It’s not easy choosing wines for holiday events because seemingly every menu is completely different—both at home and away.
As guests at others’ dinner tables, we’re on the hot seat to make a choice that will match our host’s spread, so we want to get it right.
Well fear not, dear foodie, we’ve assembled a crack team of oenophiles to guide you toward proper wine picks for any occasion. Take our local experts’ advice on what matches which and what it’ll cost you.
The best wine with hearty winter fare — Scott Harper
Garanacha Altovinum Evodia 2010 (Calatayud, Spain)
From the Northeastern Spanish region of Calatayud comes this 100 percent Garanacha, or Grenache, as it is called in France and the U.S. The vines — some of which are 100 years old — grow in vineyards planted as high as to 3,000 feet. The result is fruit that produces a very unique wine for the price. Expect a wine that’s rich, dry, soft textured and full bodied with the flavors of raspberry, kirshwasser, violets, pepper and blackberry.
Try this wine with rich, oven-roasted meats, such as short ribs or standing rib roast. Around $13
The Perfect wine to take to a party — Todd Antz
Hey Mambo Sultry Red 2010 (California)
A product of The Other Guys, a branch of California’s famous Sebastiani wine making, this is a big and bold red blended from five different grapes. Part of it is aged in American Oak, the other in French Oak.
Pouring a deep velvet color, the aroma has slight vanilla tones with a touch of black cherry and dark fruits. The flavor is slightly fruit forward, with flavors of cocoa, cherry, cranberry, blueberry, and blackberry. The finish is slightly peppery but balanced. Medium bodied, its perfect balance and blend make it very approachable for its price point.
It pairs naturally with sweet barbecued ribs, grilled meats and lighter red sauced Italian dishes, but it’s also versatile enough to serve with rich cocoa based desserts.
Perfect for Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday spread — John Johnson
Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc 2010 (Sonoma County, CA)
Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco) makes an interesting, somewhat obscure white wine that is ideal for gifting. Why? When gifting wine, it’s a good bet to go with something that’s unusual, but almost universally liked once tried. This is a low-risk, upside surprise, so to speak.
The most famous region for Pinot Blanc is Alscace, but the grape is making a name for itself in California. This bottle is produced from Russian River and Sonoma Valley grapes, and is 77 percent fermented and aged in stainless steel and 23 percent aged sur lie in French oak. The result is nice complexity that preserves the fresh fruit. Aromas and flavors of apple, white peach, honeysuckle and pear dance nicely on the palate alongside seared scallops and crab cakes.
Perfect gift wine — John Johnson
Cellar El Masroig “Finca Cucó 2011 (Montsant Denominaco D’ Origen, Spain)
The mountainous Priorat region of Northeast Spain produces some of the most complex wines in the world. Unfortunately, they are also some of Spain’s most expensive! Next door in Montsant, the bargain hunter can find opportunities.
To show the essence of Montsant, reds must utilize one or more local grape varietals of Garnacha and Carignan. Finca Cucó is 50 percent Garnacha, 40 percent Carignan and 10 percent Syrah. The wine is unoaked, showing blueberry, cherry, licorice and black pepper on the nose. The palate is lush with black cherry and briary berry fruit accented by chocolate, smoke and mineral. Ideal table companions include everything from pork carnitas to red sauced pastas.
Perfect wines for your holiday party — Gordon “Gordo” Jackson
Borsao Garnacha 2011 & Borsao White 2011 (Spain)
If you have never explored the great wine values of Spain, I highly recommend them. As a wine buyer, I often try to put myself in the shoes of our consumer, which always leads me to this question: What would a person expect to pay for this wine?
I remember first tasting these wines and thinking $12 or $14 would be a reasonable price for their quality. So when I realized they sell for nearly half that, they quickly became go-to fun wines for our customers.
Borsao Garnacha 2011, bright and flavor packed red with plumb and raspberry aromas and brilliant cherry notes on the palate.
Borsao White 2011, the wine is 100 percent Viura. A brilliant straw colored wine with aromas of citrus zest and pineapple. On the palate, the fruit is in perfect balance with the fruit leaving a crisp clean finish.
At $8 each, these delicious Spanish wines are sure to be perfect for your holiday party.
About Our experts:
Scott Harper, the resident wine columnist for Food & Dining Magazine, oversees the wine programs at all five area Bristol Bar and Grille restaurants, teaches wine courses at Bellarmine University, and is one of only 197 people worldwide to hold the title of Master Sommelier.
Todd Antz is the owner of Keg Liquors in Clarksville and New Albany Indiana. A second generation owner of the stores, he has built one of the best selections of specialty beer, wine and liquors in the area.
John Johnson is owner and sommelier of The Wine Rack in Clifton, where he loves to introduce customers to new wines from around the world. He is a recovering stockbroker who did a career 180, headed off to a food and wine program in Denver, and set up shop in his hometown of Louisville 10 years ago.
Gordon “Gordo” Jackson, a level one sommelier, has owned and operated two of Louisville’s most celebrated, independent wine and spirits stores, Old Town Wine & Spirits and The Wine Market, for over a decade. Gordo has had a passion for wine and spirits since he was of legal age to try them — longer than that depending on whom you ask.