Ask a Sommelier: The Best Wines to Pair With a Holiday Roast

We asked sommeliers from around the country for their pairing recommendations for your holiday roast.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Cooking a big holiday dinner with family and friends from near and far? Wondering what to pick up at the wine shop? The best wines for your feast, of course, depend on what you're making, whether it's roast beef with horseradish cream, a perfect prime rib, or an elegant crown roast of pork. Never fear: we did the legwork for you, asking sommeliers from around the country for their pairing recommendations.

Here are their picks for the best wines to drink with your holiday roast.

Prime Rib

J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt

"When it comes to big hunks of meat, the Rhone Valley in France has all the answers. If you like a more dense, brooding style of wine that still has good fruit backbone, then look towards the Grenache based wines of Southern Rhone, specifically Gigondas. Its tumbling tannins and stewed herby fruit are perfect with prime rib with red wine jus. Bottle pick: Domaine de Santa Duc 2009 Gigondas." —Brent Braun (Levant)

"Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard Syrah is a great match for prime rib—big and powerful, but with an elegance that is pure Syrah." —Corin Weihemuller (Comal)

"With roasted beef, I've always loved Mourvedre from Bandol. Prime Rib is a dish with plenty of fat, but without the char of a grilled meat. I find it calls for a wine with serious tannin and structure without heavy oak as you are not pairing oak flavors with char in this case. Mourvedre has all of those things, and also the hints of meatiness, savory herbs and spice to pair with the seasoning in this recipe. Specifically Domaine Tempier's Bandols have made me many friends in the past." —Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)

"I would go with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Cathy Corison. It is impeccably balanced and has nice savory notes of dried herbs which would perfectly complement the prime rib." —Michael David Murphy (Taste), (Pastaria), (Brasserie by Niche), and (Niche)

"Domaine Faury Saint-Joseph Rouge 2009. A classic syrah from northern Rhone. The palate is full with exotic spices, dark fruit and very good acidity. Very good meat wine." —Bank Atcharawan (Chada Thai & Wine)

"There's a woman named Michèle Aubèry-Laurent who makes an absolutely fantastic set of wines down in the Southern Rhône; she bottles nearly all of them under the simple regional designation Côtes-du-Rhône. Most are blends of Syrah and Grenache, but she makes one called Sierra del Sud (2012) that is 100% Syrah, and it is one of my absolute favorites. The characteristic black pepper and cured meat aromatics of Syrah are present, but there's an elegance, almost a femininity to the wine that sets it apart from your typical Rhône red. With something so classically moist and juicy as prime rib, the fresh red and black fruits of this wine are a perfect match." —Mia Van de Water (North End Grill)

"I'm really liking the older zinfandels of Joe Swan in the Russian River. They're not high-alcohol brooding zins like so often flood the market. Swan's drink like older, maturing Bordeaux. They're complex and really interesting. Wonderful to drink with a juicy slab of rare meet like Prime Rib." —Dan Beekley (Remedy Wine Bar)

"Gamay grapes from Loire are your best bet. For something rich like prime rib with its own jus, I like to select a wine that is only mid-weight, but has a decent amount of iron to compliment the flavors of medium rare beef. It's important to stick with things that taste similar and to look for wine with some good acidity too to cut the fat." —Liz Vilardi (Belly), (The Blue Room), and (Central Bottle Wine + Provisions)

Roast Beef With Horseradish Cream

Joshua Bousel

"I would definitely go for something with herbaceous notes. I think a Gamay from Beaujolais, or a Mencia from Ribera Sacra would pair nicely with the fatty meat, and spicy horseradish. Both wines have nice plummy notes with wet rock qualities. I imagine they would be dreamy together." —Sarah Egeland (Smallwares)

"Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the quintessential wine of the Southern Rhône, with its base of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre and its robe of herbs, spices, and earthy, often funky minerality. The 2010 Bois de Boursan is an excellent example; it explodes with fresh strawberries and raspberries on the front palate, and finishes with spice and slightly bitter herbs. That final astringency is tailor-made to clean up the richness of the beef jus and cream and leave your tongue refreshed." —Mia Van de Water (North End Grill)

"Schiava is the best grape in this case. My pick would be Alois Lageder Schiava Grigia 'Romigberg' 2012 from the northern Alto Adige region of Italy. It's got tons of acidity and a light to mid-weight which is perfect for roast beef with horseradish cream. Let's face it; most people love to drag their proteins through sauce. If you've got a decent amount of horseradish on your fork, you want something to match that spicy, bright flavor. Schiava is the wine for that. It's red enough for beef, while dry enough not to clash with all the earthiness, and has some racy acidity to match the spice from the horseradish and the fat from the beef." —Liz Vilardi (Belly), (The Blue Room), and (Central Bottle Wine + Provisions)

"With this dish, you are dealing with the obvious roast meat aspect, but also spice and creaminess from the horseradish. This is the time where a more modern style wine works best. Going with a California Cabernet will guarantee enough sweetness of fruit to counter the spiciness of the horseradish, and enough textural creaminess for it to be a perfect textural pairing also." —Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)

"The horseradish is a game-changer here. The tangy kick means that you can break conventional wine pairing rules and try something a little more daring. A full-bodied Riesling with residual sugar (look for Spatlese or Auslese on German labels) will match the intensity of roast beef and really make the horseradish cream sing; one with a little bit (or a lot) of a age on it will be even better!" —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle)

"With the horseradish I lean towards something with a bit more fruit, without going over the top. Unti Vineyards Petit Frere is a California take on Côtes du Rhone that would work well, and I really love the current vintage (2011). Another great Grenache-based pairing would be Wind Gap's Scales Vineyard Grenache."—Corin Weihemuller (Comal)

"You want something with some fruit that will cut the heat from the horseradish. I would go with an opulent red like a Turley Zinfandel or a Brunello di Montalcino." —Michael David Murphy (Taste), (Pastaria), (Brasserie by Niche), and (Niche)

"A rich, oaked chardonnay is a perfect pairing with beef and horseradish cream. Chardonnay from cooler areas, like Willamette Valley, Oregon, ripens slowly which preserves the acid in the juice. When they age cool climate Chardonnay in oak barrels, the flavors are rounded out by the wood, but the acid is still preserved, so you get a rich, buttery wine that will clean the palate after each sip. The best Willamette Valley Chardonnay is Evening Land Chardonnay from Eola-Amity Hills; floral and mineral notes make it unique from the usual fruit-burst chardonnay, and the oak is well-integrated." —Angela Roman Aspito (The Signature Room at the 95th)

Crown Roast of Pork

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

"For the king of cuts, you need the king of wines, and Nebbiolo from Piedmont takes the throne. It comes three satisfying ways: Langhe Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco. Choosing the right variety depends on how special you want your holiday to be, because Barolo and Barbaresco can be pricy. Nebbiolo is big enough to go head to head with the pork fat, but lean enough to cut through it too." —Liz Vilardi (Belly), (The Blue Room), and (Central Bottle Wine + Provisions)

"I love pork with Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley; its honey-like flavors are a perfect complement (think Honey Ham!). You can get riper styles of Chenin from Vouvray or Montlouis and drier ones from Savennieres (my personal favorite)." —Theresa Paopao (Ribelle)

"Try a Provençal rosé from Bandol. It is truly a wine that should be on center stage during the holidays. A Bandol rose will be Mourvèdre dominant with Grenache (try La Bastide Blanche, imported by Peter Weygandt). This wine is spectacular—imagine white peach blossoms, strawberry and mineral which transfers on the palate quite well with racy acidity. Peaches and pork are always a nice pairing and the acidity cuts through the fat very well." —Michael David Murphy (Taste), (Pastaria), (Brasserie by Niche), and (Niche)

"While I think most people think of Alsace for pork, I actually prefer a richer version of Gruner Veltliner. The trick is to find a Gruner that is richer and fatter. If the wine is from the Wachau, look for the word Smaragd, which will ensure that it is richer and has more texture. The wine will also have enough acidity to counter the fat of the roast pork, and the complementary pepper notes of the wine and seasoning work great together." —Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)

"I like this with earthy medium bodied red. A think that French Pinot Noir for an earthy wine drinker and Oregon Pinot for a fruit forward wine drinker." —Brent Kroll (Neighborhood Restaurant Group)

"Pig and Pinot are a great combination for me. With the Crown roast pork, I would drink Cobb from Sonoma Coast, Rice Spivak Vineyard 2009." —Petra Palakovicova (EPIC Roasthouse)

"I would go a little lighter with the pork; Bedrock's Evangelho Vineyard Heritage is an old vine field blend of mostly Carignane and Mourvèdre; big enough to satisfy the hearty red wine drinker without overpowering the pork." —Corin Weihemuller (Comal)

"White wine! Gruner or Riesling would be my go to picks. Something rich, but with lots of acid. Big Table Farm has a really great unfine/unfiltered Riesling that would be outstanding with this. I personally would break into my stash of Glockenturm from Austria for this. It's a lovely field blend from an up and coming urban winemaker in Vienna. The acid, and big fruit would be an outstanding match." —Sarah Egeland (Smallwares)

"Xinomavro is an indigenous Greek grape that when treated with care can be wildly expressive and surprisingly versatile. Thimiopoulos makes a really unique Young Vine Xinomavro that has great freshness and vivacity to go along with flavors of marionberry and anise. It's not too tannic or rich and is begging to be consumed with pork." —Brent Braun (Levant)

What's your holiday wine plan? Have you stocked up for a big Christmas feast? Let us know in the comments below.

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