The holidays, while festive, can add to your stress levels with the preparations of the traditional feasts, gathering of family and the pressure to make sure you do better than last year (#nolumpymashers). In addition to making sure you don’t forget the salt in this year’s green bean casserole, you want to present your guests with libations that will be sure to please their palates and enhance your culinary prowess. Fear not! Big Red has all of the right choices to help your flavors pop and your spirits be bright.
Let’s assess the situation according to the facts. When you’ve answered these few questions, it will be easier to navigate the wide world of wine when you know what you are looking for.
Who is your audience? Are you having the extended family over with your cousin’s cousin brother’s girlfriend’s family? Is it an intimate affair with just the family you like and grouchy grandpa? Are you going rogue with your foodie ‘Friendsgiving’? Knowing your audience will help you determine how much wine you will be requiring and also the level of sophistication that you will need.
Let’s start with how much you will need. For a dinner style feast I always plan on three 4.5 ounce glasses per person and if it is a cocktail style gathering plan on four glasses per person. Each bottle of wine is 25.4 ounces, and you can get about 5 proper pours out of a bottle of wine. However, everyone has that uncle who ‘claims’ he doesn’t know the difference between a $5 and a $50 bottle of wine, yet always seems to be filling his glass to the top with the expensive stuff…so, like I said, know your audience. I always err on the side of buying an extra bottle or three. The wine isn’t going to go bad, as long as it isn’t opened, so you can use the extras later. Besides, no one wants to leave their own party to get more wine.
Cocktail Party ((# people x 3) x 5)/ 25.4= #bottles needed
Dinner Party ((# people x 4) x 5)/ 25.4= #bottles needed
Of course…every party is different.
Or better yet, let us do the math and use our handy-dandy drink calculator
Next let’s talk about who is drinking. Are your guest knowledgeable and nerdy about wine? Weekend warriors or casual sippers? Are they just beginning their wine journey? There are plenty of wines that can cover many bases and keep your palate and your guests interested.
After you’ve determined number of guests and you’ve identified the knowledge of your group, the next is budget. If you want to spend lots on wine, you can…but you don’t have to. There are many options outside of the major wine regions that are just as delicious but at a fraction of the cost. Instead of Champagne, you can choose a lovely Cremant from France. Instead of Napa Cabernet, you can try a Cabernet from South America. It pays (literally) to be bold and seek out treasures from outside your comfort zones.
OK…on to the pairings:…
This can be a tough one because of the myriad of flavors that go into the traditional meal. Go-to wines tend to be Gewurztraminers for whites and Pinot Noir for red…but for an adventurous take, I recommend white Burgundy, A white from Gascogne, France or a Spanish Verdejo for the whites. For reds: Cru Beaujolais (Morgon or Moulin A Vent are my favorites), Nebbiolo or Barbara from Piedmont. All of these have the acidity to pair well with the cornucopia of flavors at ‘the harvest table’. Many casual wine drinkers are apt to drink sweeter or off-dry wines. Plus, we live in Indiana, this is Moscato country, so give them what they like! It is always nice to have a fruit wine or moscato type option for guests who don’t like the bone-dry wines.
If you are preparing ham, I recommend an off-dry Riesling from Alsace or Germany. Not all Rieslings are candy sweet, Riesling has a vibrant and food-friendly acidity that makes it very versatile with lots of food preparations. Pinot noir is also a great Ham pairing, as the fruit of the wine plays wonderfully with the saltiness of the protein.
Should roast beef appear on the menu, I would recommend Syrah or Cabernet. If you don’t want to spend the ducats on a Napa expression, I implore you to take a look at Paso Robles or Argentina- where you can find fantastic wines at reasonable prices.
What about a Brunch? There are plenty of options for dry sparkling wines for your Mimosa, French 75s or Bellini…but you might want to wander into Moscato d’Asti territory. While they have some sweetness, there is a balancing acidity that makes the perfect for the first drink of the day. There are other lighter effervescent wines that will also help fit the bill and goes with egg casserole.
And as always…when it doubt- Sparkle it out! Sparkling wine goes with everything. Really, everything.
Sparkling wine goes with EVERYTHING!
1 M&R Asti Spumante, the sweeter option
2 Ruffino Prosecco, the middle options
3 Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne, the drier option
Gewurztraminer (Guh-verts-TRA-Mee-Ner) is the classic pairing with Thanksgiving. It has a little bit of sweetness and pairs better with asparagus/ green bean casserole than most wines.
1 Oliver Gewurzraminer
2 Valbenberg Gewurztraminer
3 Fetzer Grewurztraminer
4 Wolfberger Gewurztraminer
Chardonnay is a medium to full bodied white with medium acidity. A classic dinner party wine.
1 Rocklin Ranch Chardonnay
This Chardonnay has a creamy texture with a hint of oak. A classier Kendall Jackson or less expensive Rombauer!
2 Stillman Street Chardonnay
Designed for meal pairing by a Sommelier, this is a crisper version of California Chardonnay.
Sauvignon Blanc is a high acid, aromatic grape. Better for Appetizers and before meal nibbles.
1 Giesen Marlborough Sauv Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc from NZ can be tricky because of the Pyrazenic notes, but this has a softer gooseberry flavor
Pinot Grigio is the goldilocks of the white wine category: It is not too sweet, not too dry, pleasant stone fruit flavors.
1 Contenova Pinot Grigio
2 Hb Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet
La Petite Frog 3L BOX option for Parties!!
Riesling is a darling of Thanksgiving…it also pairs well with mostly everything. EMBRACE THE RIESLING!
1 Schmitt Sohne Riesling
2 Ch. St Michelle Johannesburg Riesling
3 Oliver Rielsing
4 Wolfberger Riesling, a drier style
5 Fess Parker Riesling, a drier style
Rosé is still a thing. It is versatile with the myiad of flavors that is a Thanksgiving table.
1 Campuget Rosé
2 Pomelo Rosé
3 Alain De La Treille Anjou Rose
4 Tavel varies A stores
Pinot Noir is a light skinned red wine that pairs well with a wide variety of food, especially turkey, chicken, ham and salmon.
1 BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU- coming in on 11/21. A perfect Pinot-like wine for the holiday!
2 Alain de la Treille Pinot Noir
3 Argyle Pinot Noir, Oregon
4 MacMurray Pinot Noir
Zinfandel is a bold pairing…and we have a great Zinfandel!
1 Block 041 Ov Zinfandel
MISC Reds/ Red Blends are a category that is crowd friendly
1 Anne Delaroche Cdr Rouge
2 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello
3 Maipe Malbec
4 Ego Bodegas Marionette
5 Grand Veneur CDR Champauvin
Cabernet Sauvignon is a staple at the dinner table. We have some new options!
1 Clos de Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
2 Rubus Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
3 Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
4 Federalist Cabernet
DESSERT WINES- This can be Port, Moscato, sherry or late harvest wines
1 Warre’s Otima 10 Yr Tawny Port, good with crème brulee, caramel
2 Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve Port, good with chocolate
3 Big Sweet Red & Moscato, good with life