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Holiday Party Wines

By Joe Radosevich

Holiday Party Wines

The larger the party, the more impossible it becomes to please everyone. There is, however, one choice that is nearly never wrong for a holiday party, and that's Champagne/sparkling wines. Champagne is synonymous with celebrations and instantly sets the mood to 'Fun!' for any evening. On top of that, sparkling wines are delicious by themselves or paired with foods. Champagne is still the benchmark, but delicious sparkling wines are now made in nearly all wine-producing countries and at various prices.

 

If you opt for sparkling wine, check out U.S. bottlings from Anderson Valley or Oregon (I highly recommend Roederer Estate or Argyle as both can be found at retail nationwide). I tend to associate Cavas and Proseccos (sparkling wines produced using the tank method) with warmer temperatures, but both can work well if you find a bottle you like. Plus, you can always dress up Champagne/Sparkling wine by making it a champagne cocktail. 

  • Champagne - Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. More expensive than others but delicious and doesn't need food to stand out but will complete a variety of passed hors d'ouevres.

  • S. Sparkling wines – Roederer Estate Brut Multi Vintage. Made by the same French Family as Roederer Champagne and not surprisingly has the same finesses, elegance, and depth as most French Champagne's. Great with food or by itself.

    • Splurge on the Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Rose 2013 if you can find it. The wine is a standout on its own, and the age gives added complexity to a wine that will pair perfectly with autumnal flavors.

  • French Sparkling wine – Saint Hilaire Brut from Limoux. Excellent sparkling wine from France despite its small price. Buy this by the case and enjoy it by itself or use it to make any Champagne cocktail.

Holiday parties are events that can seem to last all day. Add-on to that the return of live sporting events, and you're bound to spend a good six to ten hours at one holiday party. For these all-day events, I love to have light red wines like Alsatian or German pinot noir. Unlike most of their Burgundian or California counterparts, these wines are light-footed, bright, and full of fruit. Versions from both Alsace and Germany will have plenty of dark cherries, cranberry, and some earth forest undertones, which are perfect for pairing with holiday snacks and appetizers. I'll also point out that these wines come in at a lower price than most pinots and tend to be 13% ABV or less which lets your guests enjoy a glass or three without needing a midday nap.

  • German Pinot Noir – Weingut Dautel Wurttemberg Spatburgunder. German pinot noir is usually sold using the german name of Spatburgunder. This wine is dry with ample fruit for sipping throughout the day and enough tannin to make it a worthy choice for serving with a Thanksgiving feast.

  • French Pinot Noir – Emile Beyer “Eguisheim” Pinot Noir. This wine is pure fruit with a bit more structure which makes this wine great for pairing with more substantial hors d'oeuvres

Holiday party's only come once a year, so I think there is some wisdom in selecting wines that you might only indulge in once a year as well. For me this means, maybe buying some older vintages directly from the winery or picking the bottles that were consistently above the previous events price range, or just picking the prestige bottling from a winery you like. It's worth doing some research for these purchases, and a great place to start is with your local wine shop, but when in doubt, look towards your favorite classic region as a place to start. For example, I love a big, bold Napa Cabernet to go with a holiday feast because they can stand up to big heavy flavors and sauces.

  • Chappellet 2018 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (or prior vintages) – this is a rich wine with broad shoulders with flavors from dark berries to oak. It is juicy and flavorful but still has a touch of elegance.
  • Vintages to look for – While Napa doesn't have huge swings in quality between vintages for 2021, try and look out for wines from 2012-2014. Both the Cabernets and Chardonnays produced in those years were fantastic and should be drinking beautifully now that they've had a bit of age.

If someone has a diagnosed sulfite allergy, I suggest serving something that has never had sulfites added. Ullo restores wine to a level of sulfites below the FDA's requirements. Still, the last thing anybody wants during a party is an allergic reaction or the need for medical intervention. Plus, grocery stores nationwide will often have a No Sulfites Added section to make selection easier. If all else fails, it never hurts to have a nice whiskey or beer for when people need to make the switch, or should someone not be a wine drinker regardless of sulfite tolerance. 

  • Although we're not quite back to normal, we can slowly start having IRL gatherings again this holiday season. Do you have any thoughts or tips about staying safe while entertaining this holiday season?

I like to think that my wine advice is worth taking because I have spent years reading, tasting, and learning about wine, resulting in various credentials attesting to my time and effort.

If you're going to take wine advice from a sommelier, then my tip for staying safe while entertaining is to take advice from a qualified medical professional. For the most part, a person will spend the better part of a decade becoming a medical doctor in the United States. In that time, they will learn more about protecting health than I do which is why I'll look to them for how to stay safe and healthy.

If you do take my wine recommendations, my tip for staying safe is to never drink and drive. Our focus on safety has drifted to other causes for concern (yes, I'm looking at you, Covid), but unfortunately, drinking and driving is all too common. Taking a cab or rideshare is one of the easiest ways to ensure you'll get to enjoy next year's holiday parties!

Check out the feature in Fortune and get the full details here.

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