The Best Wines to Serve for the Fall and Winter Holidays
The holidays call for rich, delicious meals and time spent with loved ones. With such celebratory occasions, a glass of wine is just the thing to top off a lovely affair. Whether or not you have your holiday menu filed and ready, it's never too soon to think about the perfect pairings. In fact, with so many types of wines to choose from, the sooner you begin to plan, the better. Here, experts weigh-in on the best wines for the holiday season.
"Winter meals usually feature hearty comfort foods," says Carol Brown, director of winemaking for Brown Estate Winery's House of Brown label. "I like wines that complement that mood—whether it be a cozy, casual evening by the fire or a formal dinner." She recommends a number of keywords to look for when on the hunt for the perfect holiday wines. "Tasting note descriptors like dark, deep, decadent, plush, ripe, succulent, and palate notes like roasted herbs and winter spice signal promising comfort food pairings," she says.
Whether sipped alongside a decadent Pot Roast or paired with appetizers during happy hour, a glass of red wine is a holiday staple. Sommelier and founder of Hue Society, Tahiirah Habibi, recommends Matthiasson Tendu Red ($17.99, wine.com) for its make. "[Its compound of Barbera, Montepulciano, and Anglianico] gives this wine brilliant acidity and beautiful bright fruit," she says. "[It's] best served chilled with food such as grilled lamb, strong cheese, or your favorite red sauce."
Master sommelier Mia Van de Water iterates the importance of taking a look at the entire menu before choosing a wine. "The challenge of Thanksgiving is that you need a wine that goes with almost anything (and pleases almost everybody)," explains Van der Water. She suggests Bodegas Raúl Pérez Ultreia Saint Jacques 2018 ($22.99, wine.com). "Cranberry Sauce is a key component of most Thanksgiving feasts, and since it's essentially a condiment (meaning it gets on everything), tart, red-fruited wines do particularly well." The complex grapes make for a delicious wine. "Mencía drinks like a more intense and full-bodied Pinot Noir, and as such strikes a perfect middle ground between those who think Pinot Noir is 'too light' and others who find most red wines 'too strong.'"
While many might associate white wines with the summer months, the right bottle can pair perfectly with an array of dishes—no matter the time of year. "I look for big, round, unctuous whites for the winter. A nice buttery Chardonnay works perfectly for sipping or paired with things like lobster salad, butternut squash soup, or shrimp and grits," says Brown. "Full-bodied Viogniers are an excellent option as well." Meanwhile, Habibi recommends a tasty Pinot Grigio—Cameron Pinot Grigio Ramato Dundee Hills 2019 ($35, vervewine.com). "Not your average Pinot Grigio!" she says. "[It has a] beautiful creamy texture, vibrant acidity, and dried tropical fruit with a semi pale pink hue." If you're trying to find something that pairs well with everything from pork to poultry, Habibi says to look no further than Maison Noir Oregogne Chardonnay 2014 ($40, miasonnoirwines.com). It features crisp citrus flavors followed by notes of pear and green apple, while "enticing flinty minerals dance around on the nose," shew says. It's the perfect wine if you love white Burgundy.
Van der Water loves a white Bordeaux for the fall and winter holidays. She suggests a 2018 Château Carbonnieux Blanc Cru Classé ($32.97, wine.com). "It is regal and grand and aromatic and round; it expresses the green apples and tart apricots that appeal to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers, but its aging in new French oak gives it a creaminess and softness that Chardonnay drinkers are looking for," she says. "Basically, it is an ideal wine for a whole group of people who all like different things—like family holiday dinners." Its price point and quality make it a top choice; according to Van der Water it's one of the easiest and most affordable châteaux on the market. She says a glass of this wine goes with any dish, but it's exceptional with creamy vegetable casseroles.
"Sparkling wine is always the right choice to set the mood for a festive winter celebration," says Brown. "Anything from Champagne to Cava to Prosecco to domestic bubbles will fit the bill." If you really want to splurge this holiday season, buy a bottle of bubbly. Specifically, Habibi recommends Champagne Pol Roger 2008 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill ($298.99, wine.com). With an invigorating blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this grape combination features concentrated aromas and refreshing citrus, yellow apple, and dried white flowers. "The yeasty fresh baked [tastes] give way to the tropical fruit flavors. [It's] truly a special wine to be enjoyed [with] fresh lobster, tuna, and mild cheeses," she says.
Meanwhile, Van der Water loves Broadbent 10 year Boal Madeira ($49.99, wine.com). "Madeira is (in my own personal opinion) the greatest of the fortified wines," she says. "It comes from a sub-tropical island in the Atlantic, where the best wines age slowly over [years] (decades!) in [a] barrel, concentrating, and caramelizing in the humid tropical heat." Broadbent purchases grapes and occasionally barrels, and ages them in their own warehouses before bottling for export. "Madeira range in style from fairly dry to roundly sweet, all with that lightning core of acidity," she says. "Boal is one of the most popular varieties, sitting just over the line into the sweeter style." Van der Water says the wine pairs perfectly with, chocolate desserts, as well as a mixture of flavors like Pecan Pie and Sticky Toffee Pudding, "due to its flavors of roasted walnuts, dark chocolate, orange zest, and molasses."