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Picking the perfect wine pairings for the holidays

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Confession time: I don’t know much about wine. I know it makes a meal that much better, and I know Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is a meal… so it stands to reason that wine with a holiday dinner is  a very good thing! But what’s a wine novice like me to do?

I was lucky enough to be able to go straight to the experts at Winc, who were kind enough to give me the wine advice I need to be the hostess with the mostess this year!

Q: Help! I’m a wine novice and don’t know where to begin with my holiday wine pairings. What’s the first step?

A: The most helpful thing to know about pairing is this: great pairings happen when the flavors and body in the food and wine are either very much alike or very different.

For example, a sweet, light white is the perfect compliment to a conversely spicy dish, while a buttery chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment to a similarly oily, textured piece of fish like salmon, lobster or halibut.

Another key thing to remember is this: A great pairing isn’t great if no one touches it! If you’re serving a table of red-only drinkers and you know your dish is best suited to a white, try a light red or rosé instead.

Q: I’m going traditional this year and serving turkey with all the fixings, but I don’t want to go overboard on wines. Is there a one (or two!) size-fits-all option?

Wines on a shelf
Photo credit: Tomasz Zajda/Getty Images

Overboard on wine? We don’t think there is such a thing!

Go with something in between light and full-bodied — something like Pinot Noir. Not too big and bold but still substantial, it will be a safe bet for pairing. Pinot Noir will also go great with the turkey, and won’t dominate dishes like mashed potatoes or vegetables.

Different dishes will pull out different flavors in the wine, which is a good thing! If you can go with one white and one red, the classic duo (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) would be perfect.

Q: What is the most common wine mistake that people make, and how can I avoid it?

Trying too hard! Keep it casual and cool… everyone’s in the same boat, and just wants to be with family and friends, enjoying themselves at Thanksgiving. Don’t overthink it, or stress too much about presentation, or who’s got what wine.

We recommend opening all of the bottles before your guests arrive so that you’re not in a hurry when it’s time to pull the cork. This will also leave less chance for broken corks and jagged capsules. Place all of the bottles on the dinner table so that guests can grab as they wish and taste different wines if they please.

Q: Nothing goes better with pumpkin pie than whipped cream … and wine, of course! What’s your favorite dessert wine for the holidays?

There are many different ways you could go here… but for the holidays, I’d go with a fairly light, off-dry white. After all of the feasting and everyone is totally stuffed, I can’t imagine wanting something too weighty like a Port.

A light and refreshing yet sweet white like Riesling would be the perfect compliment to pumpkin pie, and won’t be too voluptuous or filling.

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