Welcome to part two of our Holiday Food & Wine Pairing blog feature. Today, the focus is on pairing some of the traditional Holiday Appetizers with wines.

Wine and Appetizer Pairing

General Rules for Pairing Appetizers with Wines

  • Choose lighter wines to start. Starting with a heavy wine destroys your palate’s ability to detect the subtlety of a lighter wine. Crisp white wines and dry Rose’s are a good place to start. If you’re not sure what I mean, take a few sips of a big meaty Cabernet Sauvignon and then try a few sips of a Pinot Grigio. Your palate will likely be overwhelmed by the remaining tannins and fruit from the Cab, effectively rendering the Pinot Grigio tasteless.
  • If you don’t like white wines, then start with lighter Red wines like Pinot Noir.
  • When serving appetizers, follow the general guidelines in part one of our post Holiday Food & Wine Pairing blog post.
  • Be careful pairing creamy sauces and soups with white wines. Many lighter wines are higher in acid and will react with the cream. Look to white wines like Chardonnay, Viognier or Roussanne to compliment these sauces because they have softer, less acidic tastes so they pair well with cream sauces.

Now, onto the appetizer pairings!

The Chardonnay Question

Be careful when trying to pair Chardonnay with food. In the US, the flavor of Chardonnay varies more than most other white wines. Picking a specific dish to go with Chardonnay is impossible unless you know how the wine was made. Traditional Chardonnay’s have an oaky, buttery flavor that have as much in common with a lighter red like a Pinot Noir than they do with a dry white wine like a Riesling. Many newer Chardonnays are made with no oak and are lighter and crisper than the traditional style and are actually closer to a Sauvignon Blanc with respect to pairing with food. Know the character of your Chardonnay before you serve it with food.

Well Known Wines for Pairing with Appetizers

  • Riesling (make sure it’s dry, not a typical US sweet Riesling)
  • Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
  • Sauvignon Blanc (I’ve put it here because every one knows it – not because we particularly like it. If you want to know why, click here)
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir (if you are skipping white wines)

Be Adventurous & Try Something a Little More Unusual …

If you are tired of the same old wines and want to venture a little farther a field, substitute our suggested wine for the more well known Varietal and introduce your guests to a new experience

  • Semillon for Riesling
  • Albarino for Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
  • Chenin Blanc for Sauvignon Blanc
  • Roussanne for a traditional Chardonnay
  • Dry Rose for a newer, crisper Chardonnay
  • A Lighter Sangiovese or Dolcetto for Pinot Noir

Suggested Appetizers and Wine Pairings

For each other the highlighted wines, we’ve listed them separately with our suggestions of what kind of traditional appetizer would pair well with them. If we’ve been lucky enough to find a recipe we particularly like, we’ll link you to that as well. Get out your cook books and shopping list, because the options for this Holiday are about to grow large!


Riesling or Semillon:

Recipes –Grilled Vegetables

Recommended Wineries –


Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris or Albarino:

Recipes –Grilled Shrimp

Recommended Wineries –


 Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc:

Recipes –Clams and Mussels

Recommended Wineries –


Traditional Chardonnay or Roussanne:

Recipes –Brie Cheese

  • Soft Cheese Plate like Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella (No blue or green cheeses)
  • French Onion Soup

Recommended Wineries –


Crisp Chardonnay or Dry Rose:

Recipes –Rosemary Flatbread

Recommended Wineries –


Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Dolcetto:

Recipes –Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Recommended Wineries –


Recommended Food Pairing Sites

If you are trying to find the right meal to accompany a specific type of wine, we can help with that.   Earlier in the year, we added a couple of features that are focused on the wine and food parings.   If you want to find the right food to serve with a specific wine, you can hints find it here.  If you’re looking for ideas on what wine to pair with your meal, you can find our wizard here.

With that, your Holiday event is ready to get started. But what about the rest of the meal? Don’t worry, Winery-Sage will be back soon with an additional post looking at pairing wines with some of the classic Holiday main courses. In the meantime, you can always check out our first Holiday Food & Wine Pairing post for some general pairing tips, move on to the Holiday Main Course Wine Pairing Suggestions or click on the “Food and Wine Pairing” category to see all of our posts that cover pairing topics. Happy drinking!

Images via respective sites.