top of page

The Best Dinner Party Wines

Uncorking a bottle of wine is like opening a treasure chest of flavours waiting to complement your culinary adventure. Whether indulging in a succulent steak or savouring a bowl of pepperpot on Christmas day, the right wine can elevate your dining experience to new heights.

This guide explores the art of pairing wines with diverse foods and palates, the very skill needed to make sure your holiday dinner parties go off without a hitch.

Black family sitting down to a meal with wine

The Basics of Food and Wine Pairing

Before we dive into specific pairings, let's cover the basics.

Understanding the structure of a wine can help you make informed choices when selecting the perfect bottle to accompany your meal.

A wine's structure refers to its:

Acidity: the saliva test is a great way to gauge acidity levels in a wine. If you take a sip of wine and saliva immediately forms in your mouth in abundance, that is a good indication that you are drinking a medium+ to high acid wine.

Sweetness: is it dry or off-dry (sweet) on the palate?

Tannin: that's the grippy feel you get on your teeth when drinking a full-bodied red wine. This is called phenolic bitterness in white wines, but it is much lighter on the palate than the tannins you get from red wine.

Alcohol: if alcohol punches you in the face (the most notable characteristic of a wine), that's an indicator to avoid pairing that wine with certain dishes. To be blunt, if someone uses too much scotch bonnet pepper in the meal, stay away from red wines with 14% alcohol or higher. It will intensify the heat on the palate.

When you hear sommeliers and wine writers state 'the wine was in balance', they are referring to all of the above structural elements living harmoniously on the palate.

My Ideal Dinner Party Wines

The best dinner party wines are made from grapes found in parts of the world that produce well-balanced wines. You'll often find that these wines will pair well with conversation, in addition to food. They are not outwardly contemplative, and they enhance a meal as opposed to trying to outshine it.

Don't get me wrong. There is a place for the contemplative and showy wines. I drink them often and pair them with food. But if you are entertaining a diverse group of people and therefore palates, there are grapes that will show up for you every time, and those are the ones you need to know.

Cool Climate Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a versatile choice of red wine. Its bright acidity and silky texture make it an excellent match for dishes like chicken, one-pot meals such as pelau and cook-up rice, or even earthy mushroom risotto.

Cool Climate Pinot Noir also pairs nicely with fish dishes despite being a red wine and the myths everyone tells you about only pairing white wines with seafood. Pinot Noir works with thicker, fleshier fishes such as salmon, tuna, sea bass, and monkfish. It even stands up to your fried fish dishes, too.

Pro tip: Serve your cool climate Pinot Noir at 15° Celcius, and the red fruit notes will sing.

Cabernet Sauvignon

A robust Cabernet Sauvignon with its bold tannins and dark fruit notes is ideal for hearty dishes like grilled lamb or a classic beef stew. The wine's structure stands up well to the rich flavours of red meat. Now, here is where I shock you. Did you know Cabernet Sauvignon can be an excellent pairing for Caribbean curries and oxtail? This can be an incredible congruent pairing.

Look for a Cabernet Sauvignon that has seen some time in oak, and have that oak be detectable on the palate. These wines will have spice, clove, and nutmeg notes on the palate. These are the very same herbs found in curry and oxtail. Ideally, your curry includes beef for the maximum experience. When the wine meets the food, you get a melodious sense on the palate.

Look for Cabernet Sauvignon wines from South Africa and California for this pairing.

Sauvignon Blanc

With its zesty acidity and citrusy profile, Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing partner for lighter fare. Try it with salads, seafood, or goat cheese dishes to enhance the vibrant flavours.


This is a classic pairing and a handy one to know if you're going traditional fare for dinner with potatoes, sweet or otherwise, and turkey. The buttery notes of Chardonnay can complement the creaminess of dishes like lobster bisque or fettuccine Alfredo. Opt for an unoaked Chardonnay for a cleaner, crisper pairing like Souse.

Dry Rosé

The versatility of dry rosé makes it an excellent choice for a variety of cuisines. Its crispness and subtle fruitiness make it a delightful match for everything from grilled vegetables to spicy Caribbean dishes. When in doubt, reach for a rosé.

Time for a little rosé PSA. Rosé is meant to be drunk year-round. It's not designated for the summer, as many of you may think.

Rosé wines available in your markets have come a long way since the early white Zinfandel days. (Though called white Zinfandel, the first to market and widely popular were pink.)

Champagne/Sparkling Wine

The effervescence of Champagne or sparkling wine can cut through the richness of fried foods or creamy cheeses. Don't reserve it just for celebrations—sparkling wine can be a delightful everyday indulgence. Moreover, I tell everyone who will listen that sparkling wine is likely the best food pairing wine because of its acidity. Its texture and acidity make it hard to beat.

Depending on how your sparkling wine is made, you can go from tropical fruit on the palate to a creamy, decadent brioche experience. Sparkling wine truly can be magical. You can read more here on the styles of sparkling wine you need to get to know.

Pairing wine with diverse foods is a delightful journey that allows you to explore the endless possibilities of flavour. Remember, there are no strict rules—experimentation is HIGHLY encouraged!

The key is to balance and enhance the dining experience, creating moments where each sip and bite complement and elevate each other.

Cheers to holiday dinner parties and to perfect pairings!


bottom of page