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Red and white (wines) good for Christmas
By John H. Isacs

CHRISTMAS fever is already in the air and many of my friends in Shanghai have already started to plan their holiday merriment. The symbols and colors of Christmas are appearing in shop windows, especially the color white for snow and red for Santa. These color schemes are also quite appropriate when choosing your Christmas wines, and while gathering snowflakes in your glass may not be practical there’s no difficulty filling it with bubbles. Inspired by these enduring colors and symbols of Christmas, allow me to suggest some ideal holiday wines.

Red Christmas

Red is another quintessential Christmas color and red wines are another super way to celebrate the holiday. Whether it’s a large roasted turkey, goose or roast beef that adorns your table, picking an appropriate red wine will surely embellish your holiday cheer. These huge hunks of meat beg for an equally large and full-bodied red wine. Heavyweight reds that fit the bill include Left Bank Bordeaux wines, especially top wines from Saint-Estephe like Chateaux Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Calon-Segur, Lafon-Rochet and Cos Labory. Less expensive but still fine options from this appellation are Cru Bourgeois reds like Chateau Meyney. All these Saint Estephe reds will add flavor and texture dimensions to your meats while also facilitating digestion.

Other styles of big red wines that pair well with large roasts are Barolo reds from Italy and Tempranillo-based wines from northern Spain. If you’re in a New World spirit, then I recommend a substantial Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from a top producer like Joseph Phelps, Stag’s Leap Cellars or Robert Mondavi. Another great New World choice would be a robust Ausi Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Recommended producers include Peter Lehmann and Saltram.

White Christmas

The movie “White Christmas,” and like named song in the movie that’s sung by Bing Crosby, are still an important part of modern Christmas culture. In fact, according to Guinness World Records, “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby, is the most popular song of all time. Whether it’s the song or actual snow that gets you into the holiday spirit, choosing the right Christmas white wine will surely heighten your enjoyment.

If the white wine is enjoyed with appetizers, salads or seafood then an acidic Sauvignon Blanc will do quite nicely. With all their intensity and good acidity, its little surprise that well-made Sauvignon Blancs are among the most food-friendly of all wines. This is especially true with the light appetizers, seafood and salads many holiday meals feature before the main course. In a similar fashion to lemon, the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc wines awakens the freshness of seafood, accentuating the natural sweetness of shellfish and fish.

For lighter appetizers and mildly seasoned seafood I recommend an Old World Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume in the Loire Valley of France or from Rueda DO and Penedas DO in Spain. Domaine Fouassier and Pascal Jolivet are two fine producers of Sancerre and Pouilly wines while Marques de Riscal makes a wonderful Rueda Sauvignon Blanc.

More spicy or heavily flavored dishes are the domain of the more intense and fruity New World Sauvignon Blancs, especially those from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. About the only foods that definitely don’t go with a good Sauvignon Blanc wine are red meats and sweet desserts, so feel free to carry on drinking this white right through the turkey course.


Nothing in the wine world says celebration as beautifully as bubbles. Just like your holiday spirit, the tiny pearl-like strands of bubbles never go down, only up and up. Start off with a delightfully light and fruity Prosecco sparkler from northern Italy, then move on to more serious traditional method sparklers like Champagne and Franciacorta. The latter two styles of wines have the freshness, intensity and complexity to be enjoyed throughout the holiday meal. You may even consider a rose Champagne or Franciacorta if your holiday meal is meat centric. Some of my favorite Champagne producers are Bollinger, Piper-Heidsieck and Gosset while the exquisite sparklers of Bellavista are your best choice when choosing a Franciacorta.

Sherry Christmas

Why is Sherry perfect for Christmas? From the bone dry Manzanilla and Fino Sherries, to the rich deeply colored and flavored Oloroso to the off-sweet, sweet and super sweet progression of medium, cream and Pedro Ximenez Sherries, Sherry offers a solution for almost any occasion or food during the holiday season. Whatever you do or how you celebrate, there’s a Sherry for you. This smooth and generously flavored morning quencher is sure to get you Christmas Day off to a merry start.

Before your Christmas lunch or dinner try the quintessential aperitif, a dry Fino or Manzanilla. When the roasted turkey or goose or other substantial white meat fare arrives, I suggest a sophisticated Amontillado or robust Oloroso to augment and embellish the hearty roasted flavors. At the end of the meal, there’s no better way to savor holiday sweeties than with a glass of Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez Sherry. These sweet, dark amber-colored wines offer a combination of sweet fruit and a clean and refreshing finish. Not only will they make your dessert taste better but they’ll also nicely aid digestion of the weighty Christmas feast.

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