Kathryn Zondag Airdrie sommelier

Wines to celebrate with

While it may be brisk outside, winter is a season of warmth. Often, we find our days filled with festive parties, food and, of course, wine! Whether you are throwing a gathering for 50, or having a quiet Christmas dinner for four, there is a time and place to enjoy wines for the season on any budget.

The holidays are the perfect time to serve wines that are exceptionally food friendly. Often meals at parties can present a bit of a wine-pairing challenge. This is simply due to the overwhelming variety of food being served. Whether you are hosting a New Year’s party with an endless array of appetizers, or having a roast or turkey dinner complete with 10 of Grandma’s secret-recipe side dishes, it is important to pick wines that will not throw ‘off’ a wide variety of foods, and are general crowd pleasers. Choosing wines that are too tannic, tart or even complex in their flavours can make for some less-than-tasty interactions.

For reds, stick with smooth, low-tannin, juicy and fruit-forward options. Some of my top choices are Gamay, ripe Pinot Noir from California or Central Otago in New Zealand, Northern Italian Barbera, and Chilean Carménère. All will be easy drinking, and offer big, clean fruit flavours, allowing them to be versatile with a wide variety of foods.

For white wines, I always recommend options that are dry with refreshing acidity, and have relatively neutral tree- and stone-fruit flavours. Look for Riesling, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris from either Alsace, Oregon or the Okanagan Valley. For something different, try a Muscadet from the Loire in France. These wines not only taste great with everything, but usually please a wide variety of palates.

When it comes to serving festive bubbles, it can be hard to go wrong. Everything feels special with a glass of sparkling wine in hand! Champagne from Champagne, France, is a beautiful option, but be prepared to pay a premium as the wine has spent extended time aging before release to the public. This extra time creates a variety of complex and savoury flavours, but comes at the cost of paying ‘rent’ for the period of time for which it had to be stored. But, like everything else in life … with champagne, good things come to those who wait! For those with a champagne taste on a budget, I recommend Cremant de Bourgogne, or Cava from Spain.

However you are celebrating this season, I hope you get to enjoy it not only with those you love, but with a great glass in hand!


Kathryn Zondag is a certified sommelier, and holder of the advanced certificate in wine and spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in London, England.

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