A Buying Guide to Holiday Wines
Festive pairings at every price point
The holiday season raises occasional anxiety around cooking or family issues, but one area you don't have to worry about is wine. We are here to help you select wines that will enhance your meal and keep everyone happy. Plus, you shouldn't have to go broke offering wine, so we will also recommend selections at various price levels so you can choose wines that are appropriate to your budget. All of these wines will match up nicely with turkey, ham, or vegetarian entrées. They will also work perfectly as simply as sipping wines.– Wes Marshall
Sparkling wines are the single best holiday category. They match with every food you can imagine, and there truly is nothing more festive than popping a bottle of bubbles. Our least expensive recommendation is Segura Viudas rosé ($9), a lovely pink wine with deep berry flavors. Gruet's robust New Mexico Blanc de Noirs ($17) is a white wine made from red grapes which offers very nice intensity. Finally, for the well-heeled Tesla executives, make a beeline for Ruinart's Blanc de Blanc ($85), a premium Champagne that tastes like twinkling stars tickling your tongue.
White wines are your best bet for dishes with delicate sauces. Trimbach's Pinot Blanc ($14) has a mineral character with nice acidity. The winery has been in business for about 500 years, so they must be doing something right. Another French option for Chardonnay fans is Gérard Tremblay's Old Vines Chablis ($23). It offers all of the characteristics that Chablis lovers cherish, and at a price WAY below what other Chablisiennes charge. Those interested in an American version should look for Jordan's Chardonnay ($34), a proud demonstration of how the U.S. can make a world-class Chardonnay. People searching for a great Sauvignon Blanc will have to spend a bit of money. The inexpensive versions from New Zealand have a frequent problem with tasting more like fermented grapefruit juice than wine. The best versions are from N.E. Italy and France. My first love is Venica's Ronco delle Mele ($48). Though its price is high, all Sauvignon lovers should try this wine at least once in their lives.
An ice-cold rosé offers the best of both worlds. You get the light, refreshing flavor and tasty cold temperature of a white wine along with the robust, intense flavors of a red. Rosés have the ability to match with every possible kind of food that you normally only get in a sparkler. You can find a brilliant version of rosé wines anywhere they make wine, but the best come from France, Spain, and Italy. Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence rosé ($14) is a nice French version that is a remarkable bargain for the quality you get. Spain's Muga Rosado ($18) is like a basket of strawberries and cherries along with a bit of Spanish sunshine. Those willing to spend up should look for Domaine Tempier Bandol rosé ($47) or Domaine Ott Chateau De Selle rosé ($48). Both wines are full bodied and quite flavorful with powerful berry aromas.
For red wine lovers, go straight to Merlots. Thanks to Sideways' still-remembered swipe at the varietal ("If anyone orders merlot, I'm leaving!"), Merlot's prices continue to be depressed – which is not so good for the winemaker but great for the consumer. Washington's Milbrandt Vineyards is owned by wonderful, generous people whose delicious Merlot is bargain-priced ($13). Stags' Leap Merlot ($24) has a touch of chocolate and blackberry aroma and is a great example of a traditional California Merlot. Finally, Duckhorn Vineyard's Napa Valley Merlot ($50) is my all-time favorite in its price range.