A white and red wine tasting is set up for a class.

Holiday Wines from Around the World

Richard Vayda resolves the December dilemma: selecting wines for holiday hosting.

Welcome to that time of year when we all fret over what we are going to eat and drink, especially when we are planning for guests. The question of which wines to drink continually comes up in my classes, perhaps most often in our core wine class, Wine Essentials.

Fortunately, this six-session survey of the world’s bounty of grapes – covering 60+ wines – offers some great holiday selections. Due to availability, the wines change regularly, but following are some of our current highlights.

Session one of the series offers a great overview of the varied wine types and styles produced. Many could be holiday picks, and a class favorite from Argentina is the Pulenta Gran Corte VII, a Bordeaux grape variety blend that is heavy in Malbec, super lush and savory. It’s a great choice for a rich main dish such as braised meats like short ribs. On day two we move to France and enjoy some classic choices from the Bourgogne and Bordeaux regions. Many of these are great dinner party selections, and if your plans call for beginning with oysters and other shellfish – or perhaps a fresh crudité – the Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons, from Simonnet-Febvre, is for you.

Our next stop is Italy where we travel up and down the boot. Again, there are so many good possibilities for this time of year – Chianti, Barolo, Amarone. The elegant Brunello di Montalcino, Fattoria dei Barbi though, is a perfect match with roasted meats or a rich mushroom ragout. Looking at Spain and warm climate areas in the fourth session, we have perhaps the largest variety of wine styles from a single area. A standout that would be a great match with rich desserts, like a caramelized apple tart, would be the delicious Jerez sherry, Lustau Deluxe Cream Capataz Andres, a luscious sherry from southern Spain made with sun-dried grapes.

The next stop is the western U.S., reviewing wines from up and down the coast. Our current Cab, the Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon, offers us a big, dense-structured red, perfect for the festive roast lamb or beef dish – or a rich plate of cheeses. On the final day of Wine Essentials, we look at the world of sparkling wine. Whether white, rosé or red, these wines are perfect for any day, but especially celebrations. It’s difficult to choose between Prosecco, Cava and Crémant. I also serve two delightful Champagnes to study contrast, and a class favorite is the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Vintage from California's North Coast. This wine’s perfect for rich veal and poultry dishes or an end-of-evening treat!

Six wine labels

There are too many wines and too many choices – but no reason to ever fret! The wonderful truth is that there is no perfect celebration wine and food combination! Taste and preferences are very subjective, so your first concern should be your likings and what would please your guests. Even though I have been conducting ICE’s Wine Essentials class for almost two decades, the six sessions still go by too quickly to savor all the wines fully. Thankfully, there are always additional occasions for tasting, future holidays to celebrate and more wines to enjoy. I hope to lift a glass with you at perhaps this class or one of our many other wine explorations. Happy holidays and cheers!

ICE Wine Classes

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