Thursday, 6 December 2018

Holiday Party on an Elf's Budget

Hey Fellow Winos

It’s Festivus for the rest of us, so let’s celebrate by sipping some fine wine and let the airing of the grievances begin. 

Those of you who have never watched Seinfeld, please disregard above. 

When hosting a Holiday party, one must not showcase how poor you really are. Ditch the magnums of cheap Pinot Grigio, the magnum of Sangiovese and god forbid the dreaded boxed wine. It’s a party, not a funeral.

If you like to sip Champagne but quite frankly dislike half of the people your spouse invites over, or perhaps the in-laws show up, crack a bottle of Bailly Lapierre Reserve Brut, Cremant de Bourgogne. This 100% chardonnay sparkling wine from Burgundy is only a few clicks south of Champagne, will taste like Champagne and uncle Buck won’t know the difference, as if uncle Buck has ever had Champagne before anyways. You’ll be a rockstar host even though the bottle is under $20, but guests don’t need to know that. Pair with canapes of smoked salmon.

When hosting a holiday party most people will want a “Big Red”, mostly because they know it will be high in alcohol which will help them relax from the stress that is Christmas. A good host should make sure there is a selection of different “Big Reds” but have no fear because not all big reds come with big price tags. 

Take this 2016 Vina Cobos, Felino Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina. This wine will pack a lot of ripe blackberries, some violets, a tinge of green bell pepper as well as some nice notes from the use of oak like vanilla and baking spice all for only $19.95. The winemaker, Paul Hobbs, is legendary and while this wine is their entry level stuff it’s pretty good value. You’ll get all of the compliments from your friends and your accountant will be proud of your thriftiness. I believe Michael Scott would refer to this as a “Win-Win”.

Another notable producer is Zuccardi, so try their entry level 2015 Q Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina at $19.95. Ripe black and blue fruit, some violets and baking spice notes will have all of your guests teeth red and after a glass or two. You’ll be able to smile naturally at 14.5% ABV even though you may barely know some people at your own party. Not all Malbecs are created equal and this is a great example of what quality can taste like.

If you want to impress beyond the Uncle Bucks and Chatty Cathy’s from the office, maybe even impress the boss, the 2014 Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec from Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina will certainly do the trick. I have to say this bottle impresses me and I’m a certified Sommelier. Most parties I’m invited to usually start out with a cringe as to wonder what boxed wine I’m getting myself into, but if you busted out this bottle, even at only $24.95, I would probably give you a big hug and wipe away my tears of relief. I love the acid, the tannin, the structure of this wine alongside balanced and integrated black and blue fruit, spice, floral notes, just fabulous stuff all around. I don’t always drink Malbec, but when I do, I would certainly drink this.

For the Francophiles, try the 2015 J.M. Raffault Les Picasses, Chinon, Loire Valley, France at $20.95. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Cabernet Franc from Chinon, some red and black cherry, some savoury sage and good minerality, everything you want from a medium-bodied red. This is the bottle of wine that I would bring to a holiday party if only to sip myself. It's small, it's big, it's simple, it's complex, it's the eye of my wine storm and it's my honest go to in a pinch as it pairs with everything from turkey to red meat.

Last but not least, for the white wine lovers check out this 2017 Terranera Greco from Compania, Italy. Notes of ripe peach, apricot and that classic flinty smoke that you would expect from Greco from mountainous Campania. While affordable, this wine will blow basic Pinot Grigio out of the water so don’t be basic, buy Greco. FYI most affordable white wines with the best quality come from Italy, just pick up a bottle you struggle to pronounce around $20 and you’ll rarely be disappointed. 

For those who make more than an elf or a hobbit, perhaps these wines below may be perfect your holiday party, if only for the most distinguished guests:

Ruinart Champagne for its endless haunting finish that lasts several minutes at $85.95 

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne because of its balanced richness, my personal favourite at $69.95

Barolo from Piedmont, Italy, which smells like delicate flowers but slices like a heavy German knife priced around $50 and up.

Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley but I wouldn’t drink anything priced less than $50 from this region.

Amarone Della Valpolicella from Veneto Italy is such a rich big wine made only for the depths of winter around Christmas, priced $50 and up.

On a shady side note, I would rarely recommend Veuve Clicquot or Moet & Chandon unless you asked me how to overpay for an inferior bottle of champagne.

Happy Festivus and Happy Sipping, 

Ryan Sullivan 

P.S. Christmas morning my partner and I will be sipping sparkling wine from Nova Scotia with eggs benedict followed by a rich wild boar ragu for supper with a 2010 Brunello di Montalcino. Tis the season to splurge. 

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