Do you love whiskey neat in the winter? Nothing takes the chill out of the air quite like whiskey and bourbon. Pour a small glass, sit by the fire, and get cozy. While there’s certainly a time and a place for this strong spirit, there are times when you may want something a little different – like dinner, for instance.
While whiskey tastes great on its own, it doesn’t pair particularly well with food. Additionally, if you’re looking for a lower-ABV beverage or a slightly healthier option during the holiday season, it might be time to branch out.
Thankfully, if you love whiskey, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy wine too. Not just any wine, of course. But certain wines may help you discover your new favorite drink. So, where do you start? Whether you love whiskey, bourbon, scotch, or rye, we're happy to help you find the right wine for whiskey lovers.
Why Red Wine Goes Down Smooth with Whiskey Drinkers
Even though whiskey and wine may seem pretty different – i.e., one is made from grain while the other comes from grapes – the two share several similarities, particularly when it comes to red wine.
First, like whiskey, many medium- to full-bodied red wines are aged in oak barrels. Oak imparts a rich complexity to wine, and can add flavor notes of vanilla and spice. Oak aging can also tone down the acidity and “round out” the flavor of wine.
So, when looking for wine to try, start with an oak-aged red. Additionally, both wine and whiskey are affected by terroir, meaning the geographic elements of where it’s made – including the soil, the climate, and local traditions. So, when looking for a wine to try, you may want to check out wines with similar regional characteristics to the whiskey you already love.
Top 7 Wines for Whiskey Lovers
Cabernet is a great gateway wine for whiskey lovers, and if you love single malt scotch or smoky peated Irish whiskey, be sure to start your wine journey here. This full-bodied red wine has dark fruit flavors, structured tannins, and notes of spice.
Since whiskey is barrel aged, we’ve selected a Bright Cellars favorite that also leans into oaky, aged flavors. Grasp + Grabble taps into flavors of fig, plum, vanilla, and baking spices making it the perfect wine for the whiskey lover.
Italian wine is also a great starting place for whiskey lovers. If you love savoring the wide range of aromas in whiskey, an Italian red will give you a similarly complex sipping experience. Nebbiolo-based wines – including Barolo and Barbaresco – are medium- to full-bodied with notes of red cherry, anise, and licorice.
If you prefer whiskey with a smoother taste or a blended whiskey, start with Australian Shiraz, a bold red wine known for its jammy fruit flavors and notes of vanilla and spice from oak aging.Shiraz as a varietal lends itself well to the whiskey crowd, but our crowd favorite Bushtelly hits the flavor notes on the head. You’ll notice the warm notes of campfire smoke from the first sip, along with plum, black pepper, and eucalyptus.
Another Italian red wine to try comes from Sicily. Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola is full-bodied with structured tannins and hints of spice. This bold red wine has notes of black cherry, chili pepper, and tobacco leaves.
Merlot, particularly from a New World region like California or Washington State, is a great wine to try if you love bourbon. Bold and powerful with notes of vanilla from oak aging, Merlot has notes of black cherry and plum, with a chocolatey finish.
In the realm of warm flavor profiles, our Jetbird Merlot boats aromas of baking spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves - making it an easy sip for whiskey drinkers.
Fans of sweet and smoky bourbon or Irish whiskey will also enjoy Zinfandel, a bold red wine with jammy fruit notes and hints of smoke and spice. California Zinfandel in particular is known for its luscious notes of vanilla from oak aging.
If you love rye whiskey, which is generally spicier and drier than other whiskies, be sure to try this medium-bodied Spanish wine. Known as Grenache in France, Garnacha has notes of cherry, stewed strawberry, and black pepper.
A Note about Choosing the Right Wine
Still not sure about picking out a wine? You might want to start out with Cognac, which is a distilled wine. Cognac has complex notes of dried figs, vanilla, and leather from oak aging, and tends to be a hit among whiskey lovers.
Speaking of oak aging, a great way to bridge the gap from whiskey to wine is to try a wine that’s been aged in bourbon barrels. No, this isn’t a fantasy – it actually exists. Try Folk & Fable Red Blend – a bold and smoky blend of carefully selected red wines with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves.