Our Sommelier Picks the Best Holiday Wines For Our Favorite DishesNovember 12th, 2021
The perfect wine can take a meal to new heights. So when we need to pick the perfect pour to go with whatever’s on our plates, we consult Josh Nadel, a celebrated wine expert and the curator of Thrive Market’s selection of top-quality clean wines.
Since there’s no better time than the holidays for a truly show-stopping spread, we asked our team to share some of their favorite holiday dishes—traditional or not—and challenged Nadel to choose the best wine to match.
For a curated selection of affordable clean wines, check out our Best Wines Under $15 Shopping List.
What to Drink With: Lebanese Lamb Pasties
“Slowly stewed lamb with onion and spices all wrapped up in homemade bread is the perfect savory dish for the holiday season. Cold on a winter’s night? Lamb pasties! Tired of turkey? Lamb pasties! It’s simple to make and super delicious. Every year on Christmas Eve my uncle would spend all day stewing the lamb and my dad would make bread. The smells immediately bring up the holidays to my mind with friends, family, and food.” —Jared, Resolutions Team Lead
For deliciously seasoned lamb dishes, easy-drinking, ripe and juicy reds that leave room for savory spices and flavors of the lamb itself are my favorites. The Shiraz is the fuller-bodied option here, while the Kreydenweiss Grimaudes is more medium-bodied with some savory, non-fruit flavors of its own.
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Organic Ground Cinnamon
What to Drink With: Coq au Vin
“My husband and I haven’t gone home to the East Coast for the holidays since we moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles a few years ago, so we’ve been trying to start some traditions of our own. One of them is cooking (somewhat) fancy meals at home on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. My husband makes coq au vin as a nod to the French side of his family; it’s also just a classic, hearty comfort food dish that’s great for warming you up on a cold winter night…or, in our case, a 60-degree L.A. winter night.” —Kirby, Senior Editorial Content Manager
This is a match made in heaven (and frankly, it’s one of most popular regional food and wine combinations in all of France). The lighter-bodied, high-toned reds of the Gamay grape/Beaujolais region amplify the hearty, comfort flavors of this braised favorite, while the moderate tannin levels pair well with chicken. If you are looking for something more medium and crunchy, the Lambert Villaises (Cabernet Franc) is where it’s at!
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Pasture-Raised Bone-In Chicken Thighs
What to Drink With: French Onion Soup
“Every year, when the leaves begin to fall and the weather starts to cool, I make homemade French onion soup. The trick is to use red onions and shallots along with beef stock to really bring out that onion flavor. It’s something my wife and I like to eat while sitting by the fire watching holiday episodes of our favorite TV shows.” —Scott, Manager, Procurement
Josh’s pick: Roche Audran Cotes du Rhone Nature
This medium-bodied, full-flavored red made with zero added sulphur is a great match for the beef stock, sweet onion flavor, and cheesy goodness. No new oak is used here, which I prefer to avoid with all the onion flavor and mild sweetness in the broth.
Don’t forget the… Kettle & Fire Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth
What to Drink With: Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
“I always remember making this with my mom as a kid on Thanksgiving. It was always my favorite part of the meal because I got to help put it together! In my adulthood, I still make it every year, marshmallows and all. It totally takes me back to my childhood and adds a bit of that childlike wonder back to holidays. Who doesn’t love marshmallows?” —Lexi, Support Communications Specialist
Josh’s pick: EthicDrinks Eclosion Côtes du Rhône Blanc
The round and soft texture of this Mediterranean, sun-kissed white meshes seamlessly with roasted sweet potatoes, and is a great option for people who prefer whites with less acidity.
Don’t forget the… Dandies Vegan Mini Marshmallows
What to Drink With: Pierogi
“I’m from Pittsburgh, so my family always makes Polish food for every holiday, but pierogi is my favorite. Growing up, my grandparents would buy homemade pierogi from their church to make as a side dish with the turkey, but in recent years my mom and her sisters have started making their own from scratch. They spend all day rolling dough and stuffing the little dumplings with potatoes. Then, they fry them in butter and onions right before the meal. That’s the thing I most associate with the holidays: the smell of the drippy butter sauce and the sound of onions sizzling on the stove, and having a few pierogi for lunch with my mom before guests arrive.” —Amy, Senior Editorial Writer
Josh’s pick: Plozner Friulano or La Gironda Barbera D’Asti
This Friulano provides a little extra texture and weight without the use of oak or overt citrus flavors, both of which would ring a little off-center with these pierogi. Friulano is one of Italy’s great food wines from the North, especially alongside dishes rich in dairy or charcuterie. For a red, the crisp texture, oak-free clean fruit, and lighter body of the Barbera will keep you coming back for glass after glass.
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Organic AP Flour
What to Drink With: Roast Pork Belly w/ Apple Sauce
“Crispy crunchy pork skin, with a beautifully tender, slightly salty meat is complemented so well by the light sweetness of the apple sauce. This was a meal that we traditionally made as part of our Christmas spread when the entire extended family managed to make it to my grandma’s place for the holidays. It just brings up a lot of happy, bittersweet memories of people who are no longer with me.” —Misha, Member Services
I prefer lighter-bodied, complex reds with pork; it is a white meat after all! The Scott Paul Pinot Noir, partially aged in new oak, really over delivers, while the Nero D’Avola is a darker-fruited, more textured option that pops against the saltiness of the pork.
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Organic Apple Sauce
What to Drink With: Mandu Guk (만둣국), aka Korean Dumpling Soup
“From what I was taught, Koreans culturally eat soup on birthdays and large holidays as means of conjuring good luck and good fortunes for the upcoming year. Mandu guk broth is incredibly savory and delicious. It’s somewhere between an egg drop and dashi-based soup. The dumplings are customizable to diet preference (not to mention they are so soft and so warm). You can add pieces of cooked egg, scallion, rice cakes, etc. Anything! [Making mandu is] so time- and labor-intensive that we need to make the dumplings in bunches, then freeze half of ’em. (We also give them out at Christmas to other family members who are less mandu-adept.) If you think of Korea, it’s this mountainous island embedded with a history of survival. The winters are harsh, and soup warms the hearts of the cold. The holidays are busy. We’re run down. Let’s make some soup.” —Jon, Creative Operations Coordinator
Josh’s pick: Jean Boisselier Brouilly or Terra Mundi Albariño
The flavors in this soup are a curveball for many wines; if you are reaching for a red, the low-tannin, cheerfully fruity and oak-free Boisselier Brouilly is a great option which gives the savory elements, fish sauce, and other flavors the necessary elbow room. For a white, try the Terra Mundi Albariño (tasty alongside just about anything you can throw at it), which excels alongside salty and briny flavors of seafood; in this case, seaweed, dashi, and whatever other tasty treats are hidden inside your broth.
What to Drink With: Christmas Cookies
“I grew up making Russian tea cakes with my mom every Christmas Eve. We still do it, now with my son. It’s become a family tradition. They go perfectly with warm apple cider by the fire while we read Christmas books like The Nutcracker and The Night Before Christmas. They literally melt in your mouth and all the powdered sugar gets everywhere, but with the cider it’s perfect. [The recipe has] been passed down a couple of generations hand-written on a notecard. We’ve been making it every year since I can remember!” —Sabrina, QA Nutrition & Regulatory Senior Manager
Josh’s pick: El Gran Amigo Cava Brut Rose
The thought of relaxing at the end of a meal with a tasty glass of sparkling rosé and some holiday cookies just seems…so right! The freshness and acidity in this Cava help balance out the buttery richness of the tea cakes and is a bit of a palate refresher after holiday feasts or sweet afternoon snacks.
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Organic Powdered Sugar
What to Drink With: Carrot Cake
“[My daughter] Sydney and I make a carrot cake together every Christmas Eve. I love carrot cake (no raisins!) and we look forward to making this one each year. It has a lot of carrots and walnuts and the cream cheese frosting is so indulgent. This is my little family’s new tradition we started a few years ago. I wanted to start something that was about our family, something we could share with our friends and families, too. Sydney and [my son] Ryder love their special Christmas cake! We eat it that night and for breakfast the next morning (it goes great with coffee!).” —Amy, Senior Director of Content & Community
Josh’s pick: El Gran Amigo Cava Brut Rose
Most people don’t realize there is a touch of residual sugar in Brut sparkling wine, so in this case where the dessert or snack is more savory than overly sweet, I Iove it. The carrots and autumn spice in the carrot cake really pop the fruit forward in this sparkling Rosato, which is a sneaky bonus surprise.
Don’t forget the… Thrive Market Organic Walnut Halves & Pieces
What to Drink With: Classic Holiday Dishes
Here are the bottles Josh recommends from our holiday clean wine selection to go with all the tried-and-true holiday mains.
Best Holiday Wines to Drink with Turkey
Since turkey is the main event on many a holiday table, Josh offers six wine options (so everyone is sure to find one they like). For reds, choose from the light-bodied Bonnet Rouge Gamay Noir, the medium-bodied Marc Kreydenweiss Les Grimaudes, and the full-bodied Domaine Valand Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône or Freehome Shiraz. For white wine drinkers, Josh recommends the Mas Paillet Chardonnay Viognier or EthicDrinks Éclosion Côtes du Rhône Blanc.
Best Holiday Wines to Drink with Beef
Serving our new standing rib roast or beef tenderloin? Uncork a medium- to full-bodied red with a bit more tannin and texture, such as EthicDrinks Vague de Bonheur Graves.
Best Holiday Wines to Drink with Ham
Our applewood-smoked, spiral-sliced ham (humanely raised on an all-vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or added hormones, of course) pairs beautifully with the Plozner Friulano or Madonnabruna Rosso Piceno Cugnolo.
Best Holiday Wines to Drink with Seafood
Best Holiday Wines to Drink While You Cook
Sipping a little something while you cook has got to be one of the singular pleasures of holiday entertaining. For these occasions, Josh recommends thinking pink—specifically, the Domaine Nadal Hainault Les Trois Sources Rosé or Xavier Vignon Côtes du Rhône Rosé. Other great choices include the aperitif-ready Plozner Friulano, the juicy Jean Boisselier Brouilly, and the smooth Bonnet Rouge Gamay Noir.