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Pairing a Classic Christmas Dinner

Fri, Dec 02, 22

With Christmas right around the corner, we would like to help you as you plan your holiday meals. Whether your main course is Ham, Turkey, Steak, or Fish, we have a perfect wine that will pair beautifully with your food and the holiday mood. 

To ensure we give each wine fair attention, we’re dividing our suggestions between whites and reds based on what main dishes you’re making.

All things white wine!

We would be remiss if we did not mention one of our owners’ favorite traditions of a multi-course fish meal for Christmas Eve. Each year, in traditional Italian fashion, each family member cooks a fish dish to share. This year the 7 courses will include fresh raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, pan-seared scallops, fresh crab cocktail, lemon citrus salmon, lobster ravioli, and pesto sea bass. Naturally, there will be plenty of white wine options for each dish – perhaps even some reds!

Now, we all know white wine generally pairs well with fish and light meats. So this post will dive into the best white wines for those options. A general rule of thumb is to pair heavy foods with acidic wines and lighter foods with more mild smooth wines. Both combinations give a more rounded experience on your palate as the flavors contrast with each other. 

With this little bit of knowledge, let’s dive right into the types of dishes!


Fish Dishes

With Cream Sauces: If you are preparing a heavier fish dish that involves cream with other hearty spices and flavors, you will want to pick wines that are fresh and vibrant. This will help magnify the heartiness of the meal dish. Noting shows this better than the following wines:

2018 Kellerei Kaltern Pinot Blanc Vial (available at all three stores) $19.99

2018 Saint Michael Eppan Weisburgunder Pinot Bianco (available at McLean only) $18.99

Fishy Fishes: There are some fish dishes where you want the fish and the flavor to shine through. A few of these would be your salmons, shellfish, and the extremely polarizing fish like anchovies! We know there are multiple types of fish you could make so for this article we stick with some of the most common and the best wines to help bring out their wonderful flavors. 

Mussels! Who doesn’t love a big bowl of mussels in white wine sauce? It is probably one of our favorites and so naturally we select wines that hold up perfectly next to the intense, briney flavors of mussels: Albarino. The richness of the shellfish and the brightness of the wine is critical here. So we recommend Nortico Alvarinho Vinyo Refion Minho for $12.99 or Palacio Fefinanes Albarino Rias Baixas for $18.99.

Shrimp cocktail – you want a light and refreshing white that almost adds a hint of fresh spritz or lemon juice flavor to your crisp shellfish. Hugl Weine Gruner Veltliner at Vienna for $9.99 or Kysela Picpoul de Pinet at McLean and Great Falls for $7.99.

Pan-seared Scallops – If you’re an average cook, you’ll know that while we all love a good scallop dish we are usually nervous to try to recreate these at home. For any of you brave super chefs who are comfortable pan-searing your own scallops, this pairing is for you! The best choice of wine for a classic butter and parmesan seared scallop dish is a dry white like 2018 Domaine Manuel Olivier Aligote VV or 2017 EOD Cellars Det Cord White both for $21.99.

Classic Salmon – these recommendations can vary slightly depending on how you dress your salmon and what the recipes contain. However, if you’re looking for a wine that can handle the sauces and seasonings typically used with Salmon, you will want a Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc. A very light pinot noir can also be a good substitute for anyone who is not a fan of white wines. However, these full-body whites with a smooth and rich texture pair perfectly with Salmon’s fatty nature. 

Domaine Pigeonnier Montlouis Sec for $13.99 (at all stores)

2018 Unorthodox Chenin Blanc for $13.99 (at McLean)

Essay Chenin Blanc for $9.99 (at Great Falls)

Riebeek Cellars 15 Chenin Blanc for $6.99 (at Vienna)

If you gravitate towards fresh herbs or citrus flavors in your salmon recipes, you’ll want to lean more towards a Sauvignon Blanc because these wines have a minerality that complements citrus flavors well. Mokoroa Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent option as is Elizabeth Spencer’s both of which net out at $13.99.

Anchovies or sardines or herring are your most intensely fishy fish. These are for the fewer brave souls who truly love that bitter, briney, salty taste. For these types of fish, your best white wine is going to be a powerhouse that holds its own and complements the intense flavors like Champagnes, Cavas, Cremants or even a dry rose. Here are some excellent options for that: 

NV Portell Cava Brut for $10.99

Henri Dosnon Collection at each store for various prices (includes Champagnes and Rose)

NV Domaine Deliance Cremant de Bourgogne Brut for $18.99 (at McLean and Great Falls)

Light white fish: When we think of these we think sea bass, orange roughy, tilapia, to name a few. For these dishes, a medium-bodied white wine with higher aromatics will bring out the more subtle flavors of some of these lighter fishes. Pairing a light Sauvignon Blanc like the Mokoroa Sauv Blanc from New Zealand (can you tell yet that we love this wine made by the amazing Judy Fowler?!) or a dry riesling like Josef Bauer, is your best bet (both which we can offer at $13.99!) 


Light Meat Dishes

Turkey: If you haven’t yet read our post from Thanksgiving on what to pair with turkey and this is your dish of choice for Christmas, we highly recommend giving this earlier post a read. A few of the best options we carry are more acid driven Chardonnay’s like the 2018 Domaine Alain Geoffory Petit Chablis at $18.99 or any of the Rivers Marie Chardonnays that we are lucky enough to carry exclusively in Virginia. If you are a sparkly person who loves a good sparkling with all meals, we recommend pairing the Henri Dosnon Brut Sélection at $39.99 which we just received in a little over a week ago! 

Ham: For everyone in the Ham camp, you know more than anyone else that to call Ham a “savory” dish would be a gross understatement. You need to balance that salinity with something that not only has refreshing acidity, but more importantly both a burst of fruit, and a pinch of sweet. While you can just as easily pair this with a red and be happy, Christmas is a holiday for specific white wines. Oaky Chardonnay will get drowned out in the meal because there is already an overload of textures, fats, proteins, and spices. So you want to choose something to stand up to it, and the following is but a sample of what should be brought to the table:

2017 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett (Vienna and McLean only), $21.99

2016 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Spatlese (Vienna and McLean only), $29.99

Steininger Loisium Gruner Veltliner Reserve (Vienna and McLean only), $16.99

2017 Lumos Pinot Gris “Rudolfo Logsdon” Ridge Vineyard (Great Falls only), $15.99


Red wine Selections! 

While Christmas is a holiday for specific white wines, you may just want a red, and that is okay! As the heartier and heavier foods come out with the colder weather, sometimes an elegant red wine is exactly what you need to complete the meal. Afterall, sitting by the fire with a glass of red, recalling stories from years past is endearing is somewhat of an expectation in some homes. 

So let’s dive right in and talk about what red wines to pair with darker meats like ham and steak. 


Ham Dish

Ham as the main course is a salty option, so there are certain wines that pair best with it to complement and cut that strong salinity. You will want to look for something that isn’t too full-bodied. Generally, selecting a medium-bodied varietal will provide an excellent match. Think Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, and spicy blends. They are full of flavor and big enough in body to compliment the show, not steal it. When it comes to wines like this, we have a lot to choose from! We recommend looking at this list and then select your choice based on what varietals you typically enjoy most. 

2010 La Antigua Tinto Reserva Rioja (at all stores) $21.99

2017 Paydirt Zinfandel Blend “Going for Broke” (at all stores) $19.99

2019 Domaine De La Noblaie Chinon Le Temps De Cerises (at all stores) $19.99

2018 Roots “Crosshairs Cuvee” Pinot Noir (at all stores) $19.99

2018 Torremoron Tempranillo Ribera del Duero (at McLean only) $11.99

2016 Nozzole Chianti Classico (at Vienna only) $17.99

2018 Fontalpino Chianti Classico (at Vienna and Great Falls only) $18.99

2018 Populis Red Blend “Wasi-Sabi” (at Great Falls only) $18.99

2018 Château Festiano Minervois “Cuvee des Foudres” (at Great Falls and McLean only) $11.99


Steak Dish

One of the classic Christmas steak dishes is Beef Wellington. There are not that many dishes better than a good Wellington when you are looking for hearty food that can stand up strongly next to a bold red wine. In a Beef Wellington, you get Beef, Mushrooms, Dijon, and Serrano Ham. Actually, everything but the beef and the mushrooms are available at every Wine Outlet! Use the links to see the foods we carry. So what are some excellent bold reds that can hold their own next to this BOLD dish? Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrahs to start.

2017 Jax Cabernet Franc (at all stores) $55.99 (this wine deserves an extra shout out because it is SO amazing!)

2018 Band of Vintners “Consortium” Cabernet  Sauvignon (at Great Falls and McLean only) $27.99

2017 Domaine Curry Cabernet  Sauvignon (at Vienna only) $99.99 this is on the pricier side, but for good reason. This wine is a statement wine and will have everyone around the table stunned by how it brings out the individual flavors of a steak. 

2008 Terre Rouge DTR Ranch Syrah (at McLean only) $39.99

If you have any specific questions about dishes and what to pair, please reach out directly to speak with any of our wine experts. They are available during store hours at all 3 locations.