Holiday meals can be stressful — but your wine pairings don’t have to be. Here are a few of my favorite top-notch wine tips and tricks so that you can relax and enjoy the party.
Kick it off with bubbly. Nothing says celebration like bubbles. If you are entertaining a large group, stretch your sparkling by creating a signature cocktail. Top off your fizz with orange liqueur and cranberry juice for an easy Poinsettia. Since you are mixing, go for a prosecco or cava like Roger d’Anoia Cava. If you’re chilling the bottle from room temperature, place it in an ice bucket with water and kosher salt for 30 minutes — the salt cools the wine down faster.
Select a food-friendly white. A brisk, fresh, easy-to-drink white will pair beautifully with most foods at dinner — from tangy citrus or cranberry sides to more briny and salty mains. You’ll get extra points for an out-of-the-ordinary conversation starter like the Skouras Anássa from Greece, made from moschofilero and viognier grapes with opulent aromas of ripe apricot and orange peel. Chill whites in the fridge, then pull them out about 30 minutes prior to serving for optimum flavor.
Light-bodied reds make food friends easily. A lighter-style red like a pinot noir is a superb crowd-pleaser that can be served with a diverse range of holiday favorites — from salmon to duck breast to ham. My preferred pick this holiday is the Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir from New Zealand. With black cherries, violets, and a bit of earthiness on the nose, the smoky oak finish has subtle spice and raspberry. Reds should be placed in the fridge about 15 minutes prior to pouring to bring out the wine’s fruit flavors and to tame its alcohol.
Drink your dessert. While your holiday meal is sure to be chock-full of sweet endings, after a huge feast, nothing beats a medium-dry riesling, traditionally paired with a savory blue cheese. My go-to is the Grace Lane riesling, an approachable white with a delicate sweetness, and the Rogue Creamery Caveman blue cheese.
Doug Bell, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market