From deciding which Thanksgiving side dish to bring to Friendsgiving to trying to master the perfect holiday dessert recipe, there’s a lot to keep track of when the holidays roll around. But seemingly no task is more daunting than choosing the perfect wines to accompany your celebratory meals. While we believe you should drink whatever you like, it’s useful to have some guidelines to help you find the best bottles in your budget. Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW, president of the International Wine Center and the first woman in America to become a Master of Wine, and Coly Den Haan, restaurateur and certified sommelier, have some advice to make this task a lot less intimidating. You can see their picks and pairings, and all of our favorite holiday wines for every budget, below.
$15 and Under
Josh Cellars Rosé, CA $14
If you’re looking for ways to drink rosé well into winter, this bottle won’t let you down. It’s a dry, light-bodied option that pairs well with appetizers like tangy goat cheese, cured meats, and crudité.
Charles Smith The Velvet Devil Merlot, Columbia Valley, WA $13
Smooth and rich, this merlot has fruit notes that make it a natural pairing with cranberry sauce, but robust cedar and pipe tobacco notes mean it pairs well with smoked ham, stuffing, and gravy too.
Red Tail Ridge Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY $16
This lightly sweet, acidic Riesling from winemaker Nancy Irelan pairs with a huge variety of foods. It’s “perfect for roasted turkey, all those veggie sides, and surprisingly, pumpkin pie,” according to Den Haan.
Pfneiszl Zweigler, Burgenland, Austria $14
“You can really never have too much wine at a party,” Den Haan says, which is just one of the reasons she loves this wine, made by sisters Birgit and Katrin, that comes in a large one liter bottle (50 percent more than a standard bottle). She recommends pairing it with smoked ham and creamy casseroles.
Callie Collection Pinot Grigio, Central Coast, CA $15
A blend of Pinot Gris, French Colombard, and just a hint of Gewürtzraminer, this medium-bodied wine has melon, citrus, and mineral notes that work with a wide variety of foods. Ewing-Mulligan recommends balancing out heavy fried Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot with a high-acidity Pinot Grigio.
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard, WA $13
Its sweetness and acidity make this riesling a natural pair with turkey, acorn squash, and mashed potatoes. Ewing-Mulligan also likes pairing Riesling with candied yams and baked ham. This particular varietal has notes of stone fruit and citrus. Even those who usually think of Riesling as being “too sweet” will be impressed at how this bottle stands up to your holiday meal.
Margins Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, CA $23
“This all-natural Chenin is arguably the best of its kind made in California,” Den Haan tells us. She says it’s a “great turkey wine” from winemaker Megan Bell, but that it can live up to cranberry sauce and rich oyster stuffing too.
Olga Raffault Les Picasses Chinon Rouge, Chinon, France $22
This chillable Cabernet Franc from the winemaker Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie can be paired with greens, something that’s usually tricky. Den Haan suggests having a glass with Brussels sprouts and bacon, a table salad with vinaigrette, or a juicy rare prime rib.
2014 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County, CA $18
If you’re looking for a good deal, this old vine Zinfandel from Ravenswood hits the spot, with a smooth structure and layered flavor that you’d usually expect at a higher price point. Pair it with braised beef, candied yams, or slightly sweet cornbread stuffing.
2016 Meiomi Pinot Noir, Central Coast, CA $25
Meiomi’s super silky Pinot Noir has a nuanced flavor profile full of berries, baking spices, and dried tea leaves. Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving wine because it pairs so well with a variety of foods, and this varietal is particularly suited to a juicy roast turkey with a dab of cranberry sauce on the side.
Gremillet Brut, Champagne, France $38
“There isn’t much that a good bottle of Champagne can’t work with,” Den Haan says of this Brut from winemaker Anne Gremillet. “From sweet yams to creamy mashed potatoes and even dessert… It’s also outstanding with a cheese plate while watching the game and waiting for the main dinner event.”
2016 Rombauer Chardonnay, Carneros, CA $38
It’s always a treat to drink a really fine bottle of Chardonnay, and this buttery bottle, with notes of apricot and creme brulee, is worthy of your celebration. Ewing-Mulligan recommends pairing Chardonnay with yams and stuffing. It also tastes divine alongside a not-too-sweet apple or pumpkin pie.
2014 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, CA $40
A delicious alternative to Champagne, this Chardonnay-based sparkling wine is versatile, with notes of green apple, orange blossom, honey, and pear. Serve it before dinner with your cheese plate, or save it for a toast after the meal.
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(Photo via John Canelis/Unsplash)