What’s better than a giant plate of holiday cookies? A giant plate of holiday cookies and a glass of wine, of course! With this universal truth in mind, we have gone ahead and created the ultimate guide to pairing wine with holiday cookies. Yes, tasting through all of those baked goods and wines to curate this list was a tough job, but someone had to do it. You’re welcome.
Now the dreaded workplace cookie exchange doesn’t have to be a drag. Just picture yourself taking a bite here, and a sip there, for the most blissful holiday activity ever.
Buttery, Sugar-Based Cookies
These are those simple cookie indulgences that contain only a few ingredients, but still manage to taste like the baking equivalent of luxurious 1,000 thread-count sheets. Think buttery delights like shortbread, classic sugar cookies, sandies, and ladyfingers. While we usually nibble these with a cup of afternoon tea, wine is a perfectly reasonable option as well. We recommend something crisp and bubbly that’s dry or even with a touch of sweetness. Or, opt for something that also has a buttery quality, like a creamy Chardonnay.
A few to try:
J Vineyards 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Sonoma, CA, $30: This wine is a stunning example of why Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley is so special. Juicy pear, golden delicious apple, and lemon curd give way to a toasty, vanilla-laced finish that should provide a nice backdrop for a plate of Shortbread cookies.
Avaline Sparkling Wine, Penedès, SP, $25: Whether or not the “clean wine” trend is for you, this sparkler is worth exploring. Aged for 18 months on the lees, it’s bound to impress with toasty, biscuity notes of its own, and should cleanse the palate after even the butteriest of butter cookies. Plus you can feel good about indulging in a few extra cookies knowing this wine was made with organic grapes.
Blandy’s 10 Year Madeira Rich Malmsey, Madeira, PT, $24: We love Madeira for its ability to be rich, sweet, and fresh all at the same time. This decadent fortified wine is silky smooth, with notes of candied apricot, marmalade, toasted hazelnut, and caramel, making it a delightful pairing for sandies, or perhaps some espresso-soaked ladyfingers.
The most festive of the bunch, let’s not forget flavorful and aromatic cookie favorites like gingerbread, chai-spiced sugar cookies, and cinnamon-laced snickerdoodles. These are the cookies that fill your house with those nostalgic holiday smells. Since the flavors of these cookies are more complex and layered, you have two options: Pick a wine that’s simple in order to let the cookie stand front and center. Or, choose a wine with a similar complexity and even some exotic spice to match the flavors of the cookie.
A few to try:
Cantine Florio 2006 Targa Riserva 1840 Semisecco Marsala DOC, Marsala, IT, $20: While many people think of Marsala as just a cooking wine, it’s actually far more versatile! This super-premium Marsala is laced with notes of caramel, dried fruit, and nuts, and is begging to be sipped alongside some of those cinnamon and spice cookies.
Gundlach Bundschu 2019 Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast, CA, $25: Aromatic wines like Gewurztraminer traditionally pair well with spicy foods full of exotic flavors, so why not try them with spiced cookies? This one’s got aromas of honeysuckle, jasmine, and lychee, and should stand up nicely with your classic gingerbread and other spiced holiday treats.
Dixie & Bass 2018 Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA, $17: This wine is soft and smooth, with complex layers of sweet baking spices, coffee, and plum. Not only is it the perfect dinner wine, it will transition seamlessly to your dessert course — a plate of gingersnaps or molasses spice cookies perhaps?
They may not be classic holiday cookies, but who doesn’t love a plate of warm, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, or an ooey-gooey fudge-y brownie, no matter the occasion? Chocolate may be one of the hardest things to pair with wine, but that doesn’t stop us from trying (we’re happy to do the dirty work). When matching up wines to chocolate, it often helps to pair the weight of the wine to the weight of the chocolate. For example, something light and fruity, even with a bit of sweetness, with your milk chocolate; and something rich and brooding to go with your dark chocolate. Also, sweet and fortified wines and liquors are great to explore when looking for a tipple to wash down your chocolate cookie.
A few to try:
C. Elizabeth 2016 Game Farm Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA, $150: Nothing says “self-care” like opening a bottle of luxurious meditation wine, cutting yourself the center piece from the fudge brownie pan, and retiring to the couch. This rich, layered wine has gorgeous dark berry fruit, vanilla, and chocolate notes of its own, making it the perfect accompaniment to those decadent chocolatey cookies.
Bricoleur Vineyards 2018 Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, CA, $42: A soft, plush Zinfandel is often a delightful pairing for chocolate, since it tends not to have the mouth-drying tannins that many other reds have, resulting in a silkier mouthfeel that goes well with chocolate. This inky Zin offers up notes of blackberry, licorice, and mocha with a soft, silky finish, which will flirt devilishly with a hunk of dark chocolate.
South Coast Winery “Ruby Cuvée” Sparkling Syrah, Temecula Valley, CA, $20: One bite of a double chocolate chip cookie or piece of holiday fudge, washed down with a sip of this brilliantly-hued red sparkler, will have you feeling like you’ve just dug into a box of chocolate-dipped cherries. Made from 100% Syrah, this festive bubbly is packed with notes of juicy raspberries, black currants, and lavender with a dry, fruity finish.
Few things are as cheerful and festive as jewel-toned thumbprints, jam-filled Linzer cookies, sweet and chewy fruitcake-inspired cookies, or sticky coconut macaroons that look like little snowballs. Since most fruit-based cookies tend to be pretty sweet, choose a wine that is sweeter or fruitier than the cookie you are pairing with it. Or, select a juicy sparkler for an elegant, party-perfect pairing.
A few to try:
Stella Rosa Golden Honey Peach, Italy, $12: Even if sweet wines aren’t your thing, trust us on this fun and festive pairing. This wine is technically only semi-sweet, but its also packed with yummy peach, nectarine, and preserved kumquat, and a luscious, honeyed finish. Try it with apricot bars for a double dose of sweet, stone fruit.
Tussock Jumper Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, $12.99: The lemony, zesty freshness of this savvy b is a great match for citrus-laced cookies like cranberry-orange shortbread thins, lemon bars, and lime icebox cookies.
Anarchist Wine Co. 2019 15 Minutes of Fame, $32, Clarksburg, CA: This lively frizzante rosé is a match made in cookie heaven with coconut macaroons. The soft bubbles tickle the nose with wild jasmine and fresh pineapple, giving way to tropical fruit and a beach vacation finish.
Never mind sitting next to that bowl of whole nuts still in shells that have already seen about sixteen Christmases so far, awkwardly trying to winkle out one stale almond with a rusted nutcracker. Indulge your inner squirrel with a batch of traditional Rugelach, or a tray of sugar-dusted peanut butter or butter pecan cookies. Nut-based cookies lend themselves quite well to wine pairings, so sky is the limit here.
A few to try:
Belden Barns Late Harvest Viognier, Sonoma Mountain, CA, $28 This golden nectar is dripping with honeysuckle, luscious peach, and melon, with notes of candied nuts and toasted brioche. Pair this with a plate of almond biscotti for a light and delicious after dinner treat.
Filibuster Dual Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey, US, $43: Wine not your thing? We couldn’t resist including this expressive dual cask bourbon as a delicious option for sipping alongside some butter pecan cookies. Finished in French oak, it comes to life in glass with notes of vanilla, caramel, toasted coconut, and a touch of peppery spice, making it a fine pairing for nut-based sweet treats.
Champagne Lanson “Le Black Label” Brut, Champagne, FR, $39.99: We love Champagne with anything, but we particularly love to sip it while nibbling on a selection of roasted or candied nuts. So why not take it to the next level by pouring yourself a glass of this to pair with your nuttiest holiday cookies? The delicious notes of fresh pear, toasted biscuit, pastry, and honey will no doubt sing alongside a batch of homemade rugelach.