With the holidays rapidly approaching, many are making their lists and checking them twice—their liquor and grocery store lists, that is. Most have determined their holiday menus but are left wondering what wines to pair with the meal. What if we told you there are a few key rules you can keep in mind that make choosing and shopping for wines easy? Nick Poletto, Director of Education at Kobrand Wine & Spirits, has five top tips that help with exactly that.

5 Holiday Wine Buying Tips

Toasting holiday meal with wine

1. Match the acidity in wine to the acidity in each dish.

Italian wines are generally quite high in acid, helping them pair well with Italian cuisine, which includes many highly acidic dishes: think of all the tomato-based pastas and sauces. If your menu includes gnocchi, ravioli, baked pastas, or braised meats with acidic components (think chicken alla cacciatore), then pair it with a red Italian wine such as Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino. This Sangiovese-based red shows a silky texture, great finesse, and profound flavors, framed by noble, velvety tannins.

2. If you’re serving red meat during your holiday feast, choose a BIG red wine.

The tannins in red wines bind to proteins in red meat, hence softening the impact of the wine. In turn, the saltiness and savory-ness in meat will soften the effect of the tannins in the wine. Choose a big New World red such as New Zealand’s Craggy Range Sophia, which has complex aromas of spiced red fruits, crushed autumn leaves, and sandalwood. It is classically composed on the palate with fruit richness given length by balanced acidity and fine tannins.

3. Love spicy dishes? Choose light wines, preferably with some residual sugar.

Cuisine with chili heat increases the perception of bitterness, astringency, and most importantly, alcohol burn in wine. A lighter white wine, very light reds, or wines with some sweetness will soften the impact of the spiciness. Riesling, off-dry Gewürztraminer, or Moscato d’Asti are excellent with Thai, Chinese, and Mexican: try The Seeker Riesling or Caposaldo Moscato IGT.

4. If you are serving fish during your holiday meal, stick to white wines.

It’s a classic pairing for a reason: red wine can make fish taste bitter. If it’s a big red wine, you also risk overwhelming the flavors of the dish. Louis Jadot’s Mâcon-Villages is the classic expression of a Chardonnay from Burgundy. The wine shows floral, apple, and citrus aromas and flavors with mineral notes. It pairs well with poultry, shellfish, grilled firm-fleshed fish such as swordfish, and salads.

5. Wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Sweetness in food tends to make wines taste less sweet. Therefore, pairing a dry white or dry red wine with dessert will come across as bitter and astringent. Wines like Port match the sweetness found in many holiday desserts. Try Fonseca Bin 27, which pairs deliciously with chocolate chip cookies (adult cookies and milk).

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