General Guidance on How to Choose Wine for Your Holiday Meal

holiday wine

James Alford, GM at Foxcroft Wine Co. in Greenville, South Carolina, helps you choose holiday wine for all of your celebrations.

I see three guiding principles in picking that holiday wine:

  • There are a million different flavors on the table, so wines with versatility perform best. This means wines with flavor, but without so much extraction or oakiness that the wine ends up competing with the food rather than complementing it.
  • Rich holiday food makes you THIRSTY. Why have a beverage that doesn’t quench that thirst? As much as we love those giant, oaky Cabs, they aren’t typically what we reach for when we’re dying of thirst. Wines with lower alcohol, lively minerality, and snappy acid make you want that next sip, and keep your palate refreshed for your fourth helping of dark meat.
  • The holidays are about fun foods that we look forward to eating all year long, so why not let the same sensibility guide your holiday wine buying? Yes, look for versatile and thirst-quenching wines; but mostly, look for the wines that you love the most, that maybe you don’t buy often. Fill the case with those special bottles that are a little pricier than your Tuesday night go-to, because come on, it’s CHRISTMAS! There won’t be a second one this year, so treat yo’self to that special holiday wine.

Suggestions and/or descriptions of wines that tend to go with a wide variety of foods, particularly those we tend to eat around the holidays – like turkey, ham, pork tenderloin, etc.

For versatility, the straight truth is that whites and pinks outperform reds. However, we still love our “red only, please” folks out there, and there are definitely options in that category as well. Look for wines from cooler climates, as they’ll have that all-important acidity we’re looking for, and usually will clock in under 13% abv. It’s a big, long meal, and you’ll probably be drinking more than normal. Don’t be blitzed before dessert even hits the table with some 16% monster. Make sure the 4th glass tastes as good as the first with lower abv, higher acid whites and reds from regions like the Loire Valley (France), Oregon, and even Austria. Chinon (red), lighter Pinot Noir from Oregon, and most any crisp, racy white from Austria.

What to drink while you’re cooking.

Champagne. End of discussion. Any price, any style. Bubbles set the tone for a memorable celebration. They also aid the digestion of those 6 deviled eggs that you were not at all sneaky about housing from the appetizer tray.

A few specific wines, available at Foxcroft Wine Co., that would work well with holiday dinners – approachable, crowd pleasers, easy-to-drink, etc. 

  • Bella Pazza Veneto Rosso (16.99). A consummate crowd pleaser, with gobs of flavor, but manageable alcohol. Enough richness to stand up to heartier holiday fare, but enough drinkability so that nap time doesn’t come too early. And at this price, you don’t have to give Aunt Janice the side-eye when she fills her glass for the 3rd time before 1pm.
  • Jouget Chinon Rose (29.99). Rose is not just a summer porch pounder. Good estates still make “serious” rose, with lovely tension between grace and richness. This 100% Cab Franc stunner combines both those, and will match basically anything you throw at it. Even leaner cuts of red meat won’t overpower this pink wine that’s filled with flavors of ripe strawberries and a zesty green edge that makes you wonder how you went through the whole bottle before you even got up for seconds.
  • Nicolas Joly Savennieres “Clos de la Bergerie” (73.99) Savennieres is unquestionably the ultimate region for Chenin Blanc, making styles that miraculously manage to balance bottomless richness with bracing minerality. Powerful and graceful all at once, this is the wine equivalent of those ballerina hippos from Fantasia. You don’t spend this kind of money on wine everyday, but Christmas doesn’t come everyday, does it? Make a special day feel REALLY special with this treasure.

What to drink with dessert.

Sweet foods pair with sweet wines. Everyone should drink what they like, but biochemically speaking, a drink with no sugar in it will not taste good with a food that has LOTS of sugar in it. And as much as some people want to make it happen, big Cabernet does NOT pair well with chocolate. My real suggestion? Drink coffee with dessert. But if you’re adventurous, and will actually branch out, pick up a good Sauternes, Ice Wine, or Tokjai. You won’t believe how revelatory Tokjai paired with pecan pie can be.

What to bring with you if you’re going to someone else’s house for the holidays (best gifting wines).

Bring the bubbles. Bubbles are the correct start to any big meal or celebration, and you won’t have to overthink whether or not you’re bringing the right wine for what they’re having, or what they like. Even if your host already has some bubbly on ice when you get there, no one has ever seen a guest come through the front door with a bottle (or three) of Champagne and been unhappy about it.

Foxcroft Wine Co. has four locations: three in Charlotte, NC and one in Greenville, SC. You can bookmark the locations on the CurEat App for a future visit or add them to your CurEat lists of recommendations.

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