Monday, December 15, 2014

Wines for Under the Tree

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Whether you fete your holidays by a tree, a Menorah or a Kwanza Bush, there are so many wines to enjoy. Joyful evenings are often best celebrated with a little bubbly. Most Proseccos and Cavas are showing better than ever at great price points, as are French sparkling wines from regions such as Alsace and the Loire Valley.

California makes an abundance of balanced and creamy sparklers, many from French houses and Oregon and Washington are also towing the line. Major corporate powerhouse Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington continues to produce some of the best sparkling wine for the price point. Lambrusco, from Italy, is rich in tannins, makes the tongue tingle and pairs so well with plates of holiday meats and cheeses you may want to lay out for appetizers.

Herbaceous Wines for the Season
With all the foliage that can deck the house as we move into the new year, wines with herbal notes almost put all the aromas in synergy. Crisp Sauvignon Blancs (some of us love whites when the heat is on or spend the last months of the year in warmer climes) has brambly notes. Some of my favorites are from the Loire Valley or Chile. Bordeaux is also making some smashing Suavignon Blanc-based wines, many blended with Semillon.

If you are serving cocktails for the holidays a dash of bitters in almost any drink does wonders for its aromatic profile. Many classic gins as well as Genevers also have abundant aromatics that can be touched off by just a hint of tonic, citrus or water.

Lush and Fat Wines for Feasting
If the end of the year is a time for you and your loved ones to pull out some stellar vintages and have an over-the-top celebration, may I suggest an older vintage from Tuscany or Piedmonte? Barbarescos always know how to bring to the party, while their lower-key cousins may keep it more understated and classic. Classic Tuscan wines and great Bordeaux are always great to serve and older vintages of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be exciting to taste if they have been well cellared.

Holiday celebrations are never bad times to break open those old bottles of Port and Madeira (your guests will be taking about your party for years to come). Later in the evening is also a great time to pull out those Magnums or even larger format bottles that put smiles on everyone’s faces. They could be Champagnes or classic reds. You could also wrap up the evening with great dessert wines—from Napa to Bordeaux there are abundant  choices—or even a little round of Fernet Branca to fortify the stomach for the new year.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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