By Dinah Leach

The holidays are swiftly approaching with the attendant holiday parties, Christmas Day dinner and New Year’s Eve celebrations. You might be asking yourself, “What wine should I serve with dinner? Or open for New Year’s Eve for the special toast at midnight?Does wine make a good hostess gift to bring to a party?”

Let’s start with the seemingly easiest one first. Does wine make a good hostess gift (or gift, period)?  The answer is “Yes”…if the person likes wine. You can always attempt to slyly find out what kind of wines your host likes. DO NOT buy the cheapest bottle of wine you can find. But you don’t have to buy the most expensive, either. Use the knowledge of the staff at the wine store to help you in choosing the most suitable bottle for your friend and the occasion. Also, be aware that your host may have already chosen wines for the evening, so do not expect yours to be opened the night of the party.

If you’re one of the people who groans thinking about drinking the bubbly at midnight on New Year’s Eve, stop right there! You likely haven’t tried good champagne. If you have attended large gatherings where you are handed a glass 10 minutes before the stroke of midnight — spoiler alert — you are probably drinking cheap swill (the same holds true for weddings)! A real bottle of champagne does not even remotely compare to the $10 bottle of sparkling wine that was found on the bottom shelf at the grocery store. Expect to spend around $50 to $60 for a nice bottle. Champagne and sparkling wines (from areas other than Champagne) come in all different forms from super dry to sweet, white, rosé and vintage versions. Again, your wine store professional or sommelier can be your best friend!

What to pair with Christmas Day dinner? Well, it depends. Does your family have turkey, goose, ham or standing rib roast? What sides do you serve? An all-around, good pairing (especially for us here in Florida) is a dry rosé, either from the south of France or from the United States. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wine are also good pairing ideas.

One final thought. There are many different holiday traditions, foods and drinks from around the world. This year, the Leach household will be trying Glǿgg from Scandinavia. It’s red wine that has spices, port and brandy, and is served warm. There’s also Coquito from Puerto Rico (spice rum, condensed milk, cream of coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove); Wassail, a traditional Medieval England drink of hot mulled cider, ale or wine; and, Glühwein from Germany. The list is endless!

Remember this holiday season to eat, drink and be merry! Don’t stress out over what wine to have with what. Relax, and go with the flow!

Happy Holidays to one and all!

About the Author: Dinah Leach is the Wine Director and Sommelier for Angelina’s Ristorante of Bonita Springs.  You may contact her with any wine questions at dinah@epicfoodconcepts.com.