Selecting a wine for a holiday get-together can be tough: you've got to stay within a budget, figure out what variety will match the food, and guess what wine the guests will most enjoy. To help you out, we've sourced tips from sommeliers to help you select the perfect wine bottle for holiday entertaining.
Holiday Entertaining Wine Buying Rules
First and foremost, rules are made to be broken. So, if you're drawn to a particular bottle that doesn't meet these criteria, go for it. However, people find it helpful to understand dining etiquette rules when picking out wines for a party. We will be using Chilean wines as examples. Chilean wines are great for holiday get-togethers because of their versatility and great quality at an affordable price.
People generally prefer red or white wines, even if you're supposed to drink white with fish and red with meat, so it's always good to serve one of each. Anytime you're bringing people together, it's smart to choose wines that most people enjoy. You're probably not shopping for the wine snobs and budding sommeliers who will nerd out over biodynamic wine. You're shopping for a general palette that appreciates the tried-and-true varietals like Syrah, Merlot, or Chardonnay.
Most wine merchants discount when you buy by the case - even for mixed cases. Given the demands of the holiday season, consider buying in bulk. Make sure to taste the wine before you buy in bulk, so you know that you love the wine. If it's not a hit with your guests, you don't want to be stuck with five bottles of wine you don't like.
Even with the case discount, wine can add up. Sommeliers agree that there are plenty of great finds in the $10 to $15 range, so you don't need to spend a lot to impress guests.
Best Chilean Wines for Holiday Entertaining
Now that you know a bit about the wine selecting process, what varietals do wine pros recommend?
For white wines, Sauvignon Blanc is generally a popular crowd-pleaser. Almost everybody loves a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Light in body, these white wines tend to have tropical notes like passionfruit, pineapple, or kiwi, backed by a flinty minerality. While New Zealand is well-known for producing excellent Sauvignon Blancs, Chile also produces expressive, refreshing, and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc wines that are usually at a lower price tag. Given the strong flavors in a Sauvignon Blanc, it might work best for a cocktail event with light appetizers or a fish meal, rather than a full meal with a hearty, meat-based main dish.
For reds, sommeliers often recommend:
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely-recognized wines. Wine pros recommend Chilean Cabs in particular because of the unique expression of the terroir often found in these wines. While still recognizable enough to feel familiar on the tongue, a Chilean cab tends to center notes of chocolate, pepper, herbs, and earth. These pair well with a variety of foods and are interesting enough to get guests talking.
Pinot Noir is also a great option for red wine. New World pinot noirs tend to be lighter in body and not as syrupy as some other reds, making them ideal for lighter meals and cocktail parties. Chilean Pinot Noirs have fruity notes of blackberry and cherry and are often backed with a hint of spice that lends complexity. While the lighter style of Pinots is a trusted pick for small bites, medium and full-bodied Pinot Noirs work well for holiday meals. Here, the wines complement the food without overpowering the variety of sweet and savory dishes you're likely to serve at a big Thanksgiving or Christmas supper.
Malbec wines tend to be rich in flavor and body; they'll stand up to hearty comfort food meals, such as brisket or braised beef. The flavor notes are like something you'd expect from an aged scotch: whiffs of vanilla, oak, tobacco, dark red berries, and a tannic finish. Like a scotch, this wine is something you'll want to savor-perhaps around the fireplace sharing memories.
With these tips, you can select the best wine for any holiday occasion and serve it with confidence. That's what makes for the most memorable holiday get-togethers.