Guide to Christmas Dinner Wines from White to Red, Sparkling to Sweet
There’s enough going on in the kitchen, along with relatives from out-of-town and a variety of differing tastes at the table, for you to worry too much about wines for Christmas dinner. Having a wide assortment on hand will please any picky palates and complement the food on every plate.
Stock up on the essentials sparkling, white, red, and, when the pies come out, sweet wines. Since providing for a thirsty crowd can become costly, we’ve made sure all our recommended wines are $25 and under.
Sparkling wine is the standard-bearer of celebrations, particularly during the holidays. You can’t go wrong greeting your guests with a glass of bubbly as they arrive, but don’t confine it to an aperitif.
Sparkling wine is incredibly food-friendly and provides ample refreshment with a heavy dinner spread. Look for bottlings from producers with a sparkling wine pedigree, like Scharffenberger, to please guests without going broke, or if you want to there are countless affordable Crémants (sparkling French wines made outside of Champagne).
Meanwhile, for any like-minded wine geeks at the table, break away from the ordinary and take a chance on some of the stellar sparkling wines being produced in Tasmania.
Scharffenberger NV Brut Excellence Méthode Traditionnelle Sparkling (Mendocino County); $18, 91 points. This enticing and supple wine starts with aromas of bread dough and toasted almonds. The palate brings flavors of both fresh and baked apple on a plush, softly sparkling texture. —Jim Gordon
Ninth Island NV Sparkling Rosé Sparkling (Tasmania); $25, 91 points. Ninth Island is the second label of the well-respected Piper’s Brook, and its fizz is made by Natalie Fryar, the winemaker behind Jansz. This pink sparkler is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Delicate notes of yeast, green apple, strawberry and watermelon rind are woven into a palate that’s creamy in texture but buoyed by a bright line of acidity and lively bubbles. Little Peacock Imports. Editors’ Choice. —Christina Pickard
Adami 2016 Rive di Colbertaldo Vigneto Giardino Asciutto (Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore); $22, 90 points. Hawthorn, acacia and stone fruit aromas mingle together on this lovely sparkler. Refreshing and refined, the vibrant foaming palate doles out citrus zest and yellow apple offset by crisp acidity and elegant mousse. Dalla Terra Winery Direct. Editors’ Choice. —Kerin O’Keefe
Raventós I Blanc 2016 de Nit Sparkling (Penedès); $24, 90 points. A light pink color and smoky, lightly woody aromas introduce this racy rosé sparkler that includes a dash of Monastrell for color. Nectarine, red apple skin and citrus flavors are fresh and briny, while this is steady and doesn’t break down on the finish; ideal for fried chicken (trust us). Skurnik Wines, Inc. —Michael Schachner
Domaine du Petit Clocher NV Brut (Crémant de Loire); $25, 90 points. This wine, like so many in the Loire, was aged in the chalk caves around the town of Saumur. An elegant blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it conveys a cool feel along with bright acidity and a creamy, apple aftertaste. Drink now. Kinson The Future of Wine. —Roger Voss
Some of your guests may prefer their whites light, bright and unoaked while others might prefer something a little richer. Here are a few options across the spectrum to match with salads, sides and poultry.
If you’ve avoided Gewürztraminer because you’re afraid it will be too sweet, a drier-styled Finger Lakes version will convert you. Portugal offers a range of white wine styles—from oaked to unoaked made from local grapes and typically well priced. In a Pinot Grigio rut?
Swap out your usual bottle for the crisp acidity of Pinot Bianco instead.
Bründlmayer 2017 Terrassen Grüner Veltliner (Kamptal); $22, 92 points. A touch of reduction still clouds the ripe but tart red apple notes on the nose of this wine. With a little air, the fruit becomes more expressive, crescendoing into a savory core of yeast, flint, salty soy and sage. The finish brims with ripe lemon. Terry Theise Estate Selections. —Anne Krebiehl MW
Global Wines 2017 Cabriz Reserva Encruzado (Dão); $13, 91 points. The wood aging has made a world of difference to this fruity wine. It has added complexity to the white fruits and acidity and give the wine fine depth of flavor. Toast and spice show strongly as well as a rich aftertaste. Drink the wine from 2019. Tri-Vin Imports. Best Buy. —Roger Voss
Hickory Hollow 2016 Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes); $18, 91 points. This Gewürztraminer strikes a fine balance between the grape’s more intense characteristics and subtler, more earth-driven elements. Aromas of ripe yellow apple, green pear rind and a zesty dusting of crushed stone ride over an undercurrent of potpourri spice. With 30% fermented in neutral French oak, the palate is broad in feel yet immensely juicy in a ripe orchard-fruit flavor. Delicate astringency offers a clean close to the tangy powdered-limestone finish. Editors’ Choice. —Alexander Peartree
Calera 2016 Chardonnay (Central Coast); $20, 91 points. The nose of this wine is sharp and precise in tones of chalk, tangerine cream, dried lemon and crushed nuts. There’s a strong mineral quality through the entire palate that accents flavors of lemon juice and yellow pear. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettman
St. Pauls 2017 Plotzner Pinot Bianco (Alto Adige); $22, 91 points. White spring blossom, ripe apple and bread crust aromas segue over to the elegant, medium-bodied palate along with Bartlett pear and a hint of peach. Fresh acidity brightens the rich flavors. Ethica Wines. Editors’ Choice. —Kerin O’Keefe
A departure from the more well-known Beaujolais Nouveau, the Cru Beaujolais designation signifies that grapes come from one of the 10 top sites in the region, and represent the best of the best of the area’s Gamay.
Domaines Dominique Piron 2016 Côte du Py (Morgon); $25, 94 points. This young wine has great potential. It shows weight and a powerful tannic structure as well as bold, ripe black fruits. Coming from the top sector of Morgon, the wine has concentration and richness. It needs to age, and won’t be ready before 2019. Baron Francois Ltd. Cellar Selection. —Roger Voss
Zolo 2015 Reserve Malbec (Luján de Cuyo); $19, 91 points. Dense compact aromas of blackberry and other dark fruits are what Luján Malbec is all about. This is full and integrated on the palate, while blackberry and oak-based spice flavors finish savory, with a note of graphite. Smooth, grainy tannins help this along. Vino Del Sol. —Michael Schachner
Angry Bunch 2015 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley); $25, 91 points. Grainy, thick and concentrated, this wine offers structure amidst its big-boned richness and ripe flavor. Sizable tannins surround a core of brambly black fruit and toasted oak that lingers on the finish. —Virginie Boone
Koyle 2015 Royale Los Lingues Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley); $25, 91 points. Cola, mint and eucalyptus aromas are attached to a spicy berry tone. The full-bodied palate is saturated yet balanced, while pepper and blackberry flavors come with an herbal undertone. Drink through 2025. —M.S.
Januik 2015 Merlot (Columbia Valley); $25, 90 points. Baking-spice, dried dill, cedar box, vanilla and red-fruit aromas lead to soft textured rich raspberry flavors backed by grainy tannins. It’s a no-holds- barred interpretation of the variety. —Sean Sullivan
Though the world’s great sweet wines should not be confined simply to dessert, there’s no arguing how special they can taste after a great meal.
While sweet wines are often used to compliment sweet foods, they’re also one of the world’s best pairings with blue cheese or as a balance for savory dishes. Get a seat close to the fire, relax, and savor some sweet sips.
Bodegas Dios Baco S.L. NV Oxford 1.970 Pedro Ximénez Sherry; $21, 94 points. An opaque brown color and massive raisin and fig aromas announce a supremely rich Sherry. Despite that initial impression, the palate is lively and fresh, with vivid chocolate and pepper flavors that suggest Mexican cocoa. It finishes smooth and well balanced for such a concentrated wine. Cordelina Wine Company. Editors’ Choice. —Michael Schachner
Domaine Bellegarde 2016 Cuvée Tradition (Jurançon); $19/375 ml, 92 points. Ripe, sweet late-harvest fruits are the secret behind this poised wine. It is perfumed, packed with exotic fruits, honey and a touch of lemon marmalade. Acidity shoots through the wine, so it is not cloying. Rather it is well balanced, fresh and sweet at the same time. Drink from 2019. JP Bourgeois. Editors’ Choice. —Roger Voss
Quady 2016 Essensia Orange Muscat (California); $25, 91 points. This powerful dessert wine offers heady aromas of orange peel, almonds and honey followed by sweet, vibrant and concentrated fruit and nut flavors. It’s full bodied, fully sweet but not sugary, and well balanced by acidity. —Jim Gordon
Schmitt Söhne 2015 Beerenauslese Riesling (Rheinhessen); $20/500 ml, 90 points. It’s rare to find a beerenauslese at prices like these and luckily, this bottling offers surprising bang for your buck. Dusty and earthen yet chock full of fragrant orange blossom and peach, it’s a creamy swirl of honey, fruit and mineral, with a lingering finish. Enjoy now through 2021. Schmitt-Söhne USA. —Anna Lee C. Iijima
Taylor Fladgate 2013 Late Bottle Vintage Port; $25, 89 points. The style of this LBV changes little. It is always a fruity, ready-to-drink Port, rich in black fruits and juicy acidity. It is perfumed, ripe, warming and lightly structured. It is ready to drink. Kobrand. —R.V.
- 1Sparkling Wine
- 2White Wine
- 3Red Wine
- 4Sweet Wine