Story by Charles Fredy
Picking a wine for your next holiday party can be daunting. Most of us want everything to be perfect, and getting it just right is fairly complex. My suggestion is to choose the wines after you have decided on the food. (Multiple selections boost your chances for success.) Seek out wines that are versatile, yet deliver consistent pleasure. Avoid gimmick wines and everyday favorites; this is the time to make an impression.
For the holidays, I like memorable wines that explode with flavor and excitement. They don’t have to be expensive, just delicious. Look for wines that deliver quality for the price. If you feel like a little extravagance, try a few special wines, such as vintage champagne, top-flight Cabernet Sauvignon, or a white burgundy from France. If you’re on a budget, pick an Italian Prosecco, a Beaujolais Village, or some of the lesser-known wines, such as a Tempranillo from Spain or a Torrontés from Argentina.
Holiday dinners offer so many flavors, I prefer to take the “cover all the bases” approach. Start with some sparkling: an Alsatian or German Riesling, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, and a California Chardonnay. For the reds, go with a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a burgundy or Pinot Noir from Oregon or California. If that isn’t enough, add a Pinot Gris and/or Loire Valley Chinon.
Wine also makes a smart holiday gift. It is celebratory, can be unique, and easy to find. Get advice from a small, independent wine shop; they offer personal service and usually have some hidden jewels you can trust. Stick to the better wine producers and go with something new or interesting, possibly a Bonarda/Malbec blend from Tikal or a New Zealand Pinot Noir. Take advantage of the gift-wrapping the wine shops offer; they usually have great bags available and don’t charge a lot.
For that special gift, make an impact by giving big or small bottles. A good magnum (1.5 ml.) of champagne is always impressive, and there are lots of California Cabernets to choose from in the “Grande” size. Going small is fun, too; pick four or five half-bottles from a number of varietals. Throw in a half-bottle of champagne or sweet dessert wine to mix it up.
Here are some recommendations for that special occasion:
+ Adami, Prosecco, Garbel, Veneto, Italy, N.V., $15
+ Schramsberg, Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, California, 2004, $40
+ Crios, Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina, 2008, $16
+ Freemark Abbey, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2007, $24
+ Dr. Loosen, Riesling, Mosel, Germany, 2007, $15
+ Silverado, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2005, $28
+ Carmel Road, Pinot Noir, Monterey, California, 2007, $18
+ Louis Jadot, Beaujolais Village, Burgundy, France, 2007, $16
Charles Fredy is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a certified specialist of wine with the Society of Wine Educators. A thirty-one-year veteran of the wine-and-spirits industry, he is vice president and general manager of Grand Crew Wine Merchants.