Friday, December 26, 2014

Wines to Ring in the New Year

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have never been a big fan of going out for an extravagant meal to fête the end of the year. It is so much nicer to celebrate at home and drink indulgent wine with a nice roast or a stew. Last year we made guinea hen, paired with copious amounts of rosé Champagne, and previous years have included steak and the occasionally the obligatory turkey (forgive my lack of enthusiasm).

Regardless of what you eat, in or out, sparkling wine is always a great way to kick off the evening. I adore classic Champagnes like Gosset, as well as festive sparklers such as Lambrusco. There are also many other great bubblies, often at a more affordable price point, from which to pop the cork on New Year’s Eve.

The Gruet family in New Mexico also makes some sensational and classically well-balanced sparkling wines. They may be tied for some of my favorites with Cremant d’Alsace and from the Loire Valley. There’s no doubt that many cool-climate, French winemaking regions are putting out some dynamite bottles.

On the less expensive, but still so enjoyable side, are Prosecco and Cava. These Italian and Spanish versions, respectively, may not be made in the traditional Champagne style but offer great flavors to start a meal or pair with food.

What to Serve with the Meal
A little red meat as a main course is always a great way to celebrate a new year. Those bitter vegetables and slow-roasted squash won’t mind these pairings as well. A big, fruit-forward red is always a crowd pleaser.

California Zinfandels have the alcohol level and sweet tannins to break down some of the animal fat on a lamb shank or pork roast. American Bordeaux-style blends will also step up these synergies with more acidity and complexity if you are making a stew. In my mind, there’s almost nothing better than a paprika-infused beef stew on a cold night.

If you are focusing on a more vegetarian or less meat-focused, a lean red with higher acidity would be ideal. A little Chinon, or any bright red from the Loire Valley, would fit the bill. So would a pale and tight Austrian red such as Zweigelt or Sptäburgunder. Some of the truly Old World-style Pinot Noirs from Oregon might work as well.

To End the Evening
A little off-dry Moscato with bubbles wiggling their way up to the top of the glass is always a diving way to end an evening. The Rhône Valley’s Muscat Beaumes du Venise aren’t a bad finale either. Otherwise perhaps a little Fernet Branca to finish the New Year on the right foot?

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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