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This is your guide to best Riesling wine pairings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter dinner parties and beyond.
I’ll never forget the friend of mine who wouldn’t allow red wine past her front doorstep.
Well, she is still my friend and I see her often. But mainly, for the purpose of this story, because at the time—in my early twenties—I didn’t have very many friends who cared enough about their home furnishings to worry about wine stains.
All the cushions on my couch had already been flipped over due to my own hand-to-mouth misfires. And I was lucky enough to have inherited a patterned rug with burgundy as the dominant color.
But now that I’m older and wiser, and the proud owner of real grown-up furniture, including a white rug that has somehow only been tainted with dog vomit, not wine, I get where she was coming from. If you’re going to be putting your space in danger of a group of adults getting “loose,” it’s best to ensure that the liquids inevitably getting spilled on your floor meet a clear, neutral color palette.
And yet, the no red wine rule becomes a little problematic around the holidays.
As the weather turns colder, people want something full-bodied and warming. Something that can stand up to fattier meats and braises. Cinnamon, spice, and everything root vegetable-y and nice. Which means that there’s a 90 percent chance your hostess party gift will include a bottle of red wine or whiskey unless you request otherwise.
The thing is, though, in terms of choosing a bottle that’s going to pair well with fall flavors, there are plenty of white wines that fit the bill.
One particular varietal that I’ve been enjoying more and more around my table is Riesling. I used to just think of it as a fruity, effervescent option for beginning or ending the night, but ever since reading my friend Bianca’s fabulous book Cork Dork, I’ve gotten a little more experimental with my explorations.
Rieslings range from bone dry to dessert sweet, meaning there is something for everyone and every pairing. And the flavors often have the kind of structure that can stand up to foods typically thought of as red wine pairings, like, say, everything on your Thanksgiving table.
I’ve been recently working my way through a case of Pacific Rim Rieslings, which are sustainably produced in the Pacific Northwest (one of my favorite under-appreciated wine areas), and range from sweet to dry. It’s been fun seeing how they stand up to different dishes, and they are a refreshing departure from super oaky whites (which are not my favorite at the holidays or otherwise).
For all my fellow paranoid hostesses out there who prefer to steer their guests towards less invasive color palettes, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to help you pair the right white wine with your holiday meal. Below are some of my favorite fall recipes that are perfect for Thanksgiving, Chrismukkah and beyond, and what type of Riesling they’d pair well with.
What to Pair with Dry Rieslings
Dry Rieslings pair well with a variety of cuisines where sugar is less dominant in the condiments. The recipes below use a variety of herbs, some hard cheeses or creamy accents, and a light amount of spice.
What to Pair with Medium-Sweet Rieslings
To stand up to a more subtle sweetness, these recipes include a lot of nature’s candy: caramelized root vegetables, honey mustards, and ginger. Pacific Rim’s J Riesling is a great example of that medium sweetness, and they recommend adding a bit of fire to stand up to the sweetness. You’ll see a lot of sriracha, chili sauces and red curry below.
What to Pair with Sweet Rieslings
The biggest rule of thumb with wine and food pairings is match like with like. Hence why so many dessert wines are cloyingly sweet. The flavors neutralize each other. You’ll find that sweet Rieslings are much better with a slice of apple pie than on their own. Here are a few holiday dessert favorites to match with your sweet white wine. Pacific Rim has two sweet Rieslings, this one and Vin de Glaciere.