When it comes to eating, we can’t resist playing matchmaker. Whether assembling a cheese board, selecting the perfect sauce for a main dish, or putting together the perfect set of side dishes, we adore thinking about which flavors take each other to the next level, and it doesn’t have to stop with food. With the right style and flavor profile, a thoughtfully chosen glass of wine can take any dish to the next level—and what’s a holiday without a special-occasion toast (or five)?
Whether you’re selecting a bottle to gift your host or stocking up your fridge for when company arrives, these are a few Plated-approved holiday wines to have on hand for your celebratory meal. And no matter what you do, stock up on a few bottles for yourself. You know why.
Having glazed ham? Serve rosé
Slow-roasted ham is the showstopper at many holiday tables. The secret to its jaw-dropping presentation—the glaze—is also the key behind its succulent flavor, infusing the salty ham with a touch of sweetness, and giving the outside its signature rich, glossy sheen. So, what’s the perfect pairing for this sweet and salty stunner? Answer: rosé. Though styles can very greatly depending on where they’re made, opt for a fruity or floral style to bring out the honeyed flavors of the ham. Rosé from Provence is a classic choice—crisp and dry, it’s a perfect match for salty meats.
And jelly doughnuts? Again, rosé
With a jammy filling, buttery fried dough, and a sprinkle of sugar, jelly doughnuts might sound like a wine pairing challenge. However, we think they’ve met their match in sparkling rosé. No, we don’t mean white Zinfandel—but a bottle with a little sweetness won’t hurt. An off-dry style (“demi-sec” in French) is a lovely match, bringing out the fruity flavors of the filling while the bubbles complement the fried dough.
Enjoying latkes? Serve Crémant de Bourgogne
Bubbly is a go-to holiday wine for a reason. Not only is it festive, but it’s also extremely food-friendly, pairing well with everything from caviar to fried chicken. It makes sense, then, that the classic pairing for crispy potato latkes is Champagne—the soft effervescence and dry style makes it a satisfying pairing for the crunchy texture and salty flavors —but you can also find solid quality in a type of wine called Crémant. This sparkling vino is made in the same traditional style as Champagne, but outside the Champagne region (aka, a good deal). A Crémant de Bourgogne or a Crémant de Loire are excellent choices, with soft bubbles that aren’t too harsh to overpower a mild side dish.
Brisket, meet Syrah
This melt-in-your mouth main course demands a red wine with some oomph. We think it meets its match with Syrah, a wine that will stand up to the rich flavors of the meat without overpowering it. Classic flavors of this grape include blackberry, blueberry, and black pepper, and it’s often described as “smoky” or even a little spicy, making it a perfect match for big, braised meat dishes. Choosing a more refined, medium-bodied style will help prevent the buttery textures from being mixed up (looking for options from Rhône, France is a great starting point).
A fan of cauliflower gratin? Hello, Chablis
We like our veggies with lots of cheese, which is why gratin is, in our opinion, the ultimate side dish. Whether you prefer to make yours with cauliflower, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, or squash, the secret to pairing is in the cheese. A rich, nutty melting cheese like Gruyère pairs well with a medium-bodied white wine, like Chablis. Dry with a high acidity, it has a mouthwatering quality that makes it perfect for pairing with food. Its signature aromas of citrus, apple, and pear add a refreshing element to balance out the decadent cheese.
Smoked salmon needs a glass of Gamay
The ultimate New Year’s appetizer, blinis are Russian buckwheat pancakes dolloped with crème fraiche and layered with salty fish like smoked salmon. Creamy, salty, and with a touch of the sea, the hand-held party bites beg for a wine with a high acidity. Yes, Champagne is an excellent choice, but we’re going for a game-changer here with a light-bodied red wine: Gamay. Tart, floral, and slightly earthy, the wine hails from France’s Beaujolais region, and its low level of tannins and high acidity make it popular among both red and white wine drinkers. Pro tip: it makes a great hostess gift.
Dessert time: cookies with a late harvest Riesling
When you’re pairing wine with dessert, a good rule of thumb to follow is to always make sure your wine is slightly sweeter than your food. It may sound strange, but when consumed together, a sweeter dessert will make a dry wine taste more acidic, while a sweeter dessert vino will stand up to the rich flavors of your treats. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of sweet wines, you might be surprised if you try one with a well-matched dessert pairing.
For those classic, buttery holiday cookies like iced sugar cookies, we’re opting for a classic dessert wine: late harvest Riesling. The grapes are left on the vine a little longer here before they’re harvested than with other styles, giving the wine a rich gold color and honeyed quality you’ll enjoy both on its own and with dessert.
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