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How to Be a Holiday Wine Know-It-All

In his annual holiday wine guide, F&W's Ray Isle talks deals and discounts and recommends wine matches for every kind of meat.

Holiday Wine Guide: Best Wines for Big Parties

Here are some bottles cheap enough to buy 12 at a time, and get the 15 percent discount that stores often give for case orders.

2010 Domino Pinot Grigio ($7) As with most California Pinot Grigios, this bottle has sweeter, riper fruit than Italian versions.

2010 McManis Family Viognier ($11) Skip the usual anonymous-party-pour Chardonnay in favor of this peachy California white.

2010 dB Shiraz ($10) Australia's De Bortoli family produces this substantial but well-balanced Shiraz.

2010 La Maialina Chianti ($10) This crisp Tuscan red has a light strawberry fragrance.

2010 Elsa Bianchi Malbec ($11) Well-known California winemaker Robert Pepi, Jr., consults on this big, berry-rich red from Argentina.

Holiday Wine Guide: How to Get a Wine Deal

Zachys Wine & Liquor in Scarsdale, NY, sells over 100,000 cases of wine each year. Here, Zachys's Jeremy Noye tells the best ways to score a holiday discount.

Tip 1: Look for sales on Champagne from Thanksgiving into the first two weeks of December. After that, the discounts disappear.

Tip 2: Popular wines, like California Chardonnays, rarely go on sale. Head to less-well-known regions instead, like Abruzzo or Alsace.

Tip 3: If a wine from an unsung region isn't on sale, the store might be flexible about pricing; ask if you can get a discount.

Tip 4: The best deals right now on under-$25 Cabernets are from Washington state. Plus, the 2008 vintage is extremely good.

Tip 5: Beaujolais is enormously popular for Thanksgiving, so it will probably go on sale after the holiday has passed.

Holiday Wine Guide: Pairings for Holiday Meals

From mild (chicken) to wild (boar), here are the best wine pairings for every kind of meat on holiday tables, going in order of increasing intensity of flavor.

Chicken

Chicken is the minivan of meats: It's good for a crowd but not very exciting.

Pair With A lightly oaky Chardonnay.

Top Choice 2008 William Hill Estate Winery Napa Valley ($25)

Holiday Wine Guide: Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc
Photo © Maisons Marques & Domaines.

Turkey

The dark meat won't work well with oaky whites. Try something crisp, maybe from Alsace.

Pair With A bright Pinot Blanc.

Top Choice 2009 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbés ($15)

Holiday Wine Guide: Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling
Photo © dr. loosen.

Ham

Salty meats will make tart whites taste fruitier. (Avoid king-size reds—salt makes rough tannins even more astringent.)

Pair With A zippy Riesling.

Top Choice 2010 Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling ($15)

Goose & Duck

Their rich, savory flavor makes them perfect for a juicy wine with a spicy edge.

Pair With A medium-bodied Pinot Noir.

Top Choice 2009 Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir ($27)

Holiday Wine Guide: Newton Vineyard Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo © Estates & Wine-Moët Hennessy USA.

Steak & Prime Rib

Well-marbled beef goes best with big, tannic reds.

Pair With A robust, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon.

Top Choice 2009 Newton Vineyard Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)

Holiday Wine Guide: Montecillo Gran Reserva Rioja
Photo courtesy of Montecillo.

Wild Boar & Venison

Fans of wild game's intense flavors should try pouring earthy, complex older wines.

Pair With An aged Rioja. Top Choice 2001 Montecillo Gran Reserva ($25)

Holiday Wine Guide: Dessert Wines

Like fruitcakes, dessert wines often get regifted or ignored completely. That's a shame: They make an ideal end to a winter dinner party.

2007 Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Reserve Vidal Icewine ($25) Rich and tropical-scented, this ice wine (made from grapes harvested when temperatures sink to about 17°F) comes from Canada's Niagara region.

NV Velenosi Querciantica Visciole ($25) From the Marche region of Italy, this bright, luscious, red dessert wine is made by blending about 20 percent wild-cherry syrup with Lacrima di Morro d'Alba wine.

2006 Beringer Nightingale ($40) Named for legendary California winemaker Myron Nightingale, this gold-hued blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc has a seductive honeysuckle-and-citrus fragrance.

More Holiday Wine Advice:

Published December 2011
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