When selecting wine to serve with the medley of flavors at a holiday dinner, the key is to balance tastes and intensity of flavors, and match the wine not necessarily just to the meat or main dish, but also to the way it’s prepared, as the seasonings used or cooking method can affect a pairing selection.
If turkey is prepared with a fruit-based or sweet sauce, an off-dry white such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer can be a good match. If it’s drizzled with buttery juices, the buttery character of Chardonnay may be a good partner. Plus, take into account the varied tastes from the side dishes—a rich, fruity red such as Shiraz or Zinfandel can complement strongly flavored side dishes. If opting for fish, salmon may pair well with a subtle white such as Pinot Gris if it is poached, but if it’s grilled, a light-bodied red wine can be a better match.
Ultimately your preferences come into play, but the following are suggestions to try with traditional holiday fare. Bon appétit!
Beef needs a wine with a bit of body.
Red: Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Brunello, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Malbec, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Rioja, Shiraz, and Zinfandel
Red: With lamb’s stronger flavors try Amarone, Barbera, Barbaresco, Barolo, red Bordeaux and red Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, rosé Champagne, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, Côtes du Rhône, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Zinfandel.
White: Gewürztraminer or Riesling if curry spiced
The slightly sweet flavor of ham pairs well with fruity, light- to medium-bodied whites or fruity red.
Red: Beaujolais, Burgundy, Merlot, Pinot Noir (especially if served with mustard sauce), young Zinfandel. Off-dry rosé.
White: Chablis, Champagne, unoaked Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling
Red: Young and fruity Burgundy, Pinot Noir
Red: Red wine’s tannins taste a bit metallic with white fish, so it’s best to avoid Cabernet, full-bodied Merlot, and Syrah. Light reds, such Pinot Noir, will work with tuna, salmon, and some full-flavored fish.
White: Albariño, Chablis, Champagne, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Viognier
Turkey itself is quite wine-friendly and can pair well with many whites and reds—it’s often the side dishes served with a traditional turkey dinner that throw in more savory to sweet flavors.
Red: Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, fruity Zinfandel
White: Chablis, white Burgundy, and Chardonnay (especially California or other new world with little or no oak) Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc
Sparkling: Especially brut, rosé, or a dry sparkling Shiraz