With holiday get-togethers back in fashion again, there are bound to be some party invites this year. Whether the format is a casual gathering among long-time friends or a cheery evening with neighbors in sweaters, arriving with a bottle in-hand always puts smiles on faces. But how to choose the best bottle of wine for the moment? The number of options can be daunting, but with a few go-to picks you’ll be in-and-out of the store and off to make merry in no time!
FOR THE MEAT & CHEESE MIXER
Rich enough for Chardonnay drinkers, light enough to be a cocktail party wine, Pinot Gris is a great option for this type of gathering. It’s the same grape as Pinot Grigio but it’s done in a riper style so it’s silky on the palate with hints of honey and pears, with a bit of sweetness appropriate for a winter white. It goes with all sorts of meats and cheeses and cuts the spice of salami nicely. In a room-full of Pinot Grigio, your Pinot Gris will be the belle of the ball.
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FOR THE HARVEST DINNER PARTY
This wine is a known crowd pleaser and pairs with an assortment of dishes. Roasted meat, fowl and fish, squash and potatoes, cranberries, cinnamon, and buttery rolls are all great when accented with Pinot Noir, because many of those flavors are already present in the wine. France, Germany, New Zealand, and Oregon are good regions to look for if you like a lighter style with earthy tones alongside bright cherry flavors. If you prefer a bold wine, look for bottles from California which lean toward riper fruit and some smoky oaky flavors.
FOR THE QUIET DINNER WITH FRIENDS
California Red Blend
This occasion centers in the kitchen and at the table with relaxed conversation. Keep the intensity in the glass with a bold, spicy California red blend based on Zinfandel, Rhone varieties (Syrah & Grenache) or Cabernet & Merlot. These wines are usually aged in oak barrels, so they’re smooth and pleasant on the palate with food and without, before and during dinner. Look for a wine labeled “GSM ]” or “Meritage,” or a proprietary name plus the words “red wine.”
FOR THE HOST WITH THE IMPRESSIVE WINE CELLAR
There’s always someone who’s got a great collection and (usually!) a great palate. How do you choose the best bottle of wine to complement both? One category that always seems to work is the often-mysterious, always-delicious Supertuscan. This red wine from Tuscany doesn’t follow old rules about what needs to be in the bottle, so the winemaker can focus on how they want it to be. This allows a great deal of creativity and personal pride, which is good news for the wine! There are very famous and pricey examples, but there are plenty of excellent bottles at more modest prices, too. Being Italian, these wines love to be served with food, but most will age nicely if your bottle’s not destined to be opened tonight.
FOR THE GIRLS NIGHT
I think the ladies will agree that nothing gets a reaction like a bottle of bubbly. Whether your gal pals prefer sweet or dry, sparkling wine has you covered with a range of styles and prices in any budget. It adds glitter and glam to every party and a sparkle to every eye, and it’s just plain fun when it tickles your nose. But it’s not only sensory delights and incredible food-pairing versatility that bubbles have to offer; Champagne has been shown to actually help cognitive function, perhaps making it the best bottle of wine for any occasion!
FOR THE GAME NIGHT
Skin Contact (Orange) Wine
Take your wine game to the next level by bringing something cool to game night: Orange wine! Skin contact wine is a hot topic these days; its often-brilliant hue always encourages conversation. It’s white wine made in a heritage style with extra color, texture, and complexity from leaving the grape juice with the skins after crushing, the way red wine is made. It’s both fun and energetic and, because of its style, appeals to both white and red wine drinkers, especially enthusiasts of history and current events.
FOR THE POST-CAROLING COOKIE SESSION
Hot Mulled Wine
After a festive night of outdoors fun, it’s time to head back for some cookies and a holiday cup of cheer. It’s tough for a wine to compete with the likes of hot apple cider, hot chocolate or eggnog, so experts often suggest a sweet, fortified wine like port or expensive dessert wine like icewine. Instead, consider hot mulled wine this year. Europeans have enjoyed its warming effects for centuries; it’s known as Vin Chaud, Glühwein, and Glögg, and unlocks memories of childhood, grandparents, and trips to open-air Christmas markets. You can find pre-bottled versions around the holidays, but it’s easy and quick to make yourself. Grab a bottle of inexpensive dry red wine, 3/4 cup of sugar (white or brown), orange slices and a spice packet (mulling spices are great, or: 1 star anise, 3 cinnamon sticks and 10 cloves). Put these along with a cup of water into a saucepan with lid and allow to simmer, but not boil. You can fortify this further with a shot of brandy, vodka or rum. Serve in mugs of any kind. Your friends will warm up instantly, and your host’s home will be filled with the fragrant aromas of a long-standing Christmas tradition.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- Fine Wine On A Budget
- 4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening A Wine Shop
- How To Choose The Best Wine On A Budget
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