hendry Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel.
- For those that like a fuller, richer-bodied wine, serve Chateau d’Agel Caudios, Minervois or Del Rio Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.