Classic holiday desserts coupled with just the right glass.

By Lia Picard
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Various wines in glasses on dining table at Christmas.
Credit: Getty Images

This year calls for an extra festive holiday season. With apologies to Santa, this means ditching the milk and enjoying those sugar cookies with sparkling wine. Desserts are usually paired with sweet wine, or maybe coffee, but they deserve better. A thoughtful pairing can make them all the more enjoyable—although, we’re not sure that even a wine pairing can save that fruit cake, sorry.

To make the most of our favorite Christmas sweets, we spoke with Chattanooga chef Erik Niel. Niel is the chef-owner of Easy Bistro, a chic restaurant specializing in southern-meets-French cuisine, and also happens to curate the restaurant’s wine and spirits lists. From gingerbread men to pecan pie, here are six ways to pair traditional Christmas desserts.

Gingerbread Men

For gingerbread men, or other ginger-forward treats, Niel suggests pairing them with something bubbly. A floral Perrier-Jouet Blanc de Blanc, perhaps?  “I love the way some of those more feminine sparklers can work with ginger,” he says.

Our Favorite Recipe to Try: Spicy Molasses Gingerbread People

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel, or yule log, is traditionally made with chocolate sponge cake filled with cream and covered in chocolate frosting (don’t forget the adorable meringue mushrooms). In sum, it’s a sweet and rich chocolatey dessert. Instead of wine, Niel suggests pairing it with a glass of brandy, like Germain-Robin or E&J Xo. He explains, “The spiciness of a really good brandy would be great with the sweetness of a yule log.”

Our Favorite Recipe to Try: Buche de Noel

Frosted Sugar Cookies

“Milk,” he laughs. But if you’re feeling frisky, you might want to try pairing them with a Gewürztraminer, “so you get a little spicy-sweet to go with them.” Try one from Alsace.

Our Favorite Recipes to Try: Easy Sugar Cookies and Easy Royal Icing for Cookies

You could pair a glass of bourbon with pecan pie, or you could try a Colheita port (Niel likes Niepoort). “There's sweetness in it, but there's also this acidity that's maintained, that would go well with the rich nuttiness of the pecan pie.”

Our Favorite Recipe to Try: Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Happiness in the winter is found in a bowl of sticky toffee pudding. It’s a moist, dense cake drenched in a caramelly sauce, after all. Pair it with a dry, light-bodied fino sherry, Niel says, to balance the dessert’s sweetness.

Our Favorite Recipe to Try: Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding

Panetone

The Italian sweet bread panetone isn’t for everyone (Niel included). But if you’re looking for an excuse to drink Brut Rosé in the winter, this is it, says Niel. The sparkling wine is fruity and should complement the drier panettone nicely.