After two months of Christmas songs, you’ll need a new playlist and the wines to go with it.
All I want for Christmas is a playlist of the classic songs and the wines to go with them. So while you’re gathering around the tree and counting the loot from Santa, here are a few to belt out and drink down.
“Blue Christmas,” Elvis Presley. Well, dang, Tennessee doesn’t make a wine I can match up with rockabilly, but when I’m having Memphis BBQ, I’m reaching for this Bending Branch Tannat, a deep, full-bodied wine that has a sweet oak spice, concentrated late-summer strawberry fruit and a bit of a licorice twist. I think Elvis would approve
“White Christmas,” Bing Crosby. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s the No. 1 seasonal classic, and it deserves something equally storied. I’m going with Newton’s Unfiltered Chardonnay, a straw-colored, tropical-inflected wine from a heritage winery. A pretty layering of honeycomb, butterscotch and caramel, juicy citrus makes this a generous without being an over the top wine.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Ella Fitzgerald. Ella’s version is a light and swinging interpretation that deserves an equally happy wine, “L’Occhiolino” (Italian for wink) an IGT frizzante rosso from Emilia is just the ticket. Not as deep as the Lambruscos for which the region is known, but a peppy and fun red-fruited, low-octane (7.5 abv) fizz in an off-dry style.
“The Christmas Song,” Nat King Cole (1961) or Johnny Mathis (1958). Take your pick of crooner, but make sure your wine is just as silky smooth. I’m going with Conde Valdemar Rioja DOC Reserve 2015, from a fifth-generation producer who knows how to coax the expression from Tempranillo. This one has sewed strawberries and milk chocolate with an herbal undertone bordering on some kind of umami. Sleek, smooth tannins.
“Run Rudolph Run,” Chuck Berry. You can’t listen to this song and stay in your seat, so you need a wine that’s got a lot of shimmy to it (or at least comes from a producer that does). From partners Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman, Evening Land “La Source” Pinot Noir from the Seven Springs estate (Eola-Amity Hills, Ore.) deftly combines cherry, some earthy mushroom and bright tea spices (think Constant Comment) in a wine backed by a dusty minerality.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas,” Dean Martin. A Christmas song that’s a little bit sultry and a lot of silky, calls for a similarly styled wine—how about Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Margaret River? Lush and plush plum, black and blue berries, with evident skin tannins to give this some definition. Smooth tannins, silky but working in tandem with those skins. Fourteen months in French oak (40% new).
“Christmas Time is Here,” Vince Guaraldi Trio. This is the only Christmas song I can think of that combines a dreamy sentiment and sophistication. For this, I turned to Mira for a classic California Chardonnay (though tough to pass up their Merlot). Sourced 100% from the Hyde Vineyard in the cool-climate Carneros district, this expresses a purity of ripe apple and pear, some tea spices and honeycomb. Full and satisfying but not overdone: It shines.
“Sleigh Ride,” The Ronettes. Upbeat, joyful and a little sassy, a girl Motown version of what is often a sappy classic. JJ Vincent Juliénas Cru Beaujolais 2018. This is a juicy and plush, easy-drinking sip from Famille Vincent, showcasing Gamay’s red and black fruits with a pleasing charred wood and iodine character.
“Santa Baby,” Eartha Kitt. The sultriest Santa song ever deserves a wine that can keep up. Pasqua’s “Hey French” Bianco Veneto IGT is a full-bodied, sensual and ripe multi-vintage blend expressing baked yellow apple, quince, anise, and Chenin waxiness and lots of sexy umami.
“Feliz Navidad,” José Feliciano. Shimmy your shoulders and put a little shake in your hips while you listen to this classic and sip Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad, an iconic cava on the edge of off-dry with honeycomb notes, a bit of brioche white fruits and a persistent bubble. A blend of 75% Macabeo; 25% Chardonnay.