Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
The Holiday season is upon us, and with many thirsty guests parading through the house how will you spread Christmas cheer after Scrooge just put a lump of coal in your stocking?
This post is not about saving money on wine per se - there are many writers out there pitching inexpensive wines in these trying times. But beyond the challenge of serving buckets of wine to a hungry crowd without breaking the bank, Holiday gatherings require other important considerations:
Will your inexpensive wine taste good in a plastic wine glass?
Will it work at room temperature?
Will it pair with canapes and egg rolls, dips and cheeses, pizza slices, nuts, etc.?
And - most importantly - will it please the wine neophytes AND your snobby wine friends (especially when they know you have a fine, well-stocked cellar)?
There are no easy answers to these, but here are some thoughts on navigating these shoals:
1) Bubbles: Dry bubblies are food friendly with a variety of cuisines, and do not have to be expensive. Plus, nothing says 'party' like a glass of bubbly. I also expect that your wine snob friends will raise less of a fuss with good, inexpensive bubbles. Spanish cava tops my list for inexpensive "boules", but bubblies from the non-Champagne regions of France also offer some tremendous values (Check out Neil's blog for bubbles at a variety of prices)
2) New world and old world: Fruitier, modern-styled wines are great sipping wines and tend to be appreciated by recreational winos, but your knowledgeable friends may pass and switch to beer. I suggest trying to find a middle ground - try an old world wine maker with a more modern winemaking style, or a new world winemaker with a more traditional style. A good shopkeeper should be able to point you in the right direction, and if they look puzzled just leave (or see my list below...)
3) The "Red": Fruity Aussie Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec are all the rage, but my personal recommendation is for Cabernet Sauvignon as your red choice for the evening - easy to find, a well-chosen cab should be flavourful, reasonably versatile while and withstand the warm environment, and will probably better please both the rookies and the afficianados. A very close second would be a good Portuguese red (typically made from obscure, indigenous grapes) - these can be inexpensive, versatile and well structured, but availability for some readers may be an issue. Inexpensive Spanish wines made from Tempranillo would be a third choice.
4) The "White": Guests may pour the wine chilled, but in the heat of the party these will warm up fast so you need a versatile grape that will work at warmer temperatures. I love the versatility of Chardonnay in this setting, but I find the cheap stuff falls apart when warm. Thus, I have to go with a Sauvignon Blanc - South Africa and Chile have some nice, inexpensive SB, New Zealand will be a bit pricier, but there are some inexpensive French SB as well.
Here are some holiday picks that take into account my guidelines above, price and availability.
Cheap bubbly ideas:
Codorniu Clasico Brut Cava (Spain)
Freixenet Cava Cordon Negro Brut (as suggested by Debs) (Spain)
2004 Sieur d'Arques "La Bulle de Limoux" (a bit pricier) (France)
Cheap white ideas:
Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc (S. Africa)
Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc (Chile)
"Les Jamelles" Sauvignon Blanc (France)
Domaine du Salvard Cheverny (France)
Carmen Chardonnay (Chile) (one cheap Chard that can take the heat)
Cheap red ideas:
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)
Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)
Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)
Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Yellow Label (Australia)
Portuguese Reds (1,2)
If you are not hosting a party, note that many of these suggestions would make ideal good gifts to bring the hosts of other parties.
Feel free to post some of your own ideas for wine that works when served in bad glassware, at the wrong temperature, and paired with rather wine unfriendly foods...(or send me an email for more ideas)
And remember - drink in moderation and don't drink and drive.