Festive Wines Yule Love
Celebrate the Season With Our Holiday Wine Guide

Certain beverages just seem to make more sense in certain seasons. Margaritas don’t necessarily scream fall foliage, but they do nudge us to find a spot poolside in the summer.

Each wine also suggests a certain season, and certainly the vinous world is so diverse that we could spend several seasons pairing different wines with the changing temperatures and seasonal ingredients without running out of new options for slaking our thirst (and our curiosity).

When the chilly winds and snow of winter start to blow, certain wines that make sense in the spring (such as fresh rosé) or summer (think spritzy and light Vinho Verde) get overpowered by the blustery weather and heartier, warming holiday fare. But there are plenty of wine styles to explore that are perfect for the winter season. Here are a few wine options if you’re on the hunt for winter warmers.


Port hails from one of the oldest official wine regions on the planet, the Douro in Portugal. Port is fortified with neutral grape spirit during alcoholic fermentation, which stops the process before all of the grapes’ sugars can be converted into alcohol, and preserves some of their natural sweetness in the finished wine.

Because it’s fortified, Port packs a warming alcoholic sensation with every sip: just the thing for warming you up on cold winter nights. While there are many styles of Port, the two most common are Tawny and Ruby. Both are usually sweet and ready to drink upon release.

Tawny Port spends extended time barrel-aging, taking on flavors of toasted nuts, caramel, and dried fruits – think pecan pie and you’ll get the picture. Ruby Ports emphasize the fresher dark berry fruit flavors of the grapes, and are a great match for hearty holiday desserts made with chocolate.

Port Wine Guide


The tiny Portuguese island of Madeira became famous for creating a style of fortified wine that could survive long journeys overseas. Today, Madeira producers recreate the conditions of those voyages by fortifying their wines, blending them, and exposing them to warm temperatures and oxygen throughout an extended barrel aging.

The result is a wine redolent with dried fruit, Sherry-like notes, toast, nuts, and toffee, which naturally conjures up images of winter desserts. As with Port, the fortification process raises the alcohol level of Madeira to about 20 percent, so it also does admirable duty as a winter warmer.

Madeira is nearly as versatile as Port, available in different barrel-ages, and styles from dry (Sercial) to very sweet (Malvasia). What’s more, because Madeira wine is so hardy, you don’t have to fret over leaving some behind in the bottle. Given the right storage conditions, good Madeira can be enjoyed for years without it changing its primary flavors, so you can look forward to a sip for many winter seasons to come.

Madeira Wine Guide


The small Hungarian area of Tokaji was once the epicenter of the fine-wine world, primarily for its sweet wine made from grapes that have shriveled on the vine due to natural processes, which concentrates the fruit’s sugar and acidity. The wine from here was so well regarded that it has been said that Louis XV of France called it “Wine of Kings, King of Wines” when pouring it for Madame de Pompadour. It’s difficult to get a higher recommendation than that.

Tokaji production relies on a special fungus called botrytis that affects the grapes and turns them into raisins while still on the vine. This might not sound appealing (and those grapes certainly don’t look appealing when they’re picked, either), but the fermented results are anything but icky – just ask the next member of French royalty you happen to bump into.

While there are a few styles of Tokaji, the most well-known is Aszú, which has explosive flavors of sweet apricot, coffee, orange rind, citrus zest, and golden raisins. It’s most impressive feature, however, might be its vibrant, lip-smacking acidity, which helps it hold its own not only as an aperitif, but also as a match for desserts of nearly all kinds.

Tokaji Wine Guide

Doux Sparkling Wine

What would New Year’s Eve be without a glass of bubbly to toast the flipping of the calendar? For starters, it would be a much less classy and less festive evening. Sparkling wine is probably already a part of your winter holiday plans, but there’s an under-appreciated style of bubbly that is especially luxuriant, and therefore a good match for the indulgent holiday season.

Doux sparkling wines are a sweet style of bubbly. While almost all sparkling wine has some small amount of sugar added to help balance its racy, piquant acidity, Doux sparkling wines ratchet that up a notch, adding over five percent sugar by volume. At that level, the sweetness is noticeable above the vibrant acid and drying bubbles, imparting a richer mouth feel than styles made with less sugar.

With Doux sparkling wines (particularly the better examples from France, the U.S., and Italy), you get the apple and pear fruitiness, floral aromas, and hints of toast that are part of the drier sparkling wine bottlings, as well as sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth (and match up with holiday cakes).

Doux Sparkling Wine Guide

Ice Wine

Few people would want to join pickers harvesting grapes for one of the most beguiling dessert wines from Canada, Germany, and the U.S.: ice wine. Ice wine harvests typically take place at night, in the frigid cold, when temperatures reach a bone-chilling 17 degrees F. It’s then that the grapes freeze, and the ice surrounding them draws out the water within the grapes, concentrating their flavors, acidity, and sugar.

While this style of dessert wine is expensive – hey, those poor folks hand-harvesting grapes in the freezing cold need to get paid! – it’s worth a look if you prefer sweet wines that are intense, but also have a vibrant mouth feel that isn’t overly cloying.

With the best ice wines, you’ll get citrus, stone fruit, and candy aromas and flavors that are focused, intense, fresh, and pure. This all comes with ice wine’s bright acidity, which helps it feel refreshing despite the high concentrations of sugar. And what could be more apt for winter than wine made from frozen grapes?

Ice Wine Guide

This holiday season, you don’t have to reach for the same vino that helped you ring in the seasons so far. Instead, consider trying out one of the dessert wine styles above, and treat yourself to a tasty new drinking experience, while you enjoy the sweet treats that mark the coming of winter and the holiday season.

Embed the article on your site