Holiday Wines That Will Save Your Sanity

December 20, 2013

We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone.

Today: 7 reasons to do yourself a favor and arm yourself with the perfect holiday wines. 

Holiday Wines from Food52

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Where holidays and wine are concerned, there is one very big favor that you can do for yourself this holiday season. 

It isn’t hard, it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s not all that expensive -- but it will add a hefty dose of ease to your holiday preparations. It will help you feel like you can smoothly handle unexpected company and last-minute invitations. And, best of all, it will alleviate stress.

Sound too good to be true? 

It isn’t. Go out to your favorite store and buy a few bottles of sparkling wine and a few bottles of sweet dessert wine.

Holiday Wines from Food52

Here are seven reasons why:

1. Bubbles, the kind in sparkling wines, provoke giggles. They’re fun. They take the edge off. And goodness knows we could all use a bit of that around the holidays.

2. One bottle of dessert wine + Two very good chocolate bars + Creative presentation = Dessert. Done.

3. Sparkling wine works for the stand-up part of a cocktail party-style get-together.

4. Sparkling wine works even better for the sit-down part of a meal, especially if what you’re eating is something creamy, less sweet, and more substantive.

5. You can grab either the sweet or the sparkling wine (or both) on your way out the door for an ideal last-minute gift.

6. Leftover sparkling wine can be used to make a simple vinaigrette, or as part of the liquid for a risotto.

7. Leftover dessert wine can be used in cocktails and spritzers, or as part of the liquid to poach fruit.

Holiday Wines from Food52

Here are a few of the sparkling and dessert wines that have my back this season.

You thought you knew Prosecco. It’s often grouped with Cava from Spain and Sekt from Germany as a more cost-friendly alternative to authentic Champagne from France. But this year I was introduced to superior, DOCG-quality wines from the Nino Franco winery in Valdobbiadene, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Their Rustico label does exactly what you want Prosecco to do; that is, it’s refreshing, crisp, very palatable with a variety of lighter foods and appetizers, and affordable. Seek out their Grave di Stecca and Primo Franco labels as well, especially for the sit-down portions of a meal. They’re drier and often more suitable for drinking alongside the pastas, vegetables, white meats, and fish that find their ways to the holiday table.

The trend in Champagne production right now is toward wines with less sugar. Partly it’s a response to consumers who are increasingly mindful of their intake of sugar and carbohydrates and partly -- and this is the explanation I personally prefer -- it’s a growing appreciation for Champagne as a wine and not just as a sparkler. The house of Laurent-Perrier, for example, produces a Cuvée Rosé Brut -- “Brut” on a label means it’ll be dry (less than 12 grams of residual sugar) -- and it’s made from 100% Pinot Noir. It’s a red grape, leading to a rosé wine, that showcases aromas and flavors of red fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and black cherries. It will be on my table alongside the main and the cranberry jelly.

Holiday Wines from Food52

Dessert Wines
Port wines have been gathering steam recently among a younger demographic, thanks in part to a concerted effort by Port producers to demonstrate its versatility in cocktails. If mixology is on the radar for you or your host or hostess, look for Noval Black or an unusual white Port. What’s caught my eye, and my palate, this year has been late harvest sweet wines from South Africa. De Trafford winery in Stellenbosch, for example, produces Straw Wine -- meaning the Chenin Blanc grapes were picked then laid out to dry on straw mats for about three weeks -- concentrating the flavors into a golden, rich wine. It manages to encourage sipping, and lingering, and wondering who exactly figured out that grape juice can be transformed into something quite that lovely.

Do you have any go-to wines that save your sanity during the holidays? Tell us about them in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Silvia Franco
    Silvia Franco
  • luvcookbooks
  • Cathy Huyghe
    Cathy Huyghe
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."


Silvia F. December 22, 2013
Hi Cathy, thank you so much for your appreciation! Have a Merry Christmas and a great new year!
Cathy H. December 22, 2013
You too! How will you be enjoying your Prosecco this holiday?
luvcookbooks December 21, 2013
Thank you! I know next to nothing about wine although I enjoy it very much. Day before yesterday I recognized the name Barolo on a wine by the glass list and had a huge treat with my lunch!
Cathy H. December 22, 2013
Good for you, for wine at lunch! I believe, very much, that enjoying wine (as you do) trumps "knowing" wine any day. I'd love to hear what you think would help you feel more comfortable with wine. We're always looking for ideas that will be useful! Thank you.
luvcookbooks December 22, 2013
I think what you did above was fine. Some general information about categories, some specific suggestions, and some info about what to do with leftover wine. I would like to know about red, white and rose-- also apple wines.
Kenzi W. December 31, 2013
To start, here's Cathy's piece on what to do with leftover wine! http://food52.com/blog/9319-what-to-do-with-leftover-wine
Cathy H. December 31, 2013
Meg, do you know about Eden ice cider from Vermont? It's a beautiful product, and a great company behind it!
luvcookbooks December 31, 2013
I don't know about it, but will check it out. Mostly get hard apple cider at restaurants, sometimes at the farmer's market at union square (Eve's Cidery). I like it a lot but it's hard to find in a regular liquor store. Thanks!