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Tips For Holiday Wine Pairing

New Orleans Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh offers suggestions on what to pair with traditional Christmas dinner dishes. 

Planning the Christmas dinner menu can be daunting. Turkey or ham? Oyster stuffing or rice dressing? Pie vs. cookies? But a few well chosen bottles of wine and some bubbly to end the meal can make any dish taste better. We asked Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans for a few pairing suggestions to take you all the way from dinner to post-meal football watching and napping. She offers up a few familiar grapes and then some nontraditional pours that will have your guests talking about what’s in their glass in addition to what’s on their plate.


Austrian Rieseling – “I’m reminded of my grandmother’s ham with the pineapple sauce,” says Kavanaugh, who grew up in North Louisiana, when asked about her favorite holiday dishes. She recommends a high-acid Riesling from Austria to go with a honey or pineapple ham and promises this pairing will “turn creamy” on the palate.

Pinot Noir – Full of succulent fruit and high acid to complement either turkey or ham, Kavanaugh recommends Hirsch Vineyards‘ New World-style Pinot from Sonoma County to get the meal started.

Barolo – “More structured with a little more oomph, this works well with spicy, Southern food,” says Kavanaugh about this Italian red’s place on the table.


Loire Valley Chenin Blanc – “Clearly with stuffing, whether it be oyster stuffing or dressing, you want something that feels succulent in the mouth,” advises Kavanaugh. Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France is her go-to for side items, especially roasted brussels sprouts.

Jura Trousseau – When it comes to the sweet potatoes, Kavanaugh recommends this lighter-bodied, Pinot-style French wine from the Jura region. “It drinks kind of spicy and carries some black pepper and some of that warmth that you want, but it still has a body that’s light and is a great food wine,” she says.


Moscato d’Asti – Kavanaugh’s go-to for “any dessert on the planet,” Moscato is sweet and has a low alcohol content. Toward the end of the meal, when you’re wondering where you’re going to fit that slice of pie, have a glass to help the turkey go down.

Brachetto d’Acqui – A bit heaver than Moscato, this red sparkling wine from Italy has raspberry notes and plenty of bubbles to complement those Christmas cookies or fruitcake.


Madeira – For sitting on the couch and dozing post-meal, Kavanaugh suggests falling asleep with a glass of Portugal’s popular aperitif in hand.

Test Kavanaugh’s expertise by visiting the Windsor Court’s Polo Club Lounge and ordering one of her wine selections on the cocktail menu, or try the Chef’s Ultimate Tasting Menu at the hotel’s Grill Room restaurant, complete with wine pairings. 

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