Let’s look at both wine and spirits for holiday entertaining.
For spirits, you’ll have a great party if you master one element: drinks need to be ready quickly. No one wants to stand around waiting for you to mix your perfect Manhattan while a queue piles up. So, skip the fancy drinks mixed one by one, and opt for:
- Cocktails you can make ahead of time in a batch and set out in a pitcher, so your guest adds some ice to a glass, pours in a portion of cocktail and they are good to go; or,
- Punches, similar to a pre-made cocktail but often served already chilled and from a bowl or other festive vessel.
As long as you use good ingredients, you’ll have a high quality drinking experience for a large number of people.
For wine, you have two considerations: wine for drinking on its own, and wine to have with food if you are serving dinner. While a good wine will often work in either situation there are many wines that only fit one use. A very aromatic white like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc might be very enjoyable on its own, but it hard to match with food. A buttery chardonnay might be wonderful on its own but will feel cloying with food, where you’ll want a bit more acidity to keep the palate clean. Tannic reds on the other hand really need food to tame their bitterness (keep in mind that a little salt on the food reduces the sense of bitterness in your wine), while a softer and fruitier red is wonderful on its own but can seem bland with food. Some recommendations?
I recently fell in love with a beautiful white wine made from the torrontes grape by the Argentine winery Nieto Senetiner. It has a wonderful aroma without being nearly as heavy as some wines from this grape. It has medium body, medium acidity…in short, it tastes good and is wonderful by itself or with food. Another flavorful white worth seeking out is Calasole Vermentino from Italian producer Rocca di Montemassi, a wine that has wonderful flavor and beautiful balance, as well as an enviable price (you can find it for $16 or so).
Sparkling wine is always in fashion and terrific by itself or with food. I recently discovered a beguiling Italian sparkler from Cantine Ferrari in Trentino (and no, they are no relation to the automaker). Ferrari makes four sparkling wines including a very good non-vintage brut that can be found for as little as $16 a bottle and taste like a wine costing twice as much.
For a red, go for something luscious and expressive enough to be considered festive. Two wines that won gold medals at the 2015 Best in Glass Wine Challenge continue to impress me with their broad appeal: Mercer Canyons Red Blend from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is deeply flavored without being heavy handed with alcohol; it’s a wine I would have with any meal over the holidays. I also liked the Pluto’s Fury Pinot Noir from California’s Geyser Peak Winery. It’s that rare find, a pinot noir at a reasonable price!
Whatever wines and spirits you go with this season, I wish you a very happy new year from all of us at VeritageMiami