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Entertaining, Holidays

Holiday spirit: a quick guide to wine and other beverage pairings

Holiday drinks…hhmmmm. If the thought of pairing beverages with your holiday menu has crossed your mind recently, and if your brain’s response was to draw a blank, rest assured you’re not alone. Like many other holiday-related decisions I have had to make recently, the problem with choosing an accompanying beverage(s) stems from having too much choice rather than too little. Wine, sparkling wine, mulled wine, champagne, eggnog, cocktails, cider, soft drinks, fruit juices, water. Being spoiled for choice is often not a problem, but on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whatever it is you choose to celebrate), it can be a daunting situation. Not only do you have to take all the different dishes on the menu into account, but you also have to consider the prospect of differing tastes among however many guests you are entertaining. From appetizers, to turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce and gravy, all the way to pumpkin, pecan or apple pie…is there a beverage that can truly go with everything? Well, first the good news. As long as you are not a trained sommelier, it is totally forgivable even if you make the “wrong” choice. Not that I believe such a thing even exists.

Beverage pairings are obviously a matter of personal choice. Do you want to serve alcohol or not? If so, wine or cocktails? What drinks do you want to offer to non-drinkers, kids and let’s not forget the designated drivers? These are all questions that you have to answer for yourself, but once you have…what next? Being the indecisive person that I am, I resorted to some help from my friend Google. Here are some of my findings about what beverages tend to be best-suited for a traditional holiday feast.


When in doubt, go with some bubbly (or sparkling wine). It is elegant, festive and versatile, and therefore a safe-yet-exciting choice.

Many decent yet affordable options exist. Try Freixenet Brut (approx. $9 a bottle) or Martini & Rossi Prosecco (about $15 a bottle) if you are looking for a slightly sweeter variety.

Of course there’s always Moet & Chandon (their rosé imperial is a favorite), Veuve-Cliquot (personally not the biggest fan), Dom Perignon, Laurent-Perrier and Ruinart is you are looking to splurge.

Sauvignon Blanc

If you are a white wine kind of person, this is a crisp option known for its citrus-based flavors, and a great pairing candidate for turkey and mashed potatoes. 

One of my all-time favorites is produced by Cakebread Cellars from Napa Valley.

* Another white wine variety that is particularly suitable for Thanksgiving is Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Noir

This red wine is a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving because of its earthy tones. As a lighter red, it has relatively tame tannins that will not overwhelm your palate.

Look for a Pinot from the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region of France, as they tend to be among the best.

* Other suitable red varities include Zinfandel, Syrah/Shiraz and the ever-popular Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released in mid-November just in time for the holidays!

Sparkling apple cider

Just because you or any of your guests are not drinking doesn’t mean your beverage choice should be less festive. Apple cider is very wintery and therefore a great choice with a winter holiday meal.

Martinelli’s is definitely the best known brand


Mulled wine or mulled apple cider

This is a particularly great choice for more reasons than one. First off, call it what you may – glühwein, vin chaud, or simply mulled wine – hot wine screams winter holidays. Second, you can make both an alcoholic version (using red wine) or a non-alcoholic version (using apple cider).  Just combine a small handful of cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2-3 star anise pods and the zest of one orange in a small spice bag and let simmer with a bottle of wine or cider over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. You can also add other flavors to your mulling spices as desired, including vanilla pods, ginger and candied ginger, or even a splash of honey or brandy.

In good health,




One thought on “Holiday spirit: a quick guide to wine and other beverage pairings

  1. I’m a big believer in Champagne for the Thanksgiving meal. It’s is as festive as the meal.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving.

    Posted by Karen | November 21, 2011, 1:11 AM

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