Wine Dinner Paring Guide

It’s that time of year again! Time to organize a petite get-together to celebrate love and life and, of course, eat some exquisite food and drink some luscious wine!

One of our most asked questions lately has been, how do you pair food and wine?

The goal of pairing wine and food is to make the combination greater than the sum of its parts. The wine complements the food and vice versa and together they lift one another into a memorable experience. You know a food and wine pairing is magical when you raise your eyebrow and say “WOW.”

Today, our expert Sommeliers are sharing some tips and tricks on how to perfectly pair and enhance your holiday meals.

What Wines Go With Each Dinner Course?

  1. Champagne and sparkling wines are often meant to start the meal off with a toast! After all, the holidays are for celebrating! Champagne and sparkling wines also pair well with small appetizers and light charcuterie before you sit down for dinner. So pop some bottles because we are celebrating life!
  2. White Wines will pair better with lighter dishes. We recommend starting with a dry, off-dry, or even sweet white wine to pair with salads, cheeses, soups, and seafood.
  3. Red Wines typically go better with full flavored meats. We recommend serving a few different reds ranging from lighter (Pinot Noir) to bolder (Cabernet Sauvignon) throughout the meal. It is MAGNIFIQUE!
  4. Sweet wines are typically served at the end of the meal. These wines paired perfectly with desserts. Sweet + Sweet = Harmony in the mouth.

As we were putting this guide together, we thought it would be best to go through each course and explain each wine and food sequence. Follow this guide to make it a dinner worth remembering. With this information, you’re sure to impress your guests with you savvy food and wine pairings this holiday season.

So let’s dig in.

#1 Champagne & Raising a Glass to Friends and Family

All proper celebrations kick off with a toast. Tis’ the season to be festive! Sparkling wine or Champagne are the perfect matches for hors d’oeuvres, finger foods, starters, and light appetizers.

You will want something brilliant to get the evening started. For most occasions, you’ll want to select a sparkling wine that’s on the dryer side. 

Champagne is often the star of the show. If you want to further indulge your guests, search for vintage champagne and tete de cuvees from top champagne houses. If you like more sweet-styled sparkling wines, look for a Moscato d’Asti, Bugey de Cerdon, or a wine labeled demi-sec.

If you’re looking to serve a larger group and save some money, look for ProseccoCava, or Cremant.

Click Here to find the best Sparkling Wines to toast with! 

#2 Holiday White Wine + Starters + Appetizers + Soups + Salads

Post toast, it’s time to sit down and fill your plates. The moment we have all been waiting for. As a rule of thumb, we recommend starting with a white to pair with a light salad or soup. Lighter foods pair well with lighter wines. Medium-bodied wines pair well with medium-weight foods, etc.

When thinking about the weight of foods, think about milk. Skim milk has very lightweight in the mouth and is akin to light-bodied foods and light-bodied wines (think Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc). 2% milk has a more mouth-coating feeling and is akin to medium-bodied foods and medium-bodied wines (Grenache BlancVerdicchio). Whole milk is much more dense and weighty in the mouth and will pair well with heavier-bodied foods and wines (oaky Chardonnay).

Commonly, guests will be served soup first and then a salad after to cleanse the palate before the rest of the dinner. 

Wine dinners love to feature a soup that pairs with chilled white wine. You'll want a white wine with delicate flavors to come with a kick of acidity to cut through the soup. Go with a crisp light-bodied Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, or a lightly oaked Chardonnay.


Chardonnay is a perfect match for creamy soups or flavorful/sweet salad. Chardonnay tends to have a lot of oak and buttery notes. It can be trusted to stand up against bolder flavors in food when other white wines might not accept the challenge.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, light, and acidic wine that pairs well with lighter foods while also still having a lot of flavors. The name Sauvignon Blanc means “Wild White” and it sure does provide a wild ride! Pairing it with a light vinaigrette or green leafy salads will send your taste buds to paradise.

Other White Wines

The wines that generally pair best with soup are crisp dry whites with some energy and tenacity. Dry Riesling is a particularly good option because it is aromatic and one of the most food-friendly wines. In fact, Riesling is one of the most versatile wines and marries well with many foods.

Shop other White Wines Collection, Click Here!

Whatever white wine you choose, you can’t go wrong if it’s delicious and everyone is smiling.

#3 Holiday Wine Pairing with the Main Entrée

Red Wines Remain King of the Dinner Table

There’s nothing like a smooth glass of red with a feast. For this, there are innumerable options to choose from. Keep it simple stupid and pick what you or your guests prefer. For the holidays there are a few go-to’s like Pinot NoirCabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux blend (Merlot, Cabernet Franc), or Zinfandel.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a versatile red that tends to be more fruit-forward. Pinot Noir pairs particularly well with duck, salmon, chicken, cream sauces, and mushrooms. This Burgundian king has every right to be next to your main course.

Click Here for our curated selections of Pinot Noir!

Cabernet Sauvignon

Dare we say the world's favorite varietal?! The deep flavors and familiar tannins are comparable to yin and yang when matched with lamb, beef, venison, turkey or any meal rich in flavor.

Discover some of the best Cabs from around the world. Click Here!


Nothing is more of an American grape than Zinfandel (shock, awe)! Zinfandel has been regarded as “America’s grape,” since the early 1800s. Zinfandel grapes are known to be thin-skinned and on the smaller side which creates higher tannins. Pair it with turkey, spiced tenderloin, roasted lamb, or eggplant (for the vegetarians or vegans in our lives)! Think rich and bold.

Other Red Wines

Some families serve poultry, while others love a standing rib roast, and others prefer a seafood dish. We all celebrate differently. We promise there is a wine for every food restriction, preference, and tradition. Even if you’re serving a fish dish this holiday, consider red wines that are not oaked and that can be served lightly chilled. A cru Beaujolais from Morgon or Fleurie would be great options.

Shop other Red Wines Collection, Click Here!

#4 Holiday Wine Pairing with Dessert 

NOW for the most important part. The finale. The final hoorah! Dessert (or as we like to call it, second dinner).

If you have a sweet tooth, this is your favorite part of the evening. The dessert course can be formal or light and include after-dinner wines or liqueurs. Everything from Port, sherry, and vermouth should work perfectly with any dessert. Check out our guide to the world of dessert wines here.


Port is a fortified sweet red wine that hails from Portugal. Rich and often aged, Port is meant to be drunk alongside chocolate and caramel desserts. Port comes in many styles and prices from tawny to vintage, white, and a variety of ages. Buy port in 375ml bottles to taste several types.


Sherry Wines make a wonderful dessert course duo. Sherry comes in many styles and is particularly suited to enjoy with all manner of sweets and/or salty nuts. Sherry has a cornucopia of flavors and opens up inside of your mouth with a fortified punch. So fight back with a pecan pie, dark chocolate, or rich fruit and potent vanilla ice cream.


Vermouth brings life to the dessert table. Vermouth can be drunk neat, over ice, or with soda water and a twist. The fizz and citrus livens up the place! Vermouth is a secret weapon around the holiday season because it has so many flavors that complement many of the flavors on the holiday table. We personally love Vermouth with post-dinner cheeses, dark salty chocolate, or desserts that run on the bitter side. As an added bonus, Vermouth is also helpful for digestion after eating a big holiday meal.

Shop the Sweet Wine, Port, Sherry & Vermouth collection now.

Dessert, after-dinner drinks, and good conversation allow you to linger a bit longer and finish the holiday meal!

Tip: Dessert wines tend to have higher alcohol so they are served in smaller portions (approximately half the amount of a regular glass). One bottle should suffice unless you have a large group.

There you go! Don't just make a simple celebration, throw the best party of the year by following this simple guide. 

Want us to do the work? We have your back! Below our wine experts put together the PERFECT holiday wine pairs for each course. Our only advice is to order more than one 6 pack because these babies are flying off the shelves.

Holiday Cheers 6 x 750ml

Big Hammer Wines is your best ally for the holidays, thanks to our unbeatable prices and free shipping on 6 or more bottles of any wine, you can serve the best wines at your party without having to pay an arm and a leg.

Visit now and get your party started!

For more information about Big Hammer Wines’ Holiday collection or to order, Click HERE.

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