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Three years ago, I was invited to a New Year’s Eve dinner party with a small group of close friends. I knew that I wanted to bring a bottle of wine, but I was having trouble deciding what type to bring. I assumed that everyone else would be bringing the usual Champagne for New Year’s Eve, so I crossed that off the shortlist. I wanted to choose a wine no one else in the group would think to bring, like New-World Pinot Noir, Riesling, or Torrontés. I eventually decided on a bottle of Rhys Pinot Noir, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for the event. The wine paired beautifully with our food and it was a nice change of pace from the sparkling wine everyone else brought.
A great wine sets the tone for your holiday event. Whether you’re looking for a case of non-vintage Champagne to serve at an ugly sweater party or you’re seeking out that perfect bottle of Bordeaux to pair with a special holiday dinner, the best holiday wines of 2018 will make your celebrations truly memorable. In this post, we’ll talk about some special wines that you should consider opening at your next holiday gathering, whether it’s a big gathering or an intimate family dinner.
The Best Wines for Holiday Parties
Wine enthusiasts often dread holiday parties because the wine tends to be subpar. Unless your company splurges on quality Champagne for your office party, chances are you’ll be stuck nursing a glass of very simplistic table wine all night. I once attended an ugly sweater party where the only wine available was a case of Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovers of fine wine can find this a difficult situation to resign themselves to.
Large-format bottles of Champagne are great choices for big or more formal parties because they look impressive and serve more people.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to bring your own wine to the party (as long as the gesture would be welcomed by the host or party planners). Not only will this make the event more enjoyable for you, but it will also introduce your friends, family, and coworkers to some great wines. You don’t have to bring bottles that are worth hundreds of dollars, either. You’ll find that some of the best holiday wines of 2018 cost less than $200 and appeal to a wide range of palates.
To pick out the best wine for an upcoming holiday party, first, consider how formal or informal the occasion is; more formal occasions call for nicer wines. Large-format bottles of Champagne are great choices for big or more formal parties because they look impressive and serve more people. A magnum of non-vintage Billecart-Salmon will win over most party guests; or, if you want to treat everyone to something truly special, splurge on a magnum of 2005 Bollinger La Grande Année. If you’re bringing the wine to a party, as opposed to serving it at your own gathering, keep in mind that the host or hostess may not choose to open the wine during the party. However, no matter when it gets opened, Champagne will almost always be welcomed.
If you’re looking for vintage Champagne for your next get-together, consider these wines, which are drinking well in 2018:
For the Fan of Fruity Champagne:
For the Fan of Yeasty Champagne:
You can also buy non-vintage labels from these Champagne producers if you’re buying for a large group or for wine drinkers without much experience with Champagne. Many casual drinkers will find NV Taittinger just as enjoyable as 2007 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.
If the holiday party is a more casual event, opt for Argentinian Malbec or quality New-World Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, like Ridge Monte Bello. These crowd-pleasing wines will impress most serious wine lovers in attendance, but they’re also approachable and fruit-forward enough to appeal to almost anyone. Moreover, it’s always a good idea to bring a red wine if you know that there’s already going to be plenty of Champagne or white dessert wine on the menu.
Here are a few crowd-pleasing, quality red wines you can bring to or serve at your next holiday party:
- 2015 Le Dragon de Quintus
- 2016 DuMOL Syrah
- 2009 Paul Lato Syrah
- 2015 Dominus Napanook
- 2014 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon
Because you don’t always know what type of wine your fellow guests will enjoy, steer clear of polarizing styles, like wines with Brettanomyces or a great deal of oak on the nose. Instead, choose fruit-forward wines that can be enjoyed young and stay away from wines with too much age. Not all wine drinkers will enjoy the savory flavors of mature wine and older wines are harder to transport, often need decanting, and have fragile corks. This isn’t easy to deal with in a chaotic party setting, which is why it’s wise to bring or serve wines that are no more than about ten years old.
The Best Wines for Intimate Dinners
Renowned wine collector François Audouze pulls out all the stops for his holiday dinners. Last year, he hosted an intimate dinner with friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and the group shared a number of astounding bottles–1985 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, 1990 Salon, 1983 Pétrus, 1959 Palmer, 1989 Yquem, and two DRC La Tâche vintages made an appearance over the course of the night. And that’s only a short list of the extraordinary wines Audouze uncorked that evening.
For a small gathering of friends and family, the best holiday wines of 2018 are celebratory styles, like Champagne, Sauternes, and grand cru Bordeaux, and great vintages from top producers.
You can follow Audouze’s lead by pulling at least one or two impressive bottles out of storage over the holiday season. Your close friends and family will appreciate being served a legendary bottle of wine and you know your friends’ and family’s preferences, so you can tailor your wine selections to match their tastes.
For a small gathering of friends and family, the best holiday wines of 2018 are celebratory styles, like Champagne, Sauternes, and grand cru Bordeaux, and great vintages from top producers. Below is some inspiration:
- Vintage Champagne: As we mentioned above, Champagne is a safe bet. Wines like 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal and 2007 Salon Le Mesnil pair well with a wide variety of foods and also work well as an apéritif, so even if you don’t know what’s on the menu, you can safely bring Champagne to any holiday dinner.
- Sauternes: A bottle of 1971 Yquem makes an excellent apéritif or accompaniment to dessert. You don’t even have to pair this wine with food, as it can (and probably should) be served on its own so you and your guests can fully appreciate it.
- Top-Rated Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Blends: Full-bodied, earthy New-World Cabernet blends, like 2007 Dominus and 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia, are a great choice for holiday dinners because these wines can stand up to hearty Christmas and Hanukkah meals.
- Grand Cru Bordeaux: Great Bordeaux is a classic for a reason; it pairs well with a wide range of foods and is among the most complex, elegant wines in the world. Look for Bordeaux that has aged for at least 15 years. The 2003 Montrose and 1985 Lynch-Bages vintages are both great options.
- Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino: If you want to offer everyone something a little more unusual, consider fine Brunello di Montalcino, like 2010 Valdicava. The spice flavors in this wine make it exciting to drink and a great choice with Christmas dinner.
- Aged Riesling: Riesling is an excellent complement to light appetizers, smoked meat, or fish. Wines that have aged for around ten years, like 2009 Trimbach, develop great complexity with age, which everyone at the holiday dinner table will enjoy.
- White Bordeaux: A great vintage of aged white Bordeaux wine–2005 Larcis-Ducasse is an example–is also an option for a holiday meal. White Bordeaux pairs well with many types of foods and its opulent flavors feel truly decadent, making it a very special treat for your celebration.
As always, keep in mind who will be drinking the wines you bring, and hold off on opening very old or rare bottles if your family and friends aren’t wine aficionados. Years ago, I brought a bottle of Pontet-Canet to my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve. While she loved the gesture, she isn’t an avid wine drinker, so the quality of the bottle was lost on her. If you’re unsure whether to bring a particularly fine bottle to a holiday dinner, leave it at home and pick up one of the quality crowd-pleasing red wines we mentioned above.
How to Buy the Best Holiday Wines of 2018
No matter what type of holiday event you’re attending this year, put your order in for holiday wines now. I once made the mistake of waiting until New Year’s Eve to hunt down a bottle of Climens that I wanted my friends to try. By that afternoon, many wine shops in town were closed and the few that were open didn’t have any Climens in stock. I ended up buying two bottles of non-vintage Billecart-Salmon on my way to the party. Nobody complained, but they weren’t what I had in mind.
Online retailers that also store wine are able to put your bottles in professional storage until you’re ready to drink them.
Shopping for your holiday wines online takes much of the stress out of the planning process. For example, if you sign up as a private client for an online retailer, an expert will offer you suggestions on the best wines to buy for a particular event. You’ll get custom recommendations specific to your situation. Online retailers that also store wine are able to put your bottles in professional storage until you’re ready to drink them.
After I order my wine online, I usually pay for professional storage and request that the retailer sends them to me a few days before the event. This is useful in two ways: first, it keeps my bottles safe until I’m ready to drink them; second, it reminds me what wine I’m bringing or serving at an event. Too often I’ve thought about bringing a particular wine to a holiday party, but in the end either can’t find the bottle in my cellar or forget that I wanted to bring it in the first place. Taking the time to plan which wines you want to open when–and having them sent directly to your doorstep–allows you to relax and fully enjoy your holiday celebrations with wines that will make a lasting impression.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.
At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.