One of the most exciting (and potentially stressful) aspects of the holiday season is the opportunity to visit and reconnect with extended family. Whether you are very close with your kin or a certified anti-family Grinch, wine is an outstanding choice for coping this holiday season.
Because the wine.net team wants everyone to maintain their sanity during the coming months, we have researched and spoken with a group of vino authorities regarding this important topic. We then compiled our research into a concise (but comprehensive) list of wine brands and grape varieties that are sure to maintain holiday harmony and keep your home a happy one. When you find yourself stressed this November and December, remember two things: take a deep breath, and, most importantly, drink more wine! Cheers!
Have a glass of gewurztraminer.
Blogger, foodie, wine drinker, and founder of www.mommyeffect.com Catrina Carne (@cboettner) offered us the following advice: “My favorite that I always keep on hand is gewurztraminer. It’s not quite a riesling and has a nice tart taste.”
According to wine-searcher, gewurztraminer is a white grape that produces a full-bodied, moderately dry vino offering aromas of lychee, rose petal, and perfume, and tastes of stone fruit (mango, peach, and apricot) and spice (ginger and cinnamon). Most gewurztraminers are produced in Alsace (France), New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, Germany, and northern Italy. Gewurztraminer pairs well with fish, curry, shellfish, duck, chicken, and rice. If you’re looking to try an inexpensive (but delicious) gewurztraminer, we recommend Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard’s 2011 Sonoma Coast Gewurztraminer ($18)
While you’re at it, have a glass of pinot grigio.
Ms. Carne also recommends pinot grigio, saying that she “always [has] an inexpensive pinot grigio on hand for emergencies. It does double duty. 1. It can be used for cooking. 2. If I completely run out of other wines, I can drink it.”
Pinot grigio is a crisp, dry, medium to full bodied white that features notes of lemon, green apple, pepper, arugula, and blossoms. Pinot grigio (or gris when produced in France) pairs well with fish, chicken, cream sauce-based pastas, shellfish, and soft, mild cheeses. If you’d like to try a high quality, affordable pinot grigio, we recommend Swanson Vineyards, 2013 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Grigio ($21). Follow them on Twitter @swansonvineyard.
Always go for fizz.
Doc Lawrence is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, and the host of Down South Today, a blog and podcast about the lighter side of life in the warm states. He says that “the failsafe planner cannot overlook the power of fizz. Sparklers [are always] popular. Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto ($20), a red sparkling wine, is delicious if you like strawberries. Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($15) is sweet but low in alcohol, making it a nice way to close the dining ceremony as guests prepare to leave.” This is excellent advice–after all, who doesn’t like sparkly things?!?
Doc Lawrence is a writer, professional journalist, editor, and television producer with an interest in travel, food, wine, and the arts. Learn more by checking out @docsnews on Twitter.
Pick a wine that goes with everything.
Chris Morocco of Real Simple Magazine offered the following excellent advice on coping with extended family this holiday season: “After a long day of cooking–and, oh, a few family dynamics–it’s easy to be thankful for any wine. But if you want an American standout that will work with every course of your feast, dessert included, you need one of [our picks for] the best red, white, and bubbly for the big meal.” Their pick for best overall bubbly is Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($22), which “tasters swore [was] French Champagne, with its characteristic refreshing acidity and long, dry finish.” Their choice for best under $20 white was William Hill Estate’s 2012 North Coast Chardonnay ($17), whose “bright citrus notes and earthy richness will silence Chardonnay skeptics.”
Finally, their pick for best under $20 red was Joel Gott’s 2012 California Zinfandel ($18), whose “smooth blend of blackberry and spice lingers long after you sip, amplifying the earthy flavors of stuffing and spuds.” To read more, check out @RealSimple on Twitter.
Share your wine…even if you don’t really want to.
When we talked with Shareaholic (@Shareaholic), they reminded us to always “enjoy wine with the people who are near and dear to you…and perhaps some strangers, too. Have a ‘wine-derful’ holiday season, and please remember to ‘love the wine you’re with!’” When choosing a good wine to share, their team recommends Wagner’s Conundrum White Blend ($18), which is “a great white blend of chardonnay, viognier, muscat, and sauvignon blanc, [and features] nice citrus [notes] and balance.”
Remember to always consider your budget.
Another way to maintain your sanity this holiday season is to never spend more on wine (or anything, really) than you can afford. We consulted Wine Ponder, a blog run by Steve Jacobson, a wine enthusiast “who loves to share his wine experiences with others, because wine is intended to be enjoyed as a group.” Mr. Jacobson provided the following advice: “The holidays are upon us, and that means a lot of parties and entertaining…and, of course, wine. So, what to pour if you’re hosting? What to bring if you’re going? What to buy if you’re gifting?
Just like anything else, it always depends on your scale of effort…or, in other words, how much do you want to spend. Here are some red wine recommendations with a variety of prices. Let your budget figure out who’s been naughty or nice.” If you’re looking for a pinot noir, Jacobson recommends White Horse Pinot Noir ($14): “I recommend this one highly for Thanksgiving.” If you prefer a cabernet, Wine Ponder suggests Kendall Jackson’s cabernet sauvignon ($14). Visit @WinePonder on Twitter to learn more.
Revel in the soothing power of pinot noir.
If you’re looking for another outstanding red wine to enjoy this holiday season, blogger Marysia Maciocha recommends pinot noir because it is “not too heavy on your head.” When you’re looking for an inexpensive but tasty pinot noir, we recommend Mission Point’s Pinot Noir ($10). To learn more about Ms. Maciocha, visit www.mytravelaffairs.com or @MyTravelAffairs on Twitter.
Have some of the “Big Eight” varietals on hand.
According to wine writer, educator, and sommelier Stacy Slinkard, you should be sure to “have a well-stacked wine list of your own to manage everything from party platters to formal dinner parties, [including] the ‘Big Eight’ varietals: cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, and sauvignon blanc.”
Slinkard’s recommendations include Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2013 Columbia Valley Riesling ($8), St. Supery’s 2013 Napa Valley sauvignon blanc ($14), Seven Hills’ 2012 Pinot Gris ($14), Yellow Tail’s Shiraz ($7), and Korbel’s Champagne Brut ($10). Read more by visiting www.wine.about.com or @stacyslinkard on Twitter.
Remember that holiday foods are rich and full-flavored, and choose your wines accordingly.
Dédé Wilson (author of Christmas Cooking for Dummies) had the following to say about pairing wine and holiday foods: “planning what wines to serve at your Christmas or Thanksgiving party can be overwhelming. You don’t have to have a personal sommelier at your side to make decisions about matching wine with Christmas food. Holiday foods tend to be rich and full-flavored, so here are a few surefire choices: beaujolais, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and dessert wines.”
According to Ms. Wilson, beaujolais works well with turkey or pasta dishes, zinfandel with turkey, ham, and roast beef, cabernet with roast beef, duck, and strong cheeses, pinot noir with turkey, and pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc with just about anything. She concludes her article by reminding us that “rules are made to be broken. Many experts drink red wine with fish, which you may have heard is a no-no. Follow your instincts, and serve wines that you enjoy.” Learn more at www.dedewilson.com or by visiting @dedewilsonbakes on Twitter.
Dédé Wilson is a Contributing Editor at Bon Appétit magazine and the author of 14 books on baking and cooking, including Christmas Cooking for Dummies. You can find out more about Ms. Wilson by visiting www.dedewilson.com or @dedewilsonbakes on Twitter.
Mix it up.
In an enlightening post on Vintner Select, sales manager Jeff Hickenlooper discusses the stressful nature of the most wonderful time of the year: “You have 12 holiday parties to go to, two dinners with your family, and then New Year’s Eve. That makes 12 host gifts…wine to bring to your family’s house for dinner, and bubbles for New Year’s…how do you avoid bringing the same old boring wines that everyone else brings[?]” This is an important question for any vino enthusiast to ask themselves when planning for the holidays.
Hickenlooper suggests that, rather than going with the usual suspects, mixing it up with wines such as riesling, gruner veltliner, albarino, grenache blanc, viognier, scheurebe, or chenin blanc. Learn more at the following link: http://vintnerselect.com/insane-rants-of-a-wine-sales-manager-during-the-holiday-season/.
Jeff Hickenlooper is a sales manager for Vintner Select, a company that seeks to bring the finest quality wines from around the world to the American midwest. Visit www.vintnerselect.com to learn more.