Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners aren’t complete without a few bottles of good wine. Saved the boxed stuff for a weeknight takeout dinner — the holidays are for celebrating, and this year is no different. There’s so much to be thankful for this year, and at the top of that list is certainly the end of 2020 as we know it. This Christmas is certainly not like the rest, so raise a glass to making it through this bizarre year and finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Before popping open a bottle, you have an important decision to make: what wine should you bring to Christmas dinner? Do you go with a nice, crisp white wine or a bigger, bolder red? Bubbles? An orange wine? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Check out our list for the best wines to take to a Christmas dinner even if this year’s meal is a little smaller and more socially distanced than ever before.
1865 Single Vineyard Chardonnay
Made by Viña San Pedro from grapes harvested in the Elqui Valley in Chile, this Chardonnay is anything but what you would expect from a California Chardonnay. You’ll not find those buttery notes; instead, your palate will be gifted with flavors and aromas of honey, papaya, and citrus. There’s a good bit of minerality and acidity, creating a full and lively wine.
Ayres Pinot Blanc
Located in Newberg, Oregon, Ayres Vineyard primarily produces Pinot Noir; however, the brand’s Pinot Blanc should not be ignored. Quite mineral and full of citrusy flavors, this wine is a crisp and refreshing pour should you need something with a little zest to it. Expect nice acidity to invigorate the palate.
Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc
Made by one of the premier winemakers in South Africa, this Sauvignon Blanc from Mulderbosch is a fresh and vibrant take on the wine. Lightly chalky, you’ll get plenty of lime and other citrus notes playing with figs, passionfruit, and more bright flavors. The structure of the wine is strong, allowing for a long and lingering finish.
Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
Just as wine another white wine on this list, Oregon’s Willamette Valley Vineyards primarily produces reds, but this Pinot Gris is another example of a winery doing a great job producing a varietal outside its comfort zone. Peach and honeysuckle are the primary flavors in this bottle, with melon and citrus playing backup. You’ll find some more orchard fruits on the palate before the clean, crisp finish.
Cantine Colosi 2018 Grillo Sicilia
This standout Sicilian white has texture, length, a touch of salty ocean water. It’ll do excellently alongside a turkey or ham and have you eager to explore the many great wines of this southern Italian region and its many tasty indigenous grape varieties. If you’re going to chill it, just 20 or 30 minutes in the fridge is more than enough (although we prefer it room temperature). You don’t want to rob this bad boy of its vast aromatics and plurality of flavors. It’s zippy, herbaceous, floral, and more.
Spoken Barrel Meritage Red Blend
Rich and complex with an almost black body, this 2015 red blend from Washington state’s Spoken Barrel is a great option for those looking for bolder flavors in a red. You’ll find dark fruits such as blueberries mixing with leathery notes, some oak, cocoa, and even a little smoke. A good tannic presence helps to enliven the palate.
Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal
Made from 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier grapes, this wine from E. Guigal is a great example of red grapes and white grapes working in harmony. In the case of this wine, the Syrah is obviously the main component, with red berries, spice, and oak all very much at the front of the senses. These are tempered by low levels of acidity and tannin, creating a balanced wine that is ready for long periods of aging.
Lasorda Cabernet Sauvignon
Like baseball, but know nothing about wine? Go for this one. Founded by Tommy Lasorda, Lasorda Family Wines are meant to be representations of his spirit and love of baseball. You’ll find loads of currant, raspberry, and dark chocolate on the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon, with many of those flavors following through into the palate and mixing with oak and boysenberry.
Etude Temblor Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
Made from grapes harvested specifically from the Temblor Vineyard located in the Etude Estates Vineyards, Grace Benoist Ranch, this Pinot Noir is a limited edition in that just 303 cases were produced. A highly aromatic wine, you’ll find plenty of raspberry and cherry notes on the nose mixing with cinnamon and vanilla. On the palate, you’ll be greeted by a deluge of fruit flavor and nice acidity.
Early Mountain Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Franc
As the name suggests, this red wine is made in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, about 90 miles southwest of Washington D.C. While Cabernet Franc is typically used for blending (with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) in Bordeaux and elsewhere, on its own, it exhibits a richness that is easily drinkable. Made more in the Burgundian style, Early Mountain’s Cab Franc is silky smooth with great herbal notes and a fairly light body.
Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%), this wine is part of the Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) family’s Légende line, which emphasizes easy drinking. Dark in color and rich in flavor, you’ll find dark berries, vanilla, and cinnamon on a very silky body. A long, spicy finish ends each sip of what is a very rounded wine.
Charles Smith Wines The Velvet Devil Merlot
Made in response to the movie Sideways (and the subsequent backlash against Merlots), this wine from Charles Smith is made with 89% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Malbec. Produced in Washington State, Velvet Devil is indeed velvety on the palate, with a bounty of dark fruits playing against notes of cedar and tobacco.
Malbec and North Carolina don’t necessarily go hand in hand but this small-batch offering from Biltmore is trying to change that. A bit lighter and brighter than what’s typical from the varietal, this wine has the acid and accessibility to do well with all kinds of holiday entrees. Argentina may remain Malbec territory but it’s nice to know it does well in various pockets along the American wine map.
Poliziano Lohsa 2018 Morellino di Scansano
Sangiovese can be really playful, like this one from Tuscany. The grape, which loosely translates to “the blood of Jupiter,” is mainly known for its savory characteristics and huge popularity in Italy, especially in the form of Chianti. This one, though, shows plenty of vibrant fruit to balance out a bit of forest floor and pepper.
Hamel Family Wines 2016 Hamel Family Ranch
Christmas is an ideal time for a robust and more showy wine, like this outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma. It’s a little more expensive (not to mention high-octane at 16% ABV), but there are many rewards to be had in the glass, from a velvety texture to deep flavors of licorice, blackberry, and sandalwood. It has the muscle to stand up to anything on your plate but is also plenty polished to enjoy on its own.
With Zweigelt, Austria’s most-planted red, there’s a lot to love. Best perhaps is that it’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser of a wine, with intoxicating cherry notes and an unctuous makeup. This one is will please all palates, from those just getting into wine to seasoned veterans looking for something a little different, from a relatively small European wine nation that’s always done pretty big things.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée Brut
Esteemed English sparkling house Nyetimber is putting the U.K. bubbles scene on the global wine map. Global warming is making it possible to grow — and grow well — Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and more in southern England. It’s not great for the planet but its good news for the sparkling wine fan looking for what might be the next Champagne region. This flagship wine is outstanding and a great intro to the solid brand. Finally, you can drink some quality wine from the land of Dickens as you watch A Christmas Carol.
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