I’m a sommelier, and I (literally) wrote the book on choosing wine for parties. So picking reds, whites, and bubbly for the holidays is a lot easier than deciding what “Santa” should put in my sons’ Christmas stockings each year. But the number of frantic calls and texts I get from friends and family members as they aimlessly wander the aisles of their local liquor store tells me this can be a difficult and even stressful chore for plenty of others.
But I’m here to help. From red to whites and even bubbly, here’s my simple breakdown. Whether you’re looking for a festive gift for your boss or wine for a party you’re planning, these picks promise the perfect pours for you and yours this holiday season.
A delicious red wine typically costs more than a decent white, but there are still plenty of bargain buys out there. An Italian Chianti Classico is a consistent choice. These food-friendly reds are available for around $15 a bottle. Also look for reds from the Beaujolais region of France, which often fly under the radar. I’m not talking about Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released each November and can be a little tougher to sip. Instead, look for labels from these sub-regions of Beaujolais: Fleurie, Morgon, Beaujolais Villages, Juliénas, Moulin-a-Vent, and Brouilly. These wines are from the famed Burgundy region, but are much more fruit forward and easy drinking, not to mention a fraction of the price. A solid producer is Georges Duboeuf.
Insider tip: For something special in reds, I suggest Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Alexander Valley. Everyone knows great Cabs come from Napa but choosing a pour from Alexander Valley offers a conversation starter at an intimate holiday gathering, and is a wow factor if you’re looking for a special gift bottle.
Cheap white wines can be just that. In this case it’s true that you get what you pay for, so avoid anything under $10 a bottle. Between $15 and $20, Pinot Grigio can be a big crowd pleaser. This white grape is the most popular for a reason. It’s easy to drink and pairs well with lots of different foods. This is a safe bet, whether you are hosting a party or looking for a hostess gift.
Insider tip: If you want something a little fuller-bodied and interesting, pick up a French white like a Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse. This is a crisp, minerally Chardonnay that is elegant yet still affordable at around $25/ bottle.
When in doubt, go for bubbles. Tis’ the season for toasting, so bubbles always work. The key here is cost. If you plan on hosting a large crowd, go for Cava (Spanish) or Prosecco (Italian) in lieu of Champagne. Cava typically is less sweet but Prosecco is more like traditional Champagne in mouthfeel. Both are always less expensive (around $15/bottle) than Champagne. But if you are looking to indulge a little, by all means go for Champagne, or even try a sparkling wine from California.
Insider tip: if you want that Champagne style but still on a Cava budget, look for Cremant d’ Alsace or Cremant d’ Bourgogne, both made in the same style just outside of the Champagne region and can be found around $20/bottle.