Category:Wine advice

Holiday wines 2009

In one respect, picking wines for the holiday season, including Christmas, is a bit trickier than picking wines for Thanksgiving. The latter is a formal, sit-down dinner; the holiday season is one long stretch of running around, people coming over, hurried evening meals, and a glass of wine or two in between wrapping presents.

To that end, the Wine Curmudgeon’s suggestions aren’t so much about specific labels, but some general guidelines. For individual wines, check out my wines of the week or the holiday wine posts. My New Year’s sparkling wine post will be up on Dec. 28.

? Save the expensive wine for a formal occasion, like Christmas dinner, or to give as a gift. What’s the point of opening that $70 bottle of red Bordeaux on the off chance someone will drop over after dinner?

? Think lighter reds, like malbec and U.S.-style Rhone blends (the Peirano Red Shorts Red is a good example), and lighter whites like dry riesling and viognier. The more I think about it (and as much as I love sauvignon blanc), riesling and viognier are much better suited to a crowd than the white wines we normally serve.

? Don’t be afraid to open a bottle of wine — or two or three — when people come over. One of the best parts of having people over, at least at my house, is tasting different wines and talking about them. (Yes, the Wine Curmudgeon knows he is a bit odd). You’ll be surprised at the differences most people can taste in a $10 wine.

? If you’re giving wine as a gift, give them what they like, and not what you think they should like. And if someone gives you wine as a gift, say thank you and appreciate the effort they made to give it to you.

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Thanksgiving wine 2009

Thanksgiving is about friends and family, and not about wine pairings. Wine writers traditionally agonize over Thanksgiving, which I've never understood. They get so hung up on food pairings and recommending expensive pinot noir that they miss the point of the holiday — which is that we should enjoy our friends and family and not worry about wine. Who cares if cabernet sauvignon doesn't go with turkey, or that chardonnay and cranberry sauce isn't proper? Thanksgiving is about sharing and having fun, and the wine that you drink should be part of that. It's not about scores and oaky and toasty.

But that may be changing, and it's a welcome sign. Jon Bonne', the highly-esteemed and influential wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, said his Thanksgiving wine column: "My advice, then? Don't worry. Drink what you like. No one's going to put you in wine jail. It's going to be OK."

That's as revelatory as it is welcome, given that most big-time wine writers are usually the worst agonizers. That Bonne' says it's OK to forgo the perfect pinot noir means the wine world is changing, and changing for the better. Because, if Aunt Dorothy likes white zinfandel, who are you to tell her she can't drink it at Thanksgiving?

Whatever you do, though, think variety ? some white, some red, some bubbly. The Wine Police, as Bonne noted, will not arrest you for trying to make
your guests happy. After the jump, some thoughts and wines to start with:

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