For every candle you light this year, you’ll hopefully crack open a bottle of something splendid and celebratory.
It’s holiday season after all, and for most of you that means a chill in the air, which is all the more reason to drink a rich red wine in cozy company, or pop the cork off some bubbly; not simply because New Year’s Eve is around the corner, but also because effervescence and acidity are the perfect balance to crispy, deep-fried latkes.
Here’s a guide to some of my favorite wines to accompany your own holiday feasts and help charm your cocktail party hosts. And if you happen to be lighting candles with someone special for the first time, make sparks fly with a conversation-starting bottle that will get all kinds of things flowing.
This year the first night falls on a Wednesday, so to keep things low-key and school-night friendly I’d suggest un-oaked Chardonnay such as Domaine Desvignes Chablis. It’s dry and crisp with aromas of lemons and apples and pleasant mineral notes. An easy-drinking and easy-pairing wine, it ought to accompany just about anything—from the traditional fare to roasted chicken and rice.
The second night is a Thursday, so the weekend is in sight. If you’re looking to warm up with something red, I would opt for a blend – something a little spicy and not terribly tannic like a young Côtes du Rhône, which is usually Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and varies from ripe and fruity to a little smoky.
It’s Friday night and you’re three days into the festival of lights. Festivity is long overdue, so unleash the bubbly! If you’re deep frying latkes or other unctuous delicacies you’ll want something dry, acidic and absolutely sparkling. If you’re not Dom Perignon inclined, there are plenty of mid-range sparklers like Ferrari Brut, Metodo Classico from the northern Italian region of Alto Adige, or why not a Spanish Cava? When you’re ready to really savor your sparkles, try a Moissenet-Bonnard Crémant de Bourgogne, a white Burgundy blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with an almondy finish and long-lasting effervescence.
By the fourth day of Chanukkah it’s Saturday and you’re likely off to a party. Bring along a bottle of Pecorino, from the Italian region of Abruzzo. It’s white, floral and bursting with notes of fresh ripe peach. It’s obscure and delicious, so bring plenty of it.
If the night goes long, come armed with a dessert wine, something red to go with your gelt – a tawny Port or a Vin Doux Naturel is perfect.
Night five falls on a Sunday, and there’s nothing like a latke brunch. Add a dry spumante or Prosecco to some apple juice for a mimosa-like cocktail.
Two nights left, and we’re back to the workweek. For those who will still drink in moderation, or for those who could care less, you may as well wrap things up in style. I spent the Thanksgiving holiday guzzling Schioppettino, a smooth and unusual red wine from Friuli (Italy). It tastes of altitude and alpine breezes, and is somewhat reminiscent of a young Cabernet Franc, with green and peppery notes. It’s clean and even on the palate and depending on the vintage, takes on more complex balsamic notes like mint or sage. It’s easy to drink with a variety of dishes but also extremely pleasant on its own. I was also swept away by our very own American Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc. Made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes cultivated in Napa, Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin Counties, it’s complex and fragrant with a lot of citrus and tropical fruit, along with delicate nuttiness.
All of these wines work great at the table and beyond. They also make fantastic gifts (hint hint). And for the crafty/kitschy readers, I’ve started a tradition I urge you to carry on: Every time you share a wonderful bottle of wine with friends or lovers, set it aside. At the end of the year, choose the nine that commemorate your most cherished moments and jam a candle inside, Italian trattoria style. Line them up and light them one by one for an arty, makeshift menorah with sentimental value and bohemian flair.