The wintry decor is up, the candles are lit and it's finally time for holiday gatherings with your crew — you just haven't figured out what to serve yet. Laying out an impressive spread can be easy with quality sips, simple ingredients and your fave glasses.
Don't worry — matching drinks and food isn't just for the experts. While this list gives you some options, there are no rules for pairing (besides trusting your taste buds) and a few tools to help you out along the way.
You can pair by complementing or contrasting a dish with a wine. Mirror the richness of a hearty dish with a bold red or refresh your palate with a lighter white. Ontario VQA wines are super diverse (and locally grown), so you've got lots to choose from.
Here's a list of wine and appie pairings that’ll make your celebration one you won’t soon forget. Bonus: they're made with minimal ingredients and prep time.
Icewine & Pretzel Bites With Cheese Sauce
Did you know that you can try Icewine in a cocktail? It's the coolest way to begin your festivities and Ontario VQA Wines has a list of recipes to choose from (like the VQA Icewine Apple Martini that screams cozy.)
Sweet and salty is always a good combo. The desserty, fruit-forward notes in Icewine contrast with the saltiness of these pretzel bites and the deliciously sharp cheese sauce.
Ontario VQA Icewine, made from grapes that are harvested when they're frozen, is world-renowned. Raise a glass in one hand and dip some soft pretzels in ooey-gooey cheese sauce with the other.
These pretzels come together with a few ingredients (water, butter, brown sugar, dry yeast, salt, flour, baking soda and egg) plus some arm strength for kneading. The hardest part? Trying to keep your hands off them before your friends arrive.
Chardonnay & Prosciutto Crostini With Goat Cheese
This elegant pairing will keep your casual get-together classy. A more subdued wine like a dry, unoaked Chardonnay won't dominate the delicate flavour of prosciutto, plus the velvety flavour brings out the creaminess of the goat cheese.
Bonus: this make-ahead appie’s super portable in case you're not hosting.
For the crostini, combine balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil. Cook garlic and red onion in a pan with a splash of Chardonnay, then add the balsamic sauce.
Spread some goat cheese on crusty bread and bake. Top it all off with the rest of the ingredients, prosciutto and if you have some thyme (haha literally) throw that on too.
Cabernet Franc & Smoky Baba Ganoush
Every event needs dip (and an option for the plant-based folks too).
Make this one with grilled eggplant (don't stress if you don't have a grill — you can bake it in the oven too), lemon juice, tahini, garlic and parsley. While garnishes are optional, don't skip on the smoked paprika and liquid smoke that pulls it all together.
Pair with Cabernet Franc, a red wine that's both bright and peppery, making it a great complement to the smoky flavour in this dip.
While this is a herbaceous red, Ontario's VQA Cabernet Franc often has hints of raspberry too. This fruitiness highlights the subtle eggplant flavour without overpowering it.
Pinot Noir & Sautéed Mushroom Appetizer
Pinot Noir and earthy mushrooms are a match made in heaven.
This quick-prep, six-ingredient appie’s also got onions, parmesan cheese and garlic — each of which are pretty versatile when it comes to wine pairings. The cherry taste and aroma of Pinot Noir just amp these ingredients up.
Cook the onions in a pan, add the mushrooms and fresh garlic and stir in some parmesan. Your friends will never guess it was that easy to make something this delicious.
Sparkling & Apple Cinnamon Bacon Bites
Apples wrapped in bacon, baked and dusted with cinnamon sugar? These are the flavours of the season, folks. Plus, toothpick appetizers are always fun (and super practical for big groups).
The acidity in sparkling wine cuts through the fattiness of bacon and the citrus aroma notes complement the apple.
Choose a sparkling like an Off-Dry or Semi-Sweet so that the carbonation and slight sweetness makes this appetizer pop.Recipe
Riesling & Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
While a Riesling can be sweet or dry, a sweeter one balances out spicy food — and these meatballs have a bit of a kick. This Ontario VQA variety pairs well with lighter meats like chicken and turkey, so toss your pick into a big kitchen bowl to start.
Mix together garlic, eggs, breadcrumbs, paprika, onion powder and salt and pepper and shape into balls, then pop them in the oven.
The firecracker sauce starts with a hot-sauce base (figure out which one is your crew's fave), brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
Dip, drizzle or brush the sauce onto the meatballs — and throw them back in the oven for a minute or two before your guests arrive. Sip on Riesling and enjoy.Recipe
Pinot Noir Rosé & Harvest Salad
Serving an Ontario VQA rosé wine will please most wine drinkers (whether they're typically red or white lovers), and this salad is pretty much the season in a bowl.
Translation: you’ll be seriously popular at your holiday gathering.
The salad’s got greens, apple, butternut squash, candied pecans, cornbread croutons and parmesan. Make an oh-so-Canadian maple vinaigrette dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
While there are tons of rosés, grab a dry Pinot Noir Rosé. It’s got the best of both worlds: the acidity of white wine and the fruitiness of red to complement the craisins, candied pecans and maple syrup in this recipe. The wine's low sugar content means you won't get a sugar rush either.
Whether you're hosting or gathering at your bestie's place, VQA Wines of Ontario offer you a variety of ways to elevate your holiday gatherings without much work at all.
Try out one of these wine pairings, or create your own by using VQA Wines of Ontario's handy matchmaker tool that allows you to search by style, variety, sweetness and body-style.
Cheers to awesome friends, delicious appetizers and the local VQA wines that can bring them all together.