8 Wines for Comfort and Joy Over the Holidays

Spread a little cheer with vino that’s sure to please, from basic to binge-worthy

Bollinger R.D. Extra Brut Champagne 2007 ($350)

Champagne is essential for the holiday season—for toasting, gifting, or selfishly hoarding into the New Year­—and this one’s pretty much the top of the line. Bollinger’s wines are heavy on Pinot Noir (70 percent, in this case, with 30 percent Chardonnay) and so already show considerable richness. “R.D.” ups the game: Récemment dégorgé, or “recently disgorged,” means that the wine has been aged in the bottle on its lees—the dead yeast cells that remain after fermentation—concentrating the richness and amplifying the flavors. The result shows all the elegance of Champagne and all the complexity of a premier cru Burgundy.

Cullen Wines Kevin John Margaret River Chardonnay 2021 ($100)

Margaret River in Western Australia produces some of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest Chardonnays, and this is a superb example. It’s a wine that should satisfy lovers of both big, oaky Chardonnays and more restrained, smoothly structured ones because it goes right down the middle, with enough mineral acidity to calm the oak and heft. Pricey, yes, but also unforgettable, and a handsome match for everything from onion soup to pumpkin pie.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Riesling 2017 ($30)

A nice surprise; a textbook Riesling by an underrated producer from a region not particularly known for the grape. It’s bright and fresh, with plenty of fruit, crisp-apple acidity, and a long, bone-dry finish that leaves you wanting more. A fit pairing for Festa dei Sette Pesci (Feast of the Seven Fishes), the traditional Italian American Christmas Eve supper, but also just to sip by the fire at the end of the day.

Lucien et André Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cailloux Blanc 2019 ($60)

The best-known examples of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the legendary “Pope’s wine” from France’s southern Rhône, are red; but the whites can also be superb. This beauty, with citrus and mineral notes overlaying a mouth-filling opulence, is the kind of thing you’d want in your glass when you’re dining on festive turkey, ham, or goose—but it’s also a good match for nothing more than snacks and conversation.

Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso Sherry ($26)

Here’s a dry wine with the richness of a sweet one. In contrast to angular, yeasty, dry fino sherry (like Tío Pepe), Don Nuño is rounded, with a nose suggesting roasted almonds and toffee, and a dried-fruit character on the palate, nicely offset by racy acidity—a perfect aperitif.

Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2019 ($24)

Wines made from South Africa’s signature Pinotage grape, an unlikely cross between Pinot Noir and the Rhône variety Cinsaut, are still largely under the radar in the U.S., but wine like this warm, earthy red, with its almost meaty aroma, lush softness, and faintly peppery fruit, can match anything from an Impossible Burger to an A5 Wagyu rib eye.

Venturini Baldini Montelocco Lambrusco Emilia IGP ($14)

Riunite was a mass-produced Lambrusco from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, once promoted with “Riunite on ice—that’s nice.” Forget Riunite. Lambrusco can be serious stuff—but serious stuff that’s fun. This one’s a good example: vivid red in color, effervescent, semidry, juicy with flavors of plums and red berries, and all too easy to drink. It’s a classic match for prosciutto and might well be the ultimate pizza wine.

Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2015 ($40)

Some of the most dependably pleasing and fairly priced red wines around are Spain’s Riojas. This is an eloquent case in point—suave, subtle, with a nose that suggests the autumnal aromas of a damp forest floor and a flavor that hints at dried cherries and Christmas spices. Bring on the roast beef or game birds.

Tip Jar

Some wines match well with specific foods, but you shouldn’t stress over food pairings; most good wines work with almost anything. Just avoid serving delicate ones with very hearty dishes and vice versa.

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This article appears in the December 2022 issue of Los Angeles magazine