You’ve invited a few people over, it’s snowing outside, and your apartment is prepped for a cozy winter dinner party, complete with lit candles, an empty coat rack, and the heater blasting. But what wine do you serve your guests—and what food do you serve with it?
The last thing you want is to serve a dish that takes too much time and energy to prepare and takes away from time with your friends. (It’s your party—you’re supposed to have fun too!) And you don’t want to serve a wine that will overpower both the food you’re serving and your guest’s palettes (or spend so much money on it that you’re reserved with your pours).
As a wine and food writer, and a wine instructor at Murray’s Cheese in New York, I know my way around pairing wine with food. The wine picks below are what I would choose to stock up on for a winter get-together—along with the low-lift, high-impact, party-ready foods they go great with. All of the wines are available for nationwide shipping from Astor Wines & Spirits, an incredible wine store in New York City known for its hard-to-find bottles, quality selection, and fair prices. Happy hosting!
Editor’s note: Availability and price of the selected bottles are subject to change. To help, we’ve included alternative online shops when possible.
From Our Shop
I like to call lambrusco the Champagne of winter. It’s sparkling and celebratory but has more going on than your typical white-grape bubbly. It’s from the Italian region Emilio Romagna (the land of Parmesan and prosciutto) and made in the Charmat method, just like prosecco. There are different varieties of lambrusco—over 60 indigenous grape varieties can be used to make the wine—but there are typically many red fruit notes regardless of variety. Strawberry, rhubarb, raspberry, and hibiscus are common flavors you’ll find in a bottle of ‘brusc, along with notes that are unique to Italian wines, like balsamic.
They say red wine is hard to pair with cheese, but this one goes perfectly. The bubbles lift the butterfat from your tongue and the light tannins work to cut the richness of the cheese without overwhelming it. The aforementioned parmesan and prosciutto are a great pairing for lambrusco, as is speck (another cured, lightly smoked Italian ham), cherry jam, and herbed goat cheese. I also recently paired lambrusco with a Jasper Hill Farm Sherry Gray, an ash-ripened double cream cow’s cheese—but any rich, double, or triple cream will do.
Lambrusco’s bright, red fruit and acidity also go great with pizza. Make some pan pizzas at home, topped with prosciutto, speck, showers of Parmesan, and a drizzle of balsamic, or better yet, save yourself the hassle and order in.
1. 2021 Lambrusco di Sorbara “Rito”, Zucchi, $18.96,
This lambrusco is made like a rosé. The juice is pressed from the skins right away, without maceration, so the wine will be light and delicate (think strawberries and watermelon).
2. NV Lambrusco “Pruno Nero,” Cleto Chiarli, $16.99
This more classic variation of lambrusco will be inkier, but don’t let the color fool you. It will absolutely still be drinkable.
Burgundy is a classic cold-weather get-together wine. The formula is simple: make a long braised bœuf bourguignon or a coq a vin with a bottle of the good stuff, then sit down with some mashed potatoes, or toasted bread, and sop up all of the sauce’s magic while sipping a glass of the wine you used to cook with.
The only issue is that Burgundy is very expensive nowadays. If Julia Child was still around, I bet she’d tweak her recipes to note that a Burgundy-style pinot noir would work just as well—and for a fraction of the price. To achieve that style, they lightly oak the grape, so it will be earthier, more delicate, and less fruit-forward than other “New World” pinot noirs are known for. (Instead of a fistful of clean supermarket raspberries, you’re picking them yourself, one by one, knee-deep in the brambles) Opt for a bottle from Oregon, Chile, or New Zealand, all of which are giving traditional Burgundies a run for their money. Use it in all the ways you would a Burgundy—cook with it and drink it. It’s also a great pairing with the easiest and most delicious dinner party foods out there: a simple roast chicken.
3. 2019 Montinore Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $19.99
This is one of my favorite pinot noirs, as it drinks like it’s double the price—garnering literal “oohs” and “aahs” during tasting classes. It also comes from the second-largest biodynamic winery in the United States.
4. Neudorf, “Tom’s Block,” Moutere Pinot Noir, $31.96
This single-vineyard, certified organic wine hails from the South Island of New Zealand, where the cooling ocean breezes make the perfect setting for pinot noir grapes to grow.
Imagine: You show up to a dinner party, and on the table between glowing candles are vats of bubbling cheese. What was old is new again, and fondue is back, baby. It’s also a host’s dream, as it’s an upscale finger food that leaves all of the work to the guests. All you have to do is ensure the fondue is hot and the accompaniments are cut into bite-sized pieces.
Or, opt for raclette. It’s become trendy in the past few years, but the peasant-style meal has been around for centuries. Boil or roast some potatoes, set out sausages, dried meats, and pickles, and top with melted raclette cheese. While larger raclette grills can be more expensive, if you’re just hosting a few people, you can also make do with this affordable candle-powered option.
The best pairing for raclette or fondue is a white alpine-style wine like a dry riesling. It’s a light, smooth, acidic accompaniment to decadent dinners and cheeses galore. If you’re buying a classic German riesling, look for “trocken,” which means dry. But great, affordable riesling is also made worldwide—even in the Finger Lakes of New York.
5. 2021 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, $14.99
This riesling from Northern New York is aged on the lees like champagne, so expect some brioche and toast notes alongside riesling’s typical flowers and stone fruit.
Editor’s note: If you can’t find this 2021 bottle, here’s a 2017 bottle of Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes.
6. 2021 Tonschiefer “Dry Slate” Riesling Trocken, Dönnhoff, $29.99
A wine from the Nahe region in Germany that’s wedged between the famous Mosel and Rheinhessen regions. It’s named after the slate soil it’s grown on, which adds a wonderful mineral complexity.
Editor’s note: If you can’t find this 2021 bottle, here’s a 2020 bottle of Tonschiefer “Dry Slate” Riesling Trocken, Dönnhoff.