Don't try to match cranberry sauce
Selecting wine for holiday gatherings is a matter of taste. Here are some guidelines .
By staff and wire reports
Published November 19, 2006
By Thanksgiving, the holiday season is in full swing.
With all the activities, we sometimes get stressed over some of the details. Wine shouldn't be one.
When matching wines for the Thanksgiving feast, all bets are off. Odds are the food will dominate. Shouldn't it?
There are no wines that go with cranberry relish, for example, so don't even try. With all the sugar, acid and tannins in this side dish, it's best to avoid putting wine on the palate at the same time. Ditto for sweet potatoes pumped with sweeteners.
Turkey is another story. This is one amiable bird. You can drink white, red, even slightly sweet wines and be happy. One solution is bottles of white (usually pinot gris), red (always pinot noir) and even nice nouveau wines or a dry rose. These low-stress practical tips on buying and serving will serve you and your guests well.
How much wine
There are some general rules that apply to parties and to more formal dinners. For parties at which guests will be chatting, munching and showing up at different times, allow two 6-ounce glasses per person. That's 12 ounces, or half a bottle, per person.
So the math is simple; divide the number of guests by two and that's how many bottles you need. For a more formal dinner, allow about one more glass per person.
Red and white
For a party, offer at least two, including one red and one white. It may be nice to offer a sparkling wine as well.
For a formal dinner, at least two wines are best with the meal. One wine, even if it's well selected, can get a bit boring .
Of course, you may want a welcome wine to pour as guests arrive and with appetizers. That's a good time to start a white wine or bring out a modest bubbly you discovered.
How much of each
That depends on the event. For a formal dinner it depends entirely on the menu, but for a party remember more people drink red than white in the cooler weather. Figure on 60 to 70 percent red wines unless your menu dictates otherwise.
Choosing the wine
If you're choosing wines for a formal dinner the menu will guide the wine choice, but for a party for 20 or more there are a few things to consider.
The first is that you are providing wine for many tastes, so don't try to find one that will suit everyone.
Select wines that appeal to a larger group, say Beaujolais, Australian shiraz or a merlot from California among reds. For whites, a pinot grigio or a soft Australian chardonnay.
Avoid wines that are too exotic or stylized but feel free to set out an alternatives for friends who like to explore, say a spicy Rhone red, a white Burgundy or peachy viognier.
When buying wine on a budget for a large group, say under $10 a bottle, ask advice in a good local shop. You'll get creative selections and probably a case discount.
Provide nice glassware, especially for a formal dinner and even for a stand-up party. They are not that expensive anymore. You can find many for less than $5 a stem so avoid plastic. A table of matching glasses, no matter what the cost, is a sign of generous hospitality.
(On the other hand, building a collection of odd Champagne flutes from yard sales and flea markets adds fun.)
A few will be broken but that's just part of the cost of your party. (If you have a set of really good stemware, store it out of reach.)
For a dinner, set out one glass for red and one for white if you serve both.
Food and wine
Books have been written on this subject but here are a few quick tips for your dinner. It's a non-issue for a party where people are grazing and sipping.
- Serve white before red, old before young and dry before sweet.
- Make sure the food is not sweeter than the wine or the wine may be ruined.
- Avoid wine/food smackdowns. Showcase either wine or food for a particular course or meal, don't make them compete. If the wine is exceptional, choose a simple dish without strong or competing flavors. If the food is stunning, choose a less assertive wine.
Here are some wine recommendations for parties, gifts or special dinners.
- 2005 La Vieille Ferme Luberon Blanc ($8): A fresh, dry and delicious blend from France's southern Rhone Valley.
- 2005 Hedges Cellars CMS Columbia Valley ($12): A complex and interesting wine from an unusual blend of chardonnay, marsanne and sauvignon blanc.
- 2004 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay ($45): It was Mike Grigich's chardonnay that helped put Napa Valley on the wine map in the 1970s and is still among the best made anywhere.
- 2004 La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rouge ($8): Like the white, the red is a consistent winner.
- 2003 Domaine Drouhin Oregon "Laurene" Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($65): Certainly one of the best, most collectible pinots from Oregon's Willamette Valley.
- 2005 Hogue Cellars Late Harvest White Riesling ($10): Sweet and juicy without being cloying - and a great value.
- 2005 Covey Run Reserve Semillon Ice Wine ($22): Harvested in January '05 from frozen grapes, the wine is sweet with lots of tart citrus character.
[Last modified November 17, 2006, 08:25:44]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]