Holiday Wine 101: 10 Tips for Selecting Wine for the Holidays

Despite all the good cheer and festivity, the holidays can be pretty stressful – especially if you’re hosting a party and in charge of selecting the wine! So we’ve put together some helpful tips and tricks – call it Holiday Wine 101 if you will – to help take the stress and guess work out of selecting your wine for the holidays. Whether you’re hosting, or in need of the perfect host or hostess gift, these Top 10 tips will make your holiday wine shopping and experience as easy as can be!

So let’s get to it shall we? 🎅🎄🍾

Tip #1: Be Adventurous

We all have our favourites. Personally, we love Champagne! 🙊 Shocking, we know. Your “go-to” wine might be a big California Cab or a New Zealand Sauv Blanc… but this holiday season we challenge you to try something new. So much of our time over the holidays is spent with family and friends – and so much of your enjoyment of a particular wine is dependant upon your mood, your surroundings, your experience, and whom your enjoying it with. So it’s the perfect time to break out of your shell and be adventurous! If you’ve never had an Ontario riesling before, pour yourself a glass! You might be surprised at home much you enjoy it. And you might just discover a new favourite wine style for 2019. This also applies to selecting wines for your own party… try not to just fall back on your old favourites. Wine is a great conversation starter, and it’s kind of like pizza. Even if it’s bad… it’s still pretty good! 😜 So take a chance this holiday season and try something new! Easy enough, right? 😎

Tip #2: A Little Research Goes a Long Way

There are SO many great wine resources online and in print (like a particular blog that you’re reading right now! 😆). But aside from the obvious, and the shameless plugs, we highly recommend books like Wine Folly and What to Drink with What You Eat. These are fabulous resources, and are extremely easy to follow and understand. Wine Folly, for example, will break down each style of wine for you… and tell you exactly what to expect when it comes to body, sweetness, and acidity in the wine, along with what temperature to serve it at, what glassware to use, and whether or not it will improve with some age or should be consumed now. And What to Drink with What You Eat will give you suggestions on which wine to pair with absolutely every type of dish. And we mean EVERYTHING! For example… a McDonalds Big Mac: Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Off-dry Riesling or an Off-dry Rosé. Well, looks like our dinner plans for tonight are sorted! But seriously, there are so many awesome resources available at your fingertips online, and in your local bookstores. So a little research will go a LONG way in helping you select wines for your Christmas dinner.

Tip #3: Order Online

Dealing with the crowds at the mall is bad enough! 😤 Many people here in Ontario don’t know about – or haven’t tried – the LCBO’s online store. Especially if you’re in a rural area or your local store has a less than stellar selection, you’ll have access to their general list of products as well as Vintages products, plus hundreds of online only exclusive items. Oh, and a bunch of special holiday products that make awesome hostess gifts or Secret Santa ideas. Like the 4-pack of Bottega Piccolo Prosecco bottles pictured above. This little gift set includes 4 mini bottles of Prosecco, ready to go in a special bag that you can fill with ice, to deliver a perfectly chilled hostess gift. Also, definitely look into ordering winery direct from your favourite local winery. Most of their wines won’t be available in the LCBO, so it’s a great opportunity to try something special from our own backyard. Which brings us to our next point…

Tip #4: Drink Local

Now some people may have painful memories associated with Ontario wine… (a mega sweet, ultra cheap, mass-produced sparkling wine comes to mind 🙈) but the local wine industry has come a LONG way since then. With incredibly talented winemakers from all around the world, and a focus on quality and sense of place, VQA Ontario wines have been winning BIG at competitions worldwide. Including a ton of medals at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England. That’s a big deal! And with the whole buy local and eat local movement… people should drink local too! After all, the best pairing for local cuisine is local wine. 😉🇨🇦

Tip #5: Do the Math

These days, more and more people are putting down the beer and sugary cocktails in favour of a nice glass of wine. A general rule of thumb is to budget half a bottle of wine per person at dinner. But if you’re throwing a holiday party, your guests will undoubtably have a glass before you sit down to eat, and potentially after dinner by the fireside as well. That being said, you may want to consider budgeting 1 bottle of wine per person. I know that may seem like a lot, but some people might drink more, some might drink less, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, if you have unexpected guests who drop in on Boxing Day… you’ll be more than prepared! But most importantly, always ALWAYS drink responsibly. Make sure each party has a designated driver, or that they make their way home safely via public transportation or Uber.

Tip #6: Go Big

If you really wanna impress your guests… whip out a magnum! While in reality, a magnum is only 1500 mL (or the size of 2 standard bottles of wine) they’re super fun for a party, and make a BIG impression. Magnums are a great conversation starter, and a fun way to work your way around the room to say hi to all of your guests and pour them an aperitif before dinner.

Tip #7: Finding That Perfect Pairing

This is the hard part! What should you pair with your Christmas dinner? Finding that perfect pairing for a diverse array of dishes is no easy task – especially an array of very RICH dishes like we tend to see on our Christmas dinner tables. But, it’s not as hard as you might think. First let’s talk about what NOT to do… think about a big rich California Cab and how it coats your mouth. Full bodied, big tannins, high in alcohol. Don’t do that. 😑 You’ll barely be able to taste any of the flavours in incredible dishes you’ve been working away at all day to prepare (or, had someone else prepare! 💁‍♀️). Instead, think about a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Riesling and how it cleanses your palate after every sip. That’s the key. You want the wine to complement the food, not overpower it. And, unless you’re planning on setting up a wine flight for each guest, you’ll probably want a wine that will complement as many dishes on the table as possible. 😉 A wine that is higher in acid and lower in tannin and alcohol, will cleanse your palate between bites, allowing you to fully enjoy and appreciate the flavours of each and every dish at the dinner table.

Tip #8: Keep it Simple

There’s no need to overdo it by purchasing 15 different types of wines for your dinner party. The best way to cover all of your bases is with our Rule of 2

    2 Reds: A lighter bodied, lower tannin, fruit forward red like a Gamay (our favourite turkey wine 🦃) and something a little fuller bodied, but still higher in acid, like a Cabernet Franc (which is great with roast beef).

    2 Whites: Something light and crisp like a Pinot Gris, and something with a bit more weight to it like a Chardonnay or Riesling.

    2 “Others”: A sparkling wine and a rosé, which both make fantastic pre-dinner drinks but also pair flawlessly with food.

Mmm… ok, who’s hungry? 🤤🙋‍♂️

Tip #9: When in Doubt… Sparkle!

It is the holidays after all! 😉 Not only is sparkling wine festive and celebratory, it’s hands down the most food friendly wine out there. It’s crisp, refreshing, and fun – and helps to elevate every mood and moment. And that’s what the holiday’s are all about! ☺️

Tip #10: HAVE FUN!

As more and more people develop a deeper appreciation for wine, it can be stressful when it comes to selecting wines and feeling the need to impress your guests or host. But remember, at the end of the day, wine is a beverage meant to be enjoyed. So don’t get too worked up about it. HAVE FUN and please drink responsibly. 😉