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Holiday Season Wines

Honey, What Wine Goes With Turkey Again?

Article by Vinodiversity reader Angela Lytle

The holiday season is almost upon us once again. Does it seem like every year, you struggle to figure out what you should serve at your holiday parties? Not this year! This can be the year that you do not need to wonder if you are serving the right wine for the occasion. It can be simple to find a wine to please the palate. All you need is a bit of time and thought spent answering a few simple questions.

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The first question to ask yourself is on what type of occasion you plan to be serving this wine. Christmas brings a joyous season of celebration with hearty dinners, and New Year's boast parties that last into the morining. A wine that is well received at a holiday cocktail party with light hors d'oeuvres may not necessarily be the wine that can hold its own among the rich foods and hearty meats of a traditional holiday dinner. Think about the foods that the wine will accompany. What flavor will proceed and follow each sip? In general, foods with stronger flavors, such as red meat, strong cheeses or heavy cream sauces, will need a wine that is fuller bodied. A delicate wine goes well with lighter foods such as fruit, poultry and seafood, and could easily be overpowered by heavier dishes.

Once you have identified the style of your gathering, you will need to decide how many types of wine you would like to offer to your guests. While it is certainly fine to select a single wine, many hosts like to provide at least two wine choices, a red wine and a white wine, to appeal to a wider range of preferences. If you are having a large buffet style dinner for several guests, you might choose to offer a smorgasbord of wines, as well. A good selection of wines should include red and white wines, ranging from dry to sweet, with a variety of notes to be experienced by your guests. Look for wines that range from smoky vanilla and oak to crisp grassy undertones, to rich, full bodied fruity wines. There is a wine for every preference!

The next thing to think about is your price range. There are fine wines in a huge range of prices, from under ten dollars a bottle to as high as you are willing to pay for aged grape juice. The size of your gathering will likely have a large impact on the price you are comfortable paying for wine, as it will directly affect how many bottles you need. An intimate holiday dinner for two couples may only call for two bottles of wine, and you might be willing to pay a premium price for it as a result. However, if you are hosting a large get together of thirty, fifty or even more guests, you probably will prefer to spend less per bottle of wine, as you can plan on needing one bottle of wine for approximately every two to three guests.

Champagne can be a wonderful choice many situations. It is much more versatile than many people would believe, and doesn't have to be pricey to still feel like a real luxury. It is a beautiful complement to finger foods, fruits and desserts. Champagne could begin your evening, end your evening, or even do both. And of course, no New Year's Eve party would be complete without popping open a bottle of the bubbly at midnight for toasts. Pol Roger Brut is an affordable champagne option, starting at approximately $25 per bottle and ranging upwards of twice that amount. A favorite of Winston Churchill, this champagne is noted for being such a perfect balance of flavors. If cost isn't an issue, you just can't go wrong with a bottle of Comtes de Champagne Taittinger. You should expect to pay at least $150 per bottle, but you can also expect delicious, heady champagne that is sure to please.

If you enjoy champagne but are in the mood for something just a bit different, why not try a cava? Sparkling wines from Spain, cavas are typically a less expensive alternative to champagne. However, this is one time that more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. You can buy a quality cava for under ten dollars a bottle. Not only delicious, there are few sights as beautiful as a glass of cava rose, with its delicate pink color and tiny bubbles.

For a real crowd pleaser of a red wine, you might try a merlot. Definitely less expensive than it tastes, Columbia Crest Merlot is a smooth rich wine that is absolutely beautiful when paired with a variety of foods from cheeses to steak. Merlots are especially pleasing to those who prefer a red wine with a bit less acidity than a cabernet.

When you've decided a white wine is the way to go, nothing beats a Riesling. If you prefer a dry wine, look for a Rhine Riesling. A crisp dry wine with a fruity bouquet, a Rhine Riesling pairs well with seafood, mild cheeses and appetizers. If a sweet wine is more your style, you will be happier with a Johannesburg Riesling. Few wines can complement a spicy dish or poultry the way a Johannesburg Riesling does. Either style of Riesling will work well as a delicious aperitif.

Sherry and port are both classic dessert wine selections, and certainly each has a following. If you are looking for a dessert wine that is a step farther off the beaten path, you would do well do serve a Tokay aszu. Tokay is made from grapes that have been affected by a benevolent grey fungus known as noble rot. Though this doesn't sound like a desirable trait, these grapes product a wonderfully sweet aged wine that can either be served with a sweet dessert, or as a dessert in its own right.

If you are bringing a bottle of wine as a gift to your host or hostess, you may not know what types of foods will be served. In this case, unless you know the specific tastes of your hosts, it is often best to go with a wine with a great range of appeal. A versatile wine such as Chablis or Zinfandel can be a good choice, as each complements many foods, and both are quite popular. Most wine drinkers will enjoy either of these selections, even if it isn't their particular favorite.

As you can see, there is no simple answer, no handy chart to pull out of your pocket while wine shopping. You don't get a cheat sheet, but you really don't need one. This is the year that you wow all your guests with the perfect wine for every occasion. And by the way? I'd pick the Riesling to go with that turkey.

About the Author: Angela Lytle is a self-employed mother of four and publisher of Christmas Decorations Online, a website that features holiday decorations from easy to use pre-lit Artificial Christmas Trees for your home that will last for years to colorful Outdoor Christmas Lights to brighten up your holiday display.
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