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Getting ready for the winter holiday season means more than just putting together gift lists for loved ones and family, it also means stocking up on the essential wines that you will be taking along to holiday parties, family events, and festive occasions. With that in mind, here are 10 essential wines (all priced under $30) for the winter holidays, for every possible occasion.
Thanksgiving calls for a special red wine that will pair well with turkey and the traditional side dishes of the season, including cranberry sauce. A great option would be Pinot Noir, especially one from Oregon or Sonoma. While there are plenty of great Pinot Noir options from France, this is an American holiday, right? So bring a real crowd-pleaser that everyone can enjoy. There’s always time to enjoy a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau over the next few days when you and your family are enjoying Turkey Day leftovers.
Unlike Thanksgiving, which is more of a formal affair, Friendsgiving is a much more low-key affair. You want a suitably understated wine that’s classy enough to share with friends, but nothing too fancy. So why not bring along a bottle of Shiraz from Australia? Look for bottles from Barossa Valley, one of the most renowned winemaking regions of Australia when it comes to Shiraz.
If you’re like most people, you’ll be traveling during the holidays in order to meet up with relatives, close family, and friends. And you’ll want to have a go-to bottle of wine for the occasion. This is a wine that should pair well with any of the big holiday feasts – such as Thanksgiving or Christmas – and also offer enough of a compromise so that it appeals to as many people in your family as possible. With that in mind, the perfect choice for a holiday party with the family is an affordable, versatile and crowd-pleasing Barbera. For good reason, Barbera has been called “the ultimate party wine.” It offers just the right mix of fruit and spice notes to pair well with traditional holiday meals.
Sicily’s Etna Rosso has been experiencing a real surge in popularity, so one way of showing your co-workers that you are completely on-trend is by bringing a bottle of Etna Rosso to your next corporate office party. Etna Rosso is very similar to Pinot Noir, in that it has flavors and aromas of ripe red fruit. And the very drinkable Etna Rosso has a bright and refreshing finish, which makes it suitable for any festive occasion. Best of all, Etna Rosso comes with a very compelling backstory that you can share with co-workers: the vineyards used to produce Etna Rosso are aligned along the sides of an active volcano in northeastern Sicily!
Sweet dessert wines may be an acquired taste for many, but one all-time classic that pairs extremely well with everything from blue cheese to chocolate are a Port from (where else?) Portugal. If you are looking for a more complex flavor profile from your Port, look for bottles marked LBV (for Late Bottled Vintage).
When it comes to giving gifts around the holidays, it’s always best to opt for the all-time classics. You simply can’t go wrong with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Even casual wine lovers will appreciate the extra special care that goes into selecting a wine from California’s most famous wine region.
Moscato is one wine varietal that is very much having a moment right now, as sweet wines are experiencing a surge in popularity. So why not opt for the very best Moscato wines in the world – the ones produced in Italy’s exclusive Asti wine region. In comparison with the typical under $10 Moscato wines available for sale in almost any retail wine store, a Moscato D’Asti wine is much richer and nuanced, but still sweet, fresh and low in alcohol.
Best value: Vietti Cascinetta, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy
During the holidays, red wines tend to outsell white wines, and for good reason: many of the traditional holiday meals pair best with a bottle of red. But there is one festive occasion when it is possible to bring along a bottle of white, and that’s the Feast of the Seven Fishes. To accompany all the seafood dishes, you’ll want to choose a versatile white such as Chardonnay, which is a proven crowd-pleaser.
Choosing a great Christmas wine is different than choosing a great Thanksgiving wine – the weather is colder, the meals are getting heavier, and people naturally gravitate to big red wines. One great option is Valpolicella, which stands up well to most holiday meals, thanks to its full-bodied structure. But it won’t overpower any of the dishes lavishly spread out on the table. The very best Valpolicella wines are filled with notes of dark plums, cherries, dark chocolate, jam-like black fruit, and spices.
Ok, this one is pretty much a no-brainer. You simply can’t go wrong with a bottle of Champagne for New Year’s. But just keep in mind that, if you are planning on enjoying a sparkling wine throughout a long holiday meal, then you might also want to consider Cava (from Spain) or Prosecco (from Italy). You can then save the champagne for a celebratory toast at midnight.
Of course, these are just 10 suggested wines. With any of them, there are plenty of viable substitutes. For example, you could easily swap out a bottle of Chardonnay for a bottle of Viognier, or a bottle of Barbera for a Rhône GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. In many ways, that’s what makes wine so wonderful – as soon as you think you know the “perfect wine” for a particular occasion, along comes a wine from a completely different part of the world that tastes even better.
So, as you start to put together your gift lists for the holiday season, take some time to consider which wines it might be worth stocking up on in advance. You won’t have to worry about picking out a great wine at the last moment, and you might just impress your family members (or significant other) with your knowledge of wine.