Your Winter Drinking Guide
It’s the most wine-derful time of the year, so indulge in all of your favorite things! Take yourself out for a glass of wine, wear a tiara, buy yourself cashmere socks, or call in sick and watch Home Alone.
Ah, the holidays. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year to wear fuzzy sweaters and utilize the space that Bing Crosby is taking up in your iTunes library. And who are we kidding: it’s a fine time to drink wine. As with everything during winter, however, wine selections can get stressful. Don’t let them. Use these tips to get you through the holidays like a wine pro.
Be More Fair Than a Fair Isle Sweater
Whether you’re playing hostess or guest, always aim for the middle ground. The wine should reflect your personal taste and open your guests/giftees up to new flavors, but it should be bought with their preferences in mind as well. Any other time of the year, fine, buy whatever you want. But this is the season of giving, or at the very least, compromising.
Strategize Ahead of Wine.
(Get it? Instead of time.)
When hosting, come up with a game plan of the wines you want to serve and in what order. This will keep you from having to think about it while you’re busy thinking of a million other things, like not burning the turkey or your apartment down.
I like to have different wines for cocktail hour, every course of the meal and for a nightcap by the fireside (or as I like to call it, Netflix’s “Fireplace for Your Home”). You can delineate based upon specific pairings, or keep it simple and just serve in succession from lightest to boldest. Or go real simple and not give a fuck. That is totally acceptable.
Bookend with Bubbly
Start and finish with sparkling. There is nothing to get the spirits high and a party started like a good sparkler, nor is there a better way to conclude a memorable meal. Although Champagne is fantastic, it’s also expensive, so think outside the Veuve. Craft ciders, Petulant Naturales, Lambruscos, Fraciacortas and cavas are delicious, much cheaper, unconventional and subsequently unforgettable. My favorites are Ciderie du Vulcain cider, Mercat Brut Cava, Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco and Puenta Crena Lumassina Frizzante.
Don’t forget to let bigger reds breath. Uncork them about an hour before serving. You don’t need anymore “bold” personalities at the table than you already have.
Don’t Sweet Talk Your Guests
Unless the dessert is the wine, stay away from pairing dessert wines with dessert. Always go with something that is less sweet and lighter than the dessert itself. It should be a refreshing complement to the dish. You don’t want to bomb your guests’ tastebuds with sweetness or send those of us using Sensodyne into shock.
Keep a couple of neutral, food-friendly bottles out in case your company decides to have their way at the wet bar. My advice: Grüner Veltliner and Gamay. Grüners and Gamay are both inexpensive, versatile and light wines. Enjoyable for wine novices and pros alike, these wines won’t clash with any of your dishes if they make their way onto the dinner table.
Practice Safe Gifting
Always wrap your bottle when giving wine as a gift. It doesn’t have to be fancy –just find a stray bow in your house and boom. Wrapped. If your host is anything like me (or like you now!), they probably have specific wines they want to serve. If you wrap it, your host gets to choose whether or not to serve it, rather than feel obligated to open it.
Cheap Doesn’t Have to Taste Cheap
You can get really great wines in the $12 to $30 range. The trick is to go to a wine store rather than a bodega. Tell your local merchant what you’re looking for and your price point.
If they’re of no help whatsoever, check out Château d’ Oupia’s “Les Hérétiques” Carignan ($11.99), Luigi Giordano’s Langhe Rosso ($18), and Cruse Wine Co.’s Valdiguie ($28).
Why Wait Until Dinner to Start Drinking?
Try a wine cocktail, like Aperol spritzes (3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 splash of sparkling water) or Prosecco with St. Germain and lemon (½ oz. St. Germain, ½ oz. lemon juice, fill up with prosecco). For something to keep you warm, try mulled wine or a punch. Here’s my holiday classic, the Chardoncrayyy Burbon punch:
• 2 bottles of chilled, not oaky/buttery chardonnay
• 1 12-oz. bottle of chilled Rose’s grenadine
• 2 & 1/2 cups of chilled Bulleit bourbon
• 1 cup chilled orange juice
• 1 cu.p chilled cranberry juice
• 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
• 7 cups of ice cubes
• 2 12-oz. chilled can of Sprite
• 1 cup chilled club soda
TL;DR; Still Need Help
Ok. When in doubt, go with a Beaujolais or pinot noir. For everything. Nearly everyone likes drinking them and they go with every meal. Both are light-bodied, fruit-forward, acidic and have very little tannins, making them complementary with everything from turkey to salmon to your aunt-who’s-not-really-your-aunt’s weird fruit cake thing you have to wash down and pretend to love.
For clothing stains, both immediate or before the wash, you need Wine Away. For carpet or furniture stains, you need Spot Shot. Without these two tools, I wouldn’t have anything left in my closet or my living room, or my bedroom, or… okay, fine. My whole house would be trash.
Be merry. The wine doesn’t make the holiday; the holiday makes the wine. So don’t think too much about it. Have fun, spread joy and give lots of hugs. No matter what you serve or give, it will be as enjoyable as the company that consumes it.
Marissa A. Ross is the creator of Wine. All the Time. She’s an LA-based writer, comedian, and self-proclaimed wino. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram; Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.