The holiday season has arrived, bringing with it an overwhelming opportunity for socializing and fun.
Lavish formal parties will give way to intimate family dinners. Friends will get together to exchange gifts, co-workers will toast the end of another productive year, and couples will curl up next to the tree taking in the glow of the lights.
The seemingly never-ending parade of social engagements offer wine enthusiasts the opportunity to raise a glass and celebrate. But picking the perfect wine for the right situation can be a challenge.
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Some of the area’s wine experts want to serve as a guide. Paul Jacquin of the specialty wine store Vino Villa in Greenwood, and Bill Richardson, co-owner of Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville, have some suggestions for pairing wines and navigating the holiday season.
From spicy white wines that bring out the flavor of a turkey dinner to bold reds that warm up a cold night, their recommendations can hopefully put a festive glow on each party, soirée and feast.
But, as Jacquin advised, any wine can fit any situation, if it’s one that you feel strongly about.
“At the end of the day, the answer is always, ‘Do you like it?’” he said. “I can talk all day about what pairs well with what food and why, but if you don’t like it, it doesn’t really matter. Find something that you’re going to enjoy.”
Mingling in any situation
Characteristics: A delicate white wine with aromas of apples, lemons, peaches or tropical fruits.
Why: “It’s your classic white wine, and it pairs well with a lot of things. Chardonnay is probably the most versatile white wine there is. Ranges from very crisp tart to hard apple and pear flavors, to smooth and mellow and buttery. There’s this humungous variety of flavors going on with the holidays. That becomes your foundation for finding wines that work well and pair well.” — Jacquin
Example: Meiomi Chardonnay 2013, featuring exotic sweet spice, crisp apple, ripe stone fruit core and round, creamy texture.
Hovering around the appetizers
Characteristics: A full-bodied dry white wine that features a firm mineral backbone, which works well with a variety of cuisines.
Why: “It’s one of those that people don’t really talk about. The number of people who will walk through our doors in the last three years and ask for it is probably zero. But it’s a great wine to start off the evening with. It’s a nice, clean, crisp wine with some citrus notes to it. As you start the meal going, it’s almost a palate cleanser, to get my taste-buds going for what’s going to happen here.” — Jacquin
Example: Hugo Gruner-Veltliner 2013, with fresh green apple fruity aromas and flavors of lemon, lime and peaches.
For holiday turkey dinners
Style: Riesling-Cayuga blend
Characteristics: Light and not too sweet, with great peach and honeysuckle from the Riesling attached to the tart Granny Smith apple flavors of Cayuga.
Why: “It’s great with turkey, and the wine’s fruit flavors really jump out of the glass when paired with all the savory herbs in your stuffing.” — Richardson
Example: Mallow Run Winery Winter White
Sitting down for formal dinner parties
Style: Rhone-style reds
Characteristics: Full-flavored wine that can have hints of blackberry, cinnamon, orange blossom and cedar.
Why: “It’s a pretty versatile wine, ranging from very soft and fruit-driven to very hearty. This wine has a bright, spicy zippiness. It’s a characteristic that is common with wines that pair well with holiday dinner.” — Jacquin.
Example: Delas Côtes-du-Ventoux 2013, with a predominantly berry-fruit bouquet and aromatic power from a blend of Grenache and Syrah varietals.
Decorating the tree with family
Style: Beaujolais Nouveau
Characteristics: A fruity, young red fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November.
Why: “It’s light, fruity, not much in the way of tannins, and slightly sweet. These light, fruity reds pair well where a white wine might also fit, such as with turkey and ham, or with appetizers.” — Richardson
Example: Reindeer Red, Mallow Run’s version of the Nouveau grown with Leon Millot and Chancellor grapes grown in the winery’s vineyard, Foch grown in Paoli and Chambourcin from Illinois.
While you’re giving (and receiving) gifts
Style: Red blend
Characteristics: A distinctive black currant aroma can develop bouquet nuances of cedar, violets, leather or cigar box.
Why: “You start getting into Christmas and New Year, it’s a family-oriented time, but it also tends to gravitate toward the end of the year, what we accomplished, and celebrating. People are reaching for the big (Cabernets) and reds with that celebration and splurging. People will tend to pick out a bottle they’ve been saving all year.” — Jacquin.
Example: Dry Creek Vineyard The Mariner 2010, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, with sweet tannins as well as plenty of black currant, cedar and plum characteristics.
At the holiday potluck
Characteristics: A spicy white wine that can have flavors of rose petal, gardenia, honeysuckle, grapefruit, peach or mango.
Why: “It can stand up to all of the flavors that are going on. The characteristic that is so unique to Gewurztraminer is a kind of nuttiness. It’s a white wine that have a little less body to them, than some of your big hearty wines.” — Jacquin
Example: Hook & Ladder Gewurztraminer 2012, with slight minerality that complements the crisp green apple finish.
To enjoy with decadent chocolate dessert
Style: Port-style wine
Characteristics: A red wine fortified with grape spirits with a rich, round and smooth flavor.
Why: “Our version is made from Petit Sirah grapes grown in California, aged in American oak barrels and fortified with brandy. It’s smooth, sweet and perfect with anything chocolate, especially dark chocolate.” — Richardson
Example: Mallow Run Winery Finale