Holiday Food and Wine Pairings


Your Christmas shopping is (probably) done, but if you haven't settled on what wines to pour with dinner tomorrow night, The Daily Sip is here to help.

Wine choice at a big holiday dinner comes down to the main protein and its flavors--just as with any other meal. So whether you need to run to the wine shop or pull the right bottle off the rack, below is our quick guide to Christmas-dinner wine pairings.

There's a reason steakhouses have wine lists dominated by big California reds like Cabernet and Zinfandel--both varieties pair perfectly with any dish that once mooed. Our picks: Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2009 ($19) and Spring Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet ($75), which is chalky, supple and pairs perfectly with holiday beef dishes.

The classic pairing for lamb is red Bordeaux (though Syrah/Shiraz is a perfectly good alternative, as is New Zealand Pinot Noir). Every Bordeaux vintage since 2003 has been good, except for 2007. Lesser-known appellations and regional blends will offer the best value. Our pick: Merlot-based Chateau Gigault Cotes de Blaye Cuvee Viva ($20).

There are two great wine varieties for pork. Pinot Noir is a perfect match for most cuts; but if you're cooking ham, go with Riesling. This grape pairs beautifully with the saltiness and sweetness of the meat. Our pick: Any recent vintage of Grosset Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley ($20-$40).

There's no better wine pairing for duck than Pinot Noir. The earthiness and fruit flavors of Pinot--particularly those from Burgundy--complement the gaminess of duck. This is also a great pick for pork, above. Our choice: Any vintage from 2004 on, Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune red Burgundy ($30).

Chinese Food
Not everyone celebrates Christmas dinner--plenty of us go to BYO Chinese restaurants. A variety that stands up to the wide range of flavors on the Chinese table is Gewurztraminer. Not long ago, a Chinese resort bought the entire 2005 vintage of New Zealand's top Gewurztraminer, Vinoptima. Our pick, the 2004 ($50), is still available in the U.S. But ask for any bold, rich Alsatian or German Gewurztraminer in the wine shop, and you're good to go--from Peking Duck to shrimp in lobster sauce.

Have a favorite Christmas-dinner wine of your own? Tell us about it below.