Choosing Wines for Christmas Dinner

Before you get lost in the world of wine ratings, scores and blog advice, let us help you with a few simple pointers about what to consider when choosing wines for Christmas dinner.

Chances are your meal is centered around a roasted goose, turkey, capon, leg of lamb, or glazed ham. Think of the wine as a good side dish, not the star of the show. It should complement the food, but not distract from it.

A Veritable Feast for the Senses

Your holiday spread is likely a feast of tantalizing aromas and tastes, not to mention textures and temperatures. Forget about the turkey for a minute, because almost any wine, save for a few overpowering reds, will go nicely with it.


Think instead about all the wonderful elements that you assembled to complement it; like the earthy black truffle bits and salty, buttery goodness in the mashed potatoes; the fragrant apples, almonds and woodsy sage of the wild boar sausage in the dressing; the roasted Brussels sprouts with ventrèche, savory chanterelles sautéed with shallots, and the rich, velvety pan gravy. All followed closely by yams in brown sugar and bourbon under toasty marshmallows; ginger and orange peel in your mother’s tart cranberry sauce and the heady spices in your vegan sister-in-law’s curried tofurkey loaf.

Take Note of the Notes

Now, just relax and don’t drive yourself crazy trying to think about pairing with all of those elements individually. For the complexity of this kind of holiday fare a single white wine, with some structure, balance, and acidity is the best ticket. For the simplest solution, just read the flavor notes, think fruit forward and Pinot Noir grapes first.

Look for descriptions of fruit aromas and tastes with bright acidity at the front end of the description that you feel are pleasantly complementary, much in the way you put together your menu. Stick to fruit notes and prominent acidity to help to balance out the components of the wine and the meal.

For a white, consider an aromatic and bright Pinot Gris or a medium-bodied Pinot Blanc.


Some think that champagne is too delicate for a meal, but a rosé Champagne has all you want from the red grapes: fruit, high acidity, and savory elements. It makes a festive and delicious pairing.


A good sparkling wine also has high acidity, and one made of Pinot Noir grapes, or even a good Pinot Noir Rosé, would also be a great choice.

Pinot Noir by Prayitno on FlickrPrefer a different grape? A dry, fruit forward Riesling or less assertive, more citrusy Sauvignon Blanc without the oak would also fill the bill.


For a good red choice try a fruit-forward Pinot Noir or Syrah. This would work with a roasted leg of lamb, as well.

One more thing to keep in mind; your holiday is really about breaking bread in the company of family and friends, so the less ambitious your choice of wine is, the more people it will please.

Just remember that you get about five 5-ounce servings per bottle, and then do the math to determine how many bottles you need.

It’s the holidays, so get a few extra bottles to keep handy for gifts, or unexpected guests… or for the cook who works hard to get the meal on the table!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Joan Ryan says:

    Christmas is always a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. Poultry? We all just had our fill at Thanksgiving. Ham? Pleeeeeezzze. Maybe for Easter (if you don’t know how to roast lamb).

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