Food and Wine Pairing for the Holidays

Dino Roussia's recommendations to make a memorable holiday meal.

The holidays offer endless possibilities for food and wine pairing. Whether you are preparing a dinner buffet or serving a course-by-course dinner, choose a palate-pleasing wine with approachable flavors and universal appeal to accommodate all of your guests. Food and wine pairing is all about versatility, color, texture and taste. Even though food and wine matching is subjective, there are guidelines to help you navigate some challenging flavors this season to create a memorable holiday treat for your friends and family. The golden rule is to pair the food’s intensity with similarly intense wine, or to pair contrasting flavors. For instance, you might pair the intense heat of a spicy dish with an intensely sweet wine to create a harmonious balance. There is no single specific wine that is the only pairing option with a particular dish. 

Food and wine should bring the best out in each other rather than competing with or overpowering each other. A medium-bodied Selbach Oster Bernkasteler Riesling Spaetlese with low residual sugar will partner well with the sweetness of a honey-glazed ham and enhance its flavor. On the other hand, a Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Estate Bottled Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel region in Germany, with its complex minerality, aromatics and dry finish, will counter the sweetness of the honey for maximum enjoyment.

When it comes to turkey, a fruit-forward California Chardonnay with a light kiss of oak will be a crowd-pleaser.  

Red wines are also generally a good complement. A fresh and fruity Beaujolais nouveau is a classic match for turkey. For a more refined wine, try a red Burgundy or a Pinot Noir from King Estate in Oregon; or an Iron Horse Pinot noir from Russian River, Anderson Valley, Green Valley or Carneros. These wine-growing regions offer reasonably priced Pinot Noir of good quality. Typically, the wine has a pronounced earthiness, nice fruitiness, and a bright acidity that shines through. It is light, rich and balanced—a natural match with roasted duck, as well.

The perfect match for pumpkin pie would be a late-harvest Chenin Blanc dessert wine or an Italian Vin Santo. The wines are sweet but not too heavy on your palate thanks to the firm acidity. Port or Sherry wine are good pairing options for pecan pie.

And finally, Champagne and sparkling wine offer complete versatility when it comes to food and wine pairings, while adding a dose of glamour and a festive air to the dinner. Some bright and shiny examples of great bubbly: Schramsberg, Iron Horse and J from Sonoma; affordable Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.

Champagne represents the essence of the holidays – a time to share stories and celebrate with family and friends while creating memories to last a lifetime.

Dino Roussia is a certified sommelier for the Court of Masters in London and certified spirits advisor. He may be reached at

Categories: Cheers with Dino, Food & Dining