Anyone who’s spent a well-oiled afternoon at a winery has likely been coached through some concepts of pairing food and wine while ordering platefuls of overpriced nibbles. No, just me? Okay, well, not to worry. Fortunately, the season of sugar and alcohol is upon us and overindulgence is, if not encouraged, at least allowed. Of all the temptations the season has on offer, nothing beats Christmas cookies for ubiquity or deliciousness. In terms of boozy enticements, we turn to our old friend wine for a touch of class. Plus, we wouldn’t get too far down the list if we were leaning on the vivacious carbohydrates of beer or the alcohol content of liquor. As for White Claw and its bumbling sorority sisters —just no, this is a grown-up holiday party.
Sugar Cookies, Rosé
Since this is a cookie-forward list, with wines falling into accompanying roles, it seems fitting to start with the granddaddy of Christmas confections. Sugar cookies present a dangerous challenge as they are essentially globs of grainy sugar coated with glossy sugar. The accompanying wine can’t be sweet, but a bone-dry wine would, contrary to popular belief, not offer the perfect solution. Overly dry wines, paired with sweets trick our tongues into creating a bitter taste. Rosé to the rescue. Light and floral without being overpowering, a solid Provencal Rosé is your best friend in this scenario. Look for a very pale peach tint.
Gingerbread, Vidal Ice Wine (Riesling in a pinch)
The arguable number two in the Christmas cookie world, gingerbread offers a snappy retort to all the brazenly saccharine treats available this time of year. If you can handle some sweetness in your wine, this is place to drop in a steel-cask Riesling. A proper Riesling doesn’t lean on sweetness, but carries some citrus and acidity on a ribbon of honey. If you’re up for a search and don’t mind dropping some cash, the best bet though would be to go full dessert wine on these anthropomorphic spice monsters and find an ice wine. If you can get your hands on a bottle from Inniskillin (Ontario), you’ll be in good hands.
Linzers, Pinot Noir
Originally created in Linz, Austria, these little tarts, with their buttery edges and jammy centers, have earned their tenure at the cookie table. Their precise assemblage, though, doesn’t always work with busy American holiday planning. Thus, the thumbprint cookie, the Linzer’s slightly rumpled American cousin, was born. Either version offers shortbread goodness with a side of sweet fruit, ideal elements to bring out the best in a Pinot Noir. A perfect California specimen will fit the bill without breaking the bank. Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir, a medium-bodied wine with light tannins and whiffs of berry, can be found just about anywhere, which means this is a pairing that can happen on a 10 p.m. impulse.
Chocolate Chip, Sauvignon Blanc
You could argue that a chocolate chip cookie is not a Christmas cookie, but why would you? This is the quintessential classic. I speak as something of an expert on this pairing as I’ve spent nearly 20 years perfecting the combination. For me, this coupling is all about mouthfeel. Chocolate chip cookies are rich and buttery, dotted with bits of the most indulgent substance on Earth. Any wine standing up to that needs to be dry and zesty, with the lowest possible viscosity. There’s nothing worse than a swig of full-bodied wine to wash down the sweet oiliness of a great cookie. Enter Sauvignon Blanc — zesty, crisp and acidic. The best options are light-bodied, herbaceous wines from New Zealand. Very 2015, I know, but it works.
Peanut Butter Kiss, Port
Let’s end this thing on a bold note, shall we? Dessert on the plate, dessert in the glass. Peanut Butter Kiss cookies were a staple of my Midwestern childhood, an easy option for parents rushing off to their umpteenth damn cookie swap. It’s genius in its simplicity though, a standard peanut butter cookie with a chocolate candy smashed into the center. No subtle notes here, so it’s time to go all in. Grab a bottle of rich Port, preferably a tawny from Taylor Fladgate, and prepare to indulge. Tawny Ports reek of Old-World oak, roasted nuts and allspice — Christmas in a glass. This pairing is best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire, but an artificial tree and a rerun of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will also work.