Post and Courier – January 2024 – Serving Your (Un)Welcomed Seasonal Guests

Throughout the Holidays, most people see a slight uptick in their adult beverage consumption. We find ourselves encouraged by social, family or marital pressures to socialize with the very same people we choose to avoid the entire rest of the year. I believe that this accounts for only one reason for increasing our imbibing as most of us have more than just one reason we drink. In this situation, I personally open more bottles directly related to that amazing Holiday fare that we inexplicably see only this time of year. Likewise, I refrain from opening certain bottles depending on the milieu of said gathering.

I honestly open good but not ridiculous wines over the holiday season for a number of reasons. First, it remains difficult to prevent that inebriate from over-pouring into their glass and downing your aged Burgundy with blissful disregard. Also, I really want my attentions focused on the event and those I wish to spend time with, all while attempting to avoid those I do not. It may seem crass or reek of pretense but some wines you really want to savor without being verbally accosted by your relative sharing their colonoscopy experience.

Although Christmas Eve is our big gathering and dining experience, these same wines will suffice for any and all of your seasonal swigging. Although there are times sparkling wine is a bit overplayed, this is not one of those times. With the impressive volume of sparkling I anticipate pouring, keeping the price down helps with my post-holiday credit card statement regrets. I still wish to serve my guests something better than quaffable so my choice of Charles Méras Brut Rosé ($12) fits the bill.

This Pinot Noir based sparkling boasts abundant red fruit thanks to the Charmat production, where the second ferment takes place in stainless steel (like Prosecco) instead of bottle. With the acidity to balance the small amount of residual sugar, this crowd-pleaser drinks well above its price point. Unfortunately, this gem will be passed over by many shoppers, thinking it too good to be true. As savvy wine buyers, we know it will pair well with our cured meats and cheese tray.

Admittedly, though most of my consumption during this time will be of the red flavor, I still practice beverage inclusivity. I simply love Italian white wines for the Holidays. They are usually reasonably priced, offer a palate cleansing acidity, and pair with most “white-friendly” foods. They also offer a myriad of interesting varieties that are not Pinot Grigio. Make no mistake, I love a good Pinot Grigio (Gris) but be that person that serves something outside the proverbial box. In other words, be that person that puts mini bottles in the stockings in lieu of candy.

The Italian whites I recommend are Madrevite Elvé Grechetto, Colli del Trasimeno, Umbria, Italy 2022 ($18), with its brined citrus notes and herbal undertones. Also, Il Conte Villa Prandone Navicchio, Marche, Italy ($23), a Pecorino variety boasting fleshy stone fruit, tropical fruits (melon) and an interesting floral and spice character. These unique wines pair well with goat cheese, marinated shrimp, and grilled lighter fishes.

How you choose your progression depends on what you are serving and if you are doing a “sit down” meal. As previously mentioned, my favorite feast remains the standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding that I devour on Christmas Eve. I selected a wine that is an amalgam of two grapes (66% Sangiovese and 34% Syrah) from two different growing regions (Columbia Valley and Willamette Valley), respectively. Redolent Wine, Sister from another Mister 2022 ($28), has a very modern label and name that many would wrongfully assume translates to the wine inside. Nothing could be further from the truth. This complex wine showcases aromas and flavors of red and black fruit (raspberry, blackberry, currant), dried herbs (tarragon), floral (violet), and spice (black peppercorn), paying reverence to both grape varieties. If you choose a different main course for your Christmas or New Year’s meal like lamb (shank or stew), crown pork roast, or beef wellington, you could not get a better wine for the value.

Later in the evening as some of the herd has been culled, you will have the ability to pull a few of your wine brethren together for something a bit more special. This circumstance is where I think fortified wines are at their best. Although I do love Port and Sherry, this occasion calls for Madeira.

The benefits of Madeira, other than their amazing complexity of rare and interesting flavors, is their longevity surpassed only by that of a Twinkie. Once opened, if left upright with the cork wedged back in place, they can survive for decades. Interestingly enough, mine have never lasted long enough to put this statement to the test.  As an after-dinner contemplation wine or with the possibility of pairing with dessert I recommend Rare Wine Co. Historic Series New York Malmsey Madeira ($65). This wine has a baked and oxidized sugar element giving it aromas of balsamic, caramelized sugar (toffee), treacle, hazelnut, and espresso. This pairs extremely well with praline, fruit cake and, my favorite, pecan pie.

Whether you are having that family and friends’ meal over the Christmas Holidays or around the New Year, I hope you find some of my selections, as well as opinions, somewhat beneficial. These suggested wines will work well with the uninvited and the unwelcomed as well as your closest of wine geek drinking buddies. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas as well as a safe and prosperous New Year.