5 years ago

Choosing the right wine for your holiday dinner

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.

For example, if you’re serving turkey 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. Or if you’re serving salmon, it may pair well with a subtle white such as Pinot Gris if you’re planning to poach the fish; but if you’re going to grill it, a light-bodied red wine will be a better match.

Ultimately your own preferences come into play, but the following are suggestions to try with traditional holiday fare:


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


Beef needs a red 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

Pork Loin

Red: Young and fruity Burgundy, Pinot Noir

White: Riesling


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

For more holiday wine ideas, check out our Holiday Wine Pairing Guide.