The Best Types of Wine to Serve with 9 Classic Holiday Foods
The appetizers are planned to a T, the turkey is already soaking up its brine and the table is set with all the fall décor. There’s only one thing left on your holiday to-do list: drinks. You could guess what fancy craft beers your guests like to drink or whip up a few big-batch libations to dole out…if you want to exhaust yourself before cocktail hour even begins. With everything on your to-do list already, cut yourself some slack and opt for a few bottles of vino. But what types are best for your menu? We asked Jon Troutman, cofounder of Empathy Wines (which—full disclosure—was also founded by Gary Vaynerchuk, who owns our parent company, VaynerX), for a foolproof list of wine recommendations that pair beautifully with all the essentials, from turkey to pumpkin pie. And to make it even easier on you, they’re all available online, meaning you won’t have to brave the liquor store in the eleventh hour.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how much to buy, Troutman suggests securing at least one bottle per person. “When in doubt, have extra wine on hand. There’s no greater drag than running out,” he says. No argument there.
RELATED: What’s the Best Wine for Thanksgiving? Here Are 20 Great Options, According to a Wine Expert
If You’re Serving a Charcuterie Board: 2018 The Prisoner Erased Sparkling Wine
Odds are you already know that sparkling wines are incredibly versatile. They pair well with plenty of cheese board essentials, like rich Brie, briny olives and roasted grapes. But starting the feast with bubbles also sets the tone for the rest of the holiday. “It creates a festive and fun beginning, and most maintain relatively low ABVs,” explains Troutman, “so you’ll save room and keep your endurance during the marathon of food and drink ahead.”
You can’t go wrong with this California pick, made from Chardonnay grapes (it’ll wash down salty meats and buttery cheeses just right). But Troutman also loves the complex Benedicte & Stephane Tissot Cremant du Jura Indigene from France. If sparkling wine is a no-go, Empathy Wines’ Red Blend Flight is a solid alternative. “It provides the opportunity to compare, contrast and pick favorites [from] a flight of our 2018, 2019 and non-vintage red wines,” explains Troutman.
If You’re Serving a Green Salad: 2020 Empathy Rosé
“One of the biggest misconceptions in the world of wine is that rosé is exclusively a summer wine,” says Troutman. “Sure, it’s great by the pool—but it’s also the perfect companion [for] a fall-inspired green salad.” Hear us out: This vino is bursting with notes of fresh-cut strawberries and teeming with refreshing acidity. “The bright, juicy, fruit-forward flavors are a great match for the earthy-yet-sweet vegetables that [autumn’s] bounty brings, from squash and cranberries to walnuts and goat cheese.” Might we suggest our prosciutto and fig salad board or this roasted delicata squash salad?
If You’re Serving a Soup or Bisque: 2019 Empathy White
If you have something like loaded potato soup, pumpkin bisque, butternut squash soup or cauliflower corn chowder on the menu, you’re going to want to pair it with something light, crisp and bright. “A higher-acid white will help cut through the creamy richness of a bisque without bogging down your tastebuds,” explains Troutman. This 2019 white blend from Empathy Wines boasts Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Albariño, Grenache Blanc and Verdelho grapes. It brings out the best in fresh herbs and has hints of green apple and Anjou pear, so it’s a match for just about any fall soup you have in mind.
If You’re Serving Roast Turkey: 2020 Empathy White
Real talk: This blend of seven types of grapes from all over California was practically *made* for pairing with roast turkey. Its floral-citrus nose, medium body and balanced acidity make this wine a stellar match for roast poultry, cooked vegetables and potatoes, aka the quintessential Thanksgiving main and sides. “It’s got enough weight to stand up to the juiciest of birds, [and it’s] an especially good pairing if you prefer the flavor-forward dark meat,” says Troutman.
If You’re Serving Glazed Ham: 2018 Empathy White
For a Christmas ham (especially one topped with pineapple), there’s no better soulmate than this seven-grape blend. “It’s got just the slightest touch of sweetness, and the couple years of bottle age add some nice complexity,” says Troutman. So, not only can it pair with seafood, salad, fried food and roast chicken, but its smooth, mature flavor makes it ideal for foods like glazed ham and smoked sausage too, due to its newfound nuttiness, earthiness and roundness. It’ll also be able to hold its own against heat, so we’ll just leave this spicy orange-honey glazed ham recipe right here…
If You’re Serving Roast Lamb: Empathy Red California
Empathy’s most recently released wine also “might be the bottle I’m personally most proud of,” says Troutman. “It’s got juicy plushness and a red fruit flavor profile—think red cherries—that makes it so, so good with savory holiday dishes like lamb.” Its bold nose and full-bodied flavor is beautifully balanced by French oak spice, and its intense tannins will bring the lamb’s earthy, grassy qualities to life. Buy an extra bottle to crack open the next time you have pizza, burgers, barbecue or any chocolatey dessert.
If You’re Serving Pumpkin or Apple Pie: Robert Mondavi Winery’s Sauvito Sauvignon Blanc
“A rule of thumb with dessert pairings is to find a wine that’s even sweeter than the dish being served; otherwise, it’ll get lost in the deliciousness,” advises Troutman. Since buttery brown sugar apple filling and starchy, honey-like pumpkin custard are sweet, it takes a wine like this expressive, balanced pick to compete. Drawing inspiration from an ancient Italian style of winemaking, this cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes is the perfect pick for bready dishes like waffles or cinnamon rolls, as well as anything starring fruit compote or filling. (That sounds a lot like pie to us.) The wine’s natural spice will also get along great with the warm fall spices in both desserts.
If You’re Serving Pecan Pie: 2017 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling
Regardless of how you pronounce this autumn nut, one thing’s for sure: “The unanimous pairing is a late-harvest German Riesling,” says Troutman. While this vino pairs beautifully with fruit desserts, its high acidity is also just the ticket for cutting through buttery, almost cloying pecan pie filling. The wine’s earthy, honey-like flavor notes will also get along just fine with the autumn nut, as well as whole-wheat or buckwheat pie crusts.
If You’re Serving Chocolate Cake: Milk
If you insist on wine, Empathy’s Red California won’t disappoint. But Troutman recommends another drink entirely. “While it flies in the face of sophistication, I opt for a tall glass of milk, ideally 2 percent. It helps wash down the chocolatey richness in a way no wine I’ve found really can.” We’ll cheers to that.