Post and Courier – December 2023 – Wines for Holiday Drop-ins

As the holiday season ebbs closer, we see an uptick in both personal and workplace drop-ins. These mini-parties can give the host or hostess sleepless nights worrying about the happiness of their guests. Although the responsibility of wine selections can further increase stress levels, I have a few personal strategies to help prognosticate success for your festive gathering.

My big three rules are: keep it simple, keep it fun, and keep ‘em happy. These apply to all aspects of your party, but I am going to focus on a few guidelines for your wine selections. Also, having your wines sorted out will give you more time to work on those fancy napkin folds.

Rather than trying to speculate on each one of your guests’ beverage preferences, focus on having various wine styles available. It would be virtually impossible to have everyone’s favorite bottle waiting on them so instead shoot for an interesting wine in a spectrum of palate profiles. This strategy not only gives your gathered mob options, it also allows them to venture off and try different things.

Sparkling Style

I love to begin these events with a sparkling wine poured into a fluted glass, handed to your guest as they enter. This may seem a bit cliché but it truly sets the mood for celebration. It’s a proverbial transition that facilitates the stripping away of those stresses outside your threshold and introducing them to the celebratory atmosphere you’ve created inside.

Keeping in mind that we want to cover a broad palate potential, I selected De Valloie Rosé “Paramour” NV ($17). Hailing from Saumur in Loire Valley, this traditional method sparkling has that bright acid to help with food pairings, a wonder spectrum of red fruits and citrus, and that biscuity note that can make these wines so interesting. Also, that attractive rosé color makes it look even more festive. Although this wine loves a wide variety of drop-in foods, creamy cheeses (goat, burrata), fruit salad, marinated shrimp seem to do especially well.

Light Crisp White

With certainty, some people will prefer a light crisp white wine as their style. There are a myriad of wines that fit this description but many can show as fairly lean and insipid; two words not favorable at any party. For that reason, I chose a wine that has a bright acid but a more interesting viscous mouth-feel. Binyamina Chardonnay 2019 ($20) hails from Galilee, Israel and before you judge this wine for being a Chardonnay, just try it. The use of stainless-steel gives a purity of fruit that will change your view on this variety. The added bonus is that if you have friends and family that favor kosher products, they will love you for not having to drink Manischewitz.

Light Bodied Red

When selecting a lighter red with a softer tannin element, Pinot Noir would probably be the knee jerk response. Although this would work well with your beverage plan, I never pass up the opportunity to introduce potential discovery to my guests. The love affair I have with Spanish wines influenced my selection of Rectoral de Amandi Mencia, 2020 ($18). This Mencia has enough layers of complexity on the nose and palate that any wine geek friends will be talking about it for days. This variety does have the potential of reductive issues. That means open a bottle or two ahead of time or pour into a decanter and swirl for a minute before serving. Hard cheeses (Manchego), charcuterie (cured meats), earthy mushroom dishes or even seafood paella all are heavenly with Mencia wines.

We all know those wine consumers that prefer a large red to accompany their “something that had parents” food selection. I find myself fastidious about this style as many of these wines have alcohol so high, they leave vapor trails and lower acidity, leaving the wine feeling flaccid; another word not favorable at a party.

Sturdy Red

My selection of Psâgot Sinai M Series, 2020 ($29), checks a lot of boxes when contemplating what full bodied red to table at your holiday fest. This Cabernet Sauvignon dominated kosher wine hails from the Hills of Binyamin overlooking Jerusalem and drinks well above this price point. The wine offers all the red and black fruit you’d expect along with interesting baking spice and cocoa. The sturdy crunchy acidity helps give the wine a sense of freshness and makes it a much easier pairing partner. I’m not certain how fancy you get with your drop-in foods but this wine begs for brisket, leg of lamb or savory latkes.

One other suggestion pertains to pairing of food with your wines. As we mentioned previously, we want to keep things fun and your guests happy. Attempting to compartmentalize all the foods and wines for pairing purposes would be a logistical nightmare and a joy-killer. I like to place a card with pairing suggestions by each wine station.  This allows my guest the freedom to discover what they find the most appealing to their palate and it helps create traffic flow within the gathering itself.

Although my suggestions are just that, I hope my strategy assists you in making better selections for your holiday festivities. There truly is no such thing as the perfect wine for your party but you certainly have most of those palate-pleasing bases covered, hopefully removing some of the stresses from your Holiday Season. Also, for that outlier guest, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a few beers in the fridge.

Suggested Wines

De Valloie Rosé “Paramour” NV ($17)

This traditional method sparkling wine hails from the Saumur area of the Loire Valley and is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. There are aromas of red fruit (strawberry, cherry), citrus (blood orange), and slight raw biscuit note. The palate is dry with bright mouth-watering citric driven persistent acidity. The red fruit and citrus flavors carry through from the nose. The finish is palate-cleansing and leaves an essence of tangerine / blood orange lingering. Pair with creamy cheeses (goat, burrata), fruit salad, marinated shrimp.

Binyamina Chardonnay 2019 ($20)

Hailing from Galilee, Israel this stainless-steel Chardonay has overt aromas of orchard fruit (peach, pair, apple), lemon curd, and lime blossom. The palate is dry, with a dominant prickly acidity, and a well subdued alcohol. The body is viscous (along with a yoghourt and cheesiness) suggests some malolactic fermentation. Flavors of orchard fruit carry over from the nose along with an increase in the citrus fruit component (lemon, tangelo) and the aforementioned cheese rind and fresh yoghourt. Pair with shrimp, fish dips, and soft cheeses.

 Rectoral de Amandi Mencia, 2020 ($18)

These Mencia wines can initially be a bit reductive. So, if you open pour and smell right out of the bottle and you detect some “funk”, just swirl and give it a minute. That will blow off and reward you for not hastily judging this wine. Aromas of raspberry, elderberry, blackberry, herbal (mint), baking spice (nutmeg), floral (violet), and a slight white pepper note. The palate is dry with ripe crunchy acidity, fine grained tannins and tamed alcohol. Pair with hard cheeses (Manchego), charcuterie (cured meats), earthy mushroom dishes or even seafood paella.

Psâgot Sinai M Series, 2020 ($29)

Psagot is located in the hills of Binyamin overlooking Jerusalem with vineyards at 900 meters. The wine composition for this year is Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Petit Syrah (28%), and Petit Verdot (18%). This kosher friendly gem has aromas of red and black fruit (blackberry, plum, raspberry), sweet baking spice (allspice), cedar box and dusty unsweetened coco powder. The palate is dry with a mouth-watering tart acid backbone and medium body. The tannins are fine grained and “sticky” with a well-integrated alcohol. The flavors lean more toward the crunchy red fruit (cherry, cranberry and raspberry), cedar and a pleasant dusty texture on the finish. Pair with brisket, leg of lamb or savory latkes.