A Wine Guide for Every Holiday Situation

From Bon Appétit’s wine editor Marissa A. Ross

12.21.16
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Wine goes with most everything, but especially the holidays. It echoes of Frank Sinatra sentimentality and inspires the giddiness of Peanuts’ dancing little feet. Popping a good bottle can feel as thrilling as tearing into a present. Wine is all your favorite warm and fuzzy feelings in a glass, without the dangers of other warm and fuzzy drinks like whiskey, which can go from warm and fuzzy to wild and furious real quick. So! Whether you’re eating, chilling or trying to keep your shit together as your uncle goes off about “the wall,” there is no beverage better suited for seasonal splendor and stress than wine.

I know buying wine can sometimes feel impossible, like shopping for a Secret Santa gift for that person in sales you’ve barely exchanged two words with. Don’t fret, my pet! I’ve made this cheat sheet to snagging all the wine you’ll need to get you through the holiday highs and lows.

For Baking, Drink Cava

Next time you’re whipping up some homemade sweets, add a bottle of Cava to your grocery list. This Spanish sparkling wine is made in the same method as Champagne, but a good bottle need only cost you around $15. Cava’s dry and bubbly with lemon and floral notes. It’s also energetic and fun, perfect for dancing around the kitchen with flour flying and Mariah Carey blasting. Plus, its acidity will prime your mouth for whatever you pull out of the oven.

For Watching Holiday Classics, Drink Barbera

There nothing like wrapping yourself up in your favorite wool blanket to watch classic holiday cinema, like Home Alone or Miracle on 34th Street or even the first Harry Potter (I don’t care what anyone says, that shit is a holiday movie — it has too much magic, childlike wonder and snow to be considered anything else). No matter what you’re watching or where you stand on the Sorcerer’s Stone debate, you want Barbera. This full-bodied Italian smells and tastes like fresh-cut pine and cranberries with notes of warm cinnamon. It’s as cozy as a new pair of Uggs.

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For Just Getting Home from the Mall, Drink Rosé

For all you last-minute shoppers out there, HI. IT’S ME. THE PRESIDENT OF THE LAST-MINUTE SHOPPERS SUPPORT GROUP. Nice to see you again! Listen, I get it. You just got paid on the 15th so of course you had to wait until the 24th at 3 P.M. to get that perfume your mom loves. It was savage out there, so please pour yourself some rosé and relax. Choose a Syrah or Tavel. They are fuller and more savory than their summer water counterparts, but will still cool you down from a Macy’s marathon.

For Staying Calm While Getting the Third Degree, Drink Stainless Steel Chardonnay

I don’t know what your family harasses you about, but in my house, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Before the lectures begin, make sure to have a glass of Chardonnay in hand. I say stainless steel because most people who think they hate Chardonnay (myself included) really just don’t like oaked Chardonnay, which gives it that rich, buttery flavor. Stainless steel Chardonnay is fermented in, you guessed it, stainless steel, and tastes very fresh with apple, pear and citrus notes. It also makes for an easy way to change the topic of conversation into delightful small talk about how delicious Chardonnay actually is. Then you make your great escape by realizing you need a refill and excusing yourself, never to return.

For Playing Games with the Little Ones, Drink Txakoli (cha-co-lee)

The spirit of the holidays is kept alive through the hearts of children, or something like that. Having kids around is one of the best parts about the season, unless you’re dragged into a game of hide-and-seek while on your fourth glass of a high-alcohol red wine. When it comes to building Legos or playing Frozen (whatever that means), keep your wine selections on the less-wasted side. Go with Txakoli. This light, citrusy and slightly spritz-y white wine is festive and fun but won’t have you totally slurring when your four-year-old niece asks you to explain evaporation.

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For Not Getting into a Fistfight Over Politics, Drink Pinot Noir

This year it may be tougher than usual to keep the peace when it comes to politics, but Pinot Noir can help. Wine is the original Xanax (take one glass per hour, or as needed), and Pinot Noir is a total crowd pleaser. Very few people have hard-line opinions on this red wine, what with its supple but soft tannins — the microbe that gives wine that dryer-sheet feeling in your mouth — and notes of cherries and raspberries.

For Having a Good Old-Fashioned Love Fest, Drink Grenache

‘Tis the season for getting drunk and spilling your guts to those you love. If you’re looking to share a bottle and a lot of hugs, Grenache is a wonderful option. It’s as deep as your love (medium-full so like, lots of love, but not suffocating) and super fruity in a good way. It smells like strawberry Fruit Snacks next to an open fire, and tastes like cherries with a hint of fine cigar. Pair with gift exchanging, all your gratitude and maybe a midnight showing of Love Actually (you’re already crying, so you might as well just go for it).

For All Meals, Drink Gamay

It goes with everything, which is exactly what you need when you have eight million different flavors on the table, from your prized peppermint bark to Dad’s rib roast to whatever the hell that soupy green bean thing your neighbor brought over is. It’s the most delicious, bright cranberry juice that goes down like water and makes you feel like hugging everyone. If you trust me on anything, trust me on this. Honestly, GAMAY FOR EVERYTHING FOR ALWAYS.

But most importantly, remember that it doesn’t matter what wine you’re drinking as much as who you’re sharing it with. Wishing lots of love and wine to you and yours this holiday season!

Marissa A. Ross is an LA-based humorist, wine editor of Bon Appétit and author of the upcoming book Wine. All The Time. Follow her on Instagram for daily wine drinking recs. Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

Ever wondered why we give gifts? No? What about, “What the eff should I wear tonight?”

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  • Abbie

    When you’re looking for cavas, try to find a Cava Reserva. They usually are only a couple dollars more expensive but they have been aged so the bubbles are super fine and delicious.

  • Great read and what a cool job!!

  • Rose is my favourite. And yeah, you’re right wine is good for everything 😉

  • Kelsey Moody

    I had to “play Frozen” last weekend with my brother-in-laws niece! Pretty much just running around the family room singing while making crowns out of pipe-cleaners? Afterwards, I needed Marker’s Mark but Ill have this list ready for next time…

  • Erin Carter

    Marissa Ross, you are amazing and make finding a good wine and then drinking it easy and un-intimidating Yes yes yes.. so trying stainless steel chardonnay tonight. Man Repeller, more Marissa Ross.

  • I love this article! Thanks for sharing!