Choose the Perfect Holiday Wine with the Zester Daily Wine Writers’ Top Picks of the Season

Zester Daily wine picks for the holiday season.Zester Daily wine picks for the holiday season.By Zester Daily staff

Faced with a holiday party or a big family Christmas dinner, most hosts struggle with which wine to serve. Our Zester Daily wine writers serve up their picks for the perfect wines to go with that big, complex holiday feast.

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When it comes to marrying the meal with wine, the holidays are never easy. A mashup of bitter and sweet, sour and salty, rich and richer, dishes of varying weights and textures are thrown together like the gaudiest of holiday wardrobes.

We can't think of a single wine that can get you from start to finish. But there is, we think, a single variety, which, in all its global variants, might be up to the task. A grape so versatile that it may serve as your go-to variety for the meal of all meals.

We are talking about grenache, one of the world's most ubiquitous varieties, inhabiting everything from the world's humblest peasant wines to some of its most profound, a wine that has not only several shades of red but also shines as a pink and a white.

Best of all, Grenache is quite literally a global phenomenon, a grape grown wherever enough sunshine and warmth allow full ripeness, which means not only it is ubiquitous, but it bears a range of flavors that can meet the mashup head-on.


Let us start with Rosé. Of all the red grapes employed to go pink, perhaps the most effortless conversion comes from Grenache. The variety produces Rosé wines that are fruity but not overbearing, bright and vivid, with an energy and charm that few other pink wines can match, and are sturdy enough to serve at the holiday feast.

Many of Spain's Rosados are made of all or part Grenache. An entire appellation in the southern Rhône, Tavel, devotes itself to Rosés made largely with Grenache, wines of a piercing maraschino red with bold, intense flavors that can make for an ideal accompaniment to a turkey leg. Closer to home, look for pink wines from Verdad and Beckmen, both Rosé specialists.


In the last decade, California had devoted hundreds of acres Grenache's white sibling, Grenache Blanc, owing in part to Tablas Creek's efforts in propagating Rhône varieties. It has adapted well, and may even be more expressive here than in France; here it retains more acidity than most other white Rhône varieties, gives lift to white blends and carries a lemony scent in the glass -- an ideal Thanksgiving aperitif. The Central Coast winery Tangent, I believe, produces the most in the state; Tercero winemaker Larry Schaffer may have the surest hand in the state with the variety.


Beaujolais is superbly versatile when it comes to food, which is why it's such a good pick for the holidays. Most meals will include usual mix of sweet, tart and savory tastes: cranberry sauce; rich chestnut and apple stuffing; sweet potatoes glazed with brown sugar and orange zest; fairly bland turkey meat; creamed onions with cheese topping; and more.

Because it has little tannin and no new oak, this delightfully fruity Beaujolais-Villages will bridge all these clashing flavors. Served slightly chilled, it will also perk up taste buds throughout the meal, which is much more important during a long Christmas dinner than most people realize.

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