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The Wine Geeks' Guide to the Christmas Season

The Wine Geeks' Guide to the Christmas Season

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Ah, the joys of the holiday season: lavish meals, fancy sweaters, Yankee swaps, and holiday parties. Yes, the vino doth flow this time of year, making it a great time to get your geek on and try some unique juice. But how to do you pick the right wine for your holiday celebration?

Here are some wine tips for the holidays for both the safe and adventurous party planner:

Acidity is the magic ingredient:
It makes your mouth water — literally. That makes you hungrier (a must on this, the most gluttonous of holidays). It also cuts through the richest of dishes and complements tart courses, like salads. In short, wine is the best party guest at the table.

Size matters:
Yep, sorry but it is true. Delicate dishes cry out for out light wines. Meatier, more powerful, robust offerings need a wine equally strong. Don't believe us? Think of having a delicate white fish dish with a robust, tannic red. The citrus in the fish makes the wine tastes bitter, and the raw power of the wine overpowers the finesse of the food — tragic.

Matchy Matchy:
Very simply, pick a flavor component in the dish and match it to the wine. Seems evident, but it's absolutely effective! Serving stuffed green peppers? Try a similarly green wine like a vinho verde or a grüner veltliner. Got some smoky spicy Andouille sausage in that stuffing? Break out the syrahs!

Drink what you like:
The bottom line is that if you enjoy both the food being served and the wine being poured, you will enjoy the combination. Only a handful of pairings are truly disastrous (think orange juice and toothpaste).

Now that you have the basics, here are some red, white, and sparkling suggestions for your festivities.


Safe Bet
Prosecco: The slightest kiss of off dry peachy sweetness, paired with a soft refreshing bubble make this baby a dynamite selection.

Geek Alternative
Cremant de Bourgogne: Rich, bright bubbles made in champagne style from nearby Burgundy without the price tag.


Safe Bet
Chardonnay: Both oaked and unoaked chardonnays are classic choices for the holiday table. The unoaked is crisp, clean, and smooth, offering a little something for everyone. The oaked versions have the richness to stand up to the decadence that is a pre-requisite for dishes at this time of year.

Riesling: Dry and off dry riesling possess all of the acidity to cut through the richest of foods. Plus, low alcohol means that guests can drink them all day long without fear of reprisal (at least too much).

Geek Alternative
Northern Italian Whites: Friulano, kerner, gavi, arneis are awesome under-sung gems year round. What makes them really shine are their mineral rich, medium-to-full bodies and high acidity flavor. Dynamite for any gathering.
Gewürztraminer: The darker, exotic sister to lean, pure riesling. It has a warm, spicy bouquet brimming with tropical fruit, sandalwood, rose hips, and jasmine, while the palate is rich and unctuous. The complexity offers a refreshing contrast to everything from appetizers through mains.


Safe Bet
Pinot Noir: Tried and true, pinot noir is a great "go to" for the holidays. Burgundian and Oregonian pinot pairs perfectly with white meat, the gamier flavors make it perfect with roast beast, and the bright red fruit and high acidity hold its own with. Californian pinots do all of the above but offer a richer flavor profile to boot, making it a crowd-pleaser.

Syrah: Notice that we said syrah, not shiraz. We do love gob-smackingly fruit-forward luscious shirazs and zins, and yes they can more than hold their own with the richest of holiday dishes. However, it almost feels like too much of a good thing. For a more full-bodied holiday red, try a smoky, spicy syrah, preferably from the Northern Rhone or Central Coast.

Geek Alternative
Beaujolais: Released in November each year, Beaujolais Nouveau is light, fruity, and positively gulp-able. However, the real treat is Cru Beaujolais. At a slight premium, it offers amazing depth of flavor, yet it remains light and fruity, with loads of that great acidity we talked about earlier. It plays nicely with everything you can think of on the holiday table.
Cabernet Franc: Although it does not get nearly as much press as its Bordelaise brethren cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this variety kills it in both the Old and New World. In the Loire valley it is used to produce the red wines of Chinon and Bourgueil. Although light- to medium-bodied, these wines have scads of berry fruit, a nervy acidity, and almost plush velvety tannins on the palate.

--Aimme Ullman

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Once the warm weather hits, you'll definitely want to be doing a little drinking on your porch. Keep the bugs away from your precious wine with this genius cover.


It’s increasingly a topic of debate whether to source from feather or field to adorn the table, but whatever you opt for, ensure you have the perfect bottles to sit alongside. One of the great attributes of traditional Christmas birds – be it turkey, goose or game – is that it’s eminently possible to serve them with both a red and a white wine.

Light, crunchy-fruited red wines such as the lighter Beaujolais Cru (Fleurie, Chiroubles) packed with juicy red cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry, often with some lovely, sweet-spice are a discerning choice. Wines made from old-vine fruit are packed with complexity try Domaine des Marrans’ Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes for a superb example of this incredibly attractive style. Serving wine from magnum only enhances the enjoyment, so the fact that Julien Sunier’s Fleurie from Berry Bros and Rudd comes in this format is marvellous.


A rich textural white is needed, with a racy backbone of acidity to slice through a concentrated jus. Mindful organic producer Francois Mikulski ticks both boxes with his Mersault ‘Les Tillets’, packed with dried orchard fruit, candied and bitter orange, it’s wonderfully concentrated.

This fantastically rich bird has dense, dark meat, brimming with flavour and melt-in-the-mouth fat. Look for a juicy red with primary fruit taking the lead. Seek out a Zweigelt such Allram Villa Strass, hailing from Austria where, fittingly, goose is consumed annually at the feast of Saint Martin the patron Saint of Winemakers.

The concentration of lychee and sweet aromatic spices packed intoDomaine Trapet’s Beblenheim Gewurztraminer adds fragrant lift to the unctuous juices from the meat.

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Game birds (partridge, pheasant, grouse)
A perfect option for a smaller feast with fewer people around the table. Pick a bottle with earthy, umami richness with a lift of florality to intertwine with game. Wines of the Côte de Beaune offer just this. Corney and Barrow stock a sublime option from biodynamic producer Michel Lafarge, Beaune Clos des Aigrots 1er Cru Domaine 2017, which has a stony mineral texture and a fine tensioned acid structure.


The most glittering events to look forward to this month


From turkey to sprouts, and mince pies to party puddings – whatever festive feast you're cooking this Christmas, eat, drink and be merry with all our festive recipes.

Christmas recipes

Make a stunning dinner for a crowd, delicious party canapés for every diet, festive desserts and much more with our best ever Christmas recipes.

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Crumbly mince pies, iced cakes and traditional festive breads like stollen and panettone – find all your favourite Christmas cakes and bakes here.

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  1. Early in the morning when the dew is on the flowers, pick one gallon of perfect, open dandelion blossoms.
  2. Put the flowers in a two gallon or larger open crock and pour boiling water over them. Cover the crock with cheesecloth and let it sit at room temperature for three days. Then squeeze all the juice outta the flowers, throw them away and save the liquid.
  3. Put the liquid into a big pot and add:
    • 3 lbs. sugar (we used brown raw sugar for healthiness but next time we'll try honey for healthierness. The nice lady used white (ugh) sugar.)
    • 3 or 4 lemons, juice, skin, seeds, etc., all chopped up.
    • 3 or 4 oranges, chopped
  4. Boil mixture for 30 minutes with top on pot, cool to lukewarm, pour into crock and add 1 1/2 or 2 packages or tablespoons of yeast. Cover with cheesecloth and let brew sit for two or three weeks 'til the bubbling stops and — whammy!

My grandfather made dandelion wine every season when I was a child. All of us children would go out and pick the dandelions for him. This is old school method, you don't need all kinds of fancy contraptions to make wine at home for it to be "safe". You do realize people have been doing this since the beginning of time, long before amazon.

I have used this one particular recipe since 1976. Yes, I used Red Star Bread Yeast for years, now I use Champagne yeast. This is really a great first time wine project and well worth the effort!! I even double-batch it. Nothing "fly by the seat of your pants" about it, just stick to the recipe, and good "house-wifery" does the rest.

i wished everyone would just get along eh?

really bread yeast. wine yeast is like .65 cents step it us people.

this is a flying by the seat of your pants method of "wine" making and boarders on unsafe. if your interested in making any fermented beverage a little education goes a long way. Also there is nothing unhealthy about brewing with white sugar yours not consuming it! your yeast is!

i just made this wine recipe to the t. after 3 days i had mold on the top. threw it all away. what a loss,time,ingredients etc. hope others had better luck than what i exp. i guess i should have gone w/my 1st reaction to this recipe. it was just way toooo easy,to come out right. those thoughts were exactly right,after 3 days and all the work etc.

How many open dandelion blossoms should be used? Should they fill a 2 gallon container? And exactly how much water? Would it be enough to just cover the blossoms? I appreciate any input on this, thank you.

I would say with that recipe only 1-2 tsp instead of tbs.

we always just use the active dry yeast. our wines always turn out fine. just usually use the lesser amount.

i'm fixin to make this wine and was wondering if these folks used specific wine yeast or just regular dry active yeast for making bread?

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Where to start with one of the most diverse and head-scratching assortments of wine across the globe.

Holiday Gift Guide

These gifts are even better than their favorite bottle of fancy red.

Gifts for Mom

She's filled your holidays with joy since childhood. Now return the favor.

Personalized Gifts

Get your favorite cook something made just for them.

Stocking Stuffers Under $10

These little gifts will be the star of any holiday celebration.

Gifts for the Person Who Takes Their Pantry Very Seriously

These stocking stuffers are ideal for anyone who cares deeply about what's on their kitchen shelves.

Oprah’s Favorite Food Gifts

This year's list celebrates Black-owned businesses from every culinary corner of the country.

Tasty Stack: The season’s best wine, food and drink books.

The Essential Bar Book by Jennifer Fiedler: This A-to-Z guide to mixology features 115 recipes for the world’s most iconic drinks.
Back Lane Wineries, Napa and Sonoma by Tilar Mazzeo: The second edition of these guides explore to the regions’ must-visit smaller wineries.
Meet Paris Oyster by Mireille Guiliano: An exploration of the French love affair with the luxurious bivalve.
Slices of Life by Leah Eskin: Eskin’s recipes for real-life situations, from last-minute guests to a return from the emergency room.
Storied Sips by Erica Duecy: The recipes and stories behind your favorite cocktails.
The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler: The ultimate cocktail technique manual.
Barolo and Barbaresco by Kerin O’Keefe: Wine Enthusiast’s Italian Editor traces the history and the people behind these two marquee Italian wines.
American Spirit by James Rodewald: An exhaustive look at the craft distilling revolution.
Madeira by Alex Liddell: The rich history of the Portuguese fortified wine and its namesake islands.
Wines of California by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen: Wine Enthusiast’s Lifestyle & Entertaining Editors have created a comprehensive guide to this exciting and ever-changing region—from the history and geography to the current trends and new crop of winemakers to watch.
The Exes In My Ipod by Lisa M. Mattson: A tantalizing and cheeky memoir on how love and loss led Mattson to a fulfilling life in wine country, this book is the Eat, Pray, Love of the wine world.
Vegan Holiday Cooking by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda: A diverse collection of plant-based fare just in time for the holidays.
A Mouthful of Stars by Kim Sunée: In this touching memoir and cookbook, Sunée explores how she came to discover her favorite dishes.
Fruitful by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck: Fresh fruit recipes for every season.
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly: New edition of the very-readable textbook on wine basics.
The Beer Book by DK Publishing: A guide to the best brews on the planet right now.
Sunday Suppers by Karen Mordecai: The creator of the popular and oft-imitated Brooklyn-based Sunday Suppers dinner series on how to create a community at the table with understated style.
The Vietnamese Market Cookbook by Van Tran and Anh Vu: An indepth look at the vibrant flavors and recipes of Vietnam.
Flour + Water by Thomas McNaughton: The homemade pasta recipe bible.
Honey by Hattie Ellis: An authoritative guide to the earthy sweet treat, complete with 80 recipes.
Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura: A recipe-and-technique-filled autobiography from Osteria Francescana’s famous chef, Massimo Bottura.
Marcus Off Duty by Marcus Samuelsson: What the Harlem-based chef and TV star loves to cook at home.
World’s Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw: An in-depth look at more than 500 international artisan and commercial cider makers.

Wines to Serve With Prime Rib

Prime rib makes a serious play for a variety of red wines. A big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon from California, a playful Lodi Zinfandel, a rustic Tempranillo from Spain, a refined red from Bordeaux, a Barbaresco or Barolo from Italy—all of these varietals can mix and mingle with a slice of prime rib and bring out subtle nuances in the pairing depending on the regional roots. White wines will have a tough time keeping up, but if you are hard-pressed and must venture to the white grapes, try a full-throttle White Burgundy (Chardonnay) to keep pace with the rich textures and greater ratios of protein and fat.

  • Red wines to pair with prime rib: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Carmenere, Malbec, Merlot, Bordeaux blends, Rhone Valley blends, Barolo, Barbaresco
  • Whites for prime rib: Typically, white wines have a difficult time holding up to the bold flavors found in red meats, so while it is possible to enjoy white wines with red meats, it may be challenging to find a perfect match.

Related Video

This recipe came out awesome! I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter. However, I did add fresh thyme to the red wine reduction, and sauteed some white mushrooms with the shallots, as well. Served with julienned carrots and string beans and twice-baked potatoes.

This recipe came out awesome! I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter. However, I did add fresh thyme to the red wine reduction, and sauteed some white mushrooms with the shallots, as well. Served with julienned carrots and string beans and twice-baked potatoes.

This is my absolute favorite recipe for those special dinner for two occasions. I pair it with steamed asparagus and my Savory Potato Bites: using 2 c. leftover mashed potatoes, add 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 c. shredded cheddar, 1/4 c. bacon bits (3 slices crumbled) 1/2 c. scallions /chives, finely chopped and salt & pepper as desired. Mix all of the above together and form into balls. Dip balls in 1 beaten egg, then roll in 1 cup Italian bread crumbs mixed with 1/4 c parmesan cheese. Fry in preheated oil for about 2 min. Until golden brown.

I added fresh thyme and sliced portibello mushrooms to the shallots. This recipe is a 10!

I prepared the meat exactly as specified in the recipe, and it was terrific. Will be making this again over Christmas holidays!

We love this recipe, although this time I'm adding tarragon as another chateau recipe called for. Serving with duchess potatoes from another site ( and peas. I am cooking it in a separate roaster in the oven this time, too, since like a few other reviewer I severely burned my hand the last time because I, too, grabbed the handle to saute the shallots, forgetting that it had been in the oven. Keep meaning to get one of those silicon sleeves for my pans, but haven't yet so better safe than sorry.

I've made it over 4 times and everyone loves it! Served it with haricot vert and Sweet potatoes with scallion butter. Read More

I love the recipe. I did add mushrooms with the shallots and herbes de provence that i purchased in france and a pinch of sea salt to the saute process. The HDP was the perfect addition. ps.. they make a little potholder that slips directly on the handle of the skillet.. I purchased this after grabbing a hot handle a few years ago.

We made this in the oven the first time, and it was great, however, since then we have made it on the bbq, with the sauce on the side. We actually prefer it on the grill, because of the issue of smoke coming from the oven, and the sauce doesn't seem to suffer from the lack of fat from browning the meat. It's a great "surf and turf" with Grilled Oregano Shrimp.

good..but I improvised with demi glaze and did not use red wine but finished it tableside ..flambed brandy..very nice

Followed the recipe exactly. I gave it three forks because I'm hoping someone will play around with it to help give input as to what's missing. It's good, but it's not great. Needs an herb maybe. The flavor isn't quite there. Might try it with sauteed garlic and fresh thyme added to everything else next time. Iɽ make it again though with some tweaking.

the best recepie ever! My husband loves this. I made it for him on our first valentines day. Remember to be careful that the pan stays hot for a long time and that it is super easy to burn yourself (I have done it several times).. this recepie is amazing and anyone who appreciates good beef will LOVE it. I am making it again tonight with smaller cuts of beef to celebrate the elections!!

please let me just say this is my husbands favi=orite dish. I made it for him for our first valentines day and BE CAREFUL I burned the **** out of my hand because I forgot the pan had been in the oven**** he has asked me to make it several times again for him. I am making it tonight to celebrate the new election.

Watch the video: The Wine Societys Christmas Quiz (August 2022).