Ultimate Pairing Guide: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Winter Holiday Wines

As mentioned in Chapter 5, certain holidays deserve their own special attention, especially during winter. In fact, 94% of adults in the United States celebrate at least one winter holiday. As you prepare for upcoming celebrations, pay special attention to the way wine might fit into those celebrations.

Winter Holidays Worth Celebrating With Wine

Regardless of your religious background, many winter celebrations are hard to pass up on. In fact, New Year’s Eve is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world and one of the oldest. It was first celebrated in Babylon 4,000 years ago.

Because winter is a time of celebration, wine and spirits are frequently involved. During November, wine sales are at their highest, representing 37% of all beverage sales, as buyers prepare for winter holidays. But, as sales are advertised, and you start to shop for winter events, do you know where to start?

We’ll focus on two of the most celebrated holidays in the world: New Year’s Eve and Christmas. Take your enjoyment of each up a notch or two this year by focusing on special wine pairings as you plan and attend various parties.

The Best Christmas Wines

Christmas is a time for family, gathering around to celebrate old traditions, reminiscing and enjoying the happiness that can only come from being close to those you love most.

Often, the holiday is accompanied by traditional food that may vary according to your heritage, heavy feasts, cookie baking — and eating, and special desserts that are only enjoyed during this time of year. Because of the overall specialness of the holiday, the wines you stock up on should be up to each occasion. They should provide satisfaction while complementing traditional dishes. At the same time, they should be versatile enough for all tastes to enjoy them.

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As a universal holiday favorite, red wine is generally a win. Certain varieties may be more holiday-appropriate than others. These include:

  • Malbec. Filled with earthy tones, Argentinian Malbecs are the perfect accompaniment to Christmas delicacies and traditions.
  • Bordeaux blends. Made by combining Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux wines are keenly sought after around the world, especially around Christmas. Each winery uses different proportions, so actual flavor can vary greatly from one Bordeaux to another. If you’re not in love with the first Bordeaux you try, keep trying — your favorite is likely out there somewhere!

It’s easy to enjoy white wine, even as the holiday season approaches. One that might be a surprising favorite is Falanghina. Wines made from this grape offer a freshness and balance with clean finishes, perfect for a variety of Christmas dishes and occasions.

Another holiday-appropriate wine option might include a little extra spice. Spiced wines — either created by adding your own spices or purchased already spiced, are frequently served warm. The options for spiced wines are endless, meaning it’s easy to find something that fits most pallets.

As you develop your Christmas wine list, consider:

Champagne for New Year’s and Champagne Alternatives

When you think of New Year’s, Champagne is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. It makes sense, 360 million glasses of sparkling wine are consumed on New Year’s Eve alone. Often, it feels like everything on television and pop culture promotes the idea that expensive is best, but is that always the case?

Not necessarily. Consider the following ideas and pointers to find the best Champagne or Champagne alternative for your winter celebrations.

First, think about the wines you enjoy most. Are they sweeter or dryer? Your taste in champagne will likely be similar. Doux champagnes are sweeter, while Brut champagnes are dry. If you dislike dry wines, you’re likely to love a brut, so stick with what you like — not which bottle has a label you recognize or a high price tag.

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Next, find the right grape. Champagne and champagne alternatives can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. The traditional style, made in Champagne, France, includes all three grapes in a white blend. Champagnes, like sweet or sparkling wines, are less likely to include a vintage, as the date is less critical to the production of the drink.

Remember, Champagne belongs to a specific region. Other alternatives that may be worth considering include Cava — the Spanish version of sparkling wine, and Prosecco — the Italian version. Each contains various grape combinations that may be more enjoyable than other traditional styles.

As you prepare your New Year’s wine selection for upcoming celebrations, consider the following options:

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