Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Wine Ideas (NW)

The Holidays are a perfect time for friends and family to celebrate with good wine. If you're looking for some ideas on wines that can add to the festive occasions, then begin thinking about being adventurous. There is so much good wine in the world and so many choices, that you're bound to please palates and find surprises.

For a lively gathering, especially one that includes appetizers or something to nibble on, think bubbly. Champagne and sparkling wines don't have to be snobby wines reserved for weddings and anniversaries. Pour some bubbly when your guest don't expect it and see what happens. My favorite time to enjoy a sparking wine is early in the evening with passed hors d'oeuvres. Ideas here include non-vintage Champagne, California sparking wine. If you'd like to be more adventurous, look for Prosecco or Moscato D'Asti from Italy, sparkling wine from Australia, or sparkling red wine. Any of these can be fun and festive.

When you want a nice sipping wine that doesn't have the bubbles, think about pouring both a white and light red at the same time and allow guests to choose. For white wine, I really enjoy sipping on Sauvignon Blanc, especially from New Zealand. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is lively, interesting wine and a fantastic bargain. For light red wine, I like Beaujolais (the real stuff in this case, not Nouveau). My favorite is from the village of Morgon and will be labeled accordingly. It is usually a little bit more full-bodied than some of the other Beaujolais.

Sit down dinners often require a terrific food wine and there are so many choices. I like "old-world" style wines for elegant meals. By this I mean wines that have good balance and acidity, not too much ripe fruit or ultra "fruit-forward". The wines I reach for in this category include European wines such as most Italian reds, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. These wines also include French Rhone wines, Spanish Tempranillos, Oregon Pinot Noir, and German or Alsatian Riesling. Of course, there are other whites that are great with food and this list is by no means complete.

To finish things off, don't neglect the dessert wines. In fact, there are so many types of dessert wines that it's impossible to categorize them all. Distributors often supply wine shops with rare small production dessert wines from vitners that like to experiment with this category, so be on the look out. From year to year, many wineries produce various takes on late harvest bottlings, sweet muscat, port-style wines, and ice wines. If you're feeling adventurous, look for Canadian ice wines, sweet red wines, Vin Santo from Italy, California port-style wines using Zinfandel, or Sauternes. Also, if you'd like a nice compliment to chocolate, try Rosa Regale, an Italian Brachetto made by Castello Banfi. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the end of a meal and it's a great chance to be adventurous. Enjoy, and raise a glass!

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