Sailing Wisely through the Labyrinth of Wines at Christmas

Sailing Wisely through the Labyrinth of Wines at Christmas

“I drink wine when I’m happy and when I’m sad.  
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company, it’s a must.
When I’m hungry, I have a sip. And when I’m not, I do the same.
Except for that, I never touch it…unless I’m thirsty,”
Madame Bollinger


You have to get wet, take risks, jump into the ocean of wines available today, and swim, sometimes against the tow.

For example, we feel (as do some colleagues in America and Europe) that it’s best, when choosing Christmas wines, to concentrate on the guests, rather than on the labels.

Old Style columnists don’t agree. They insist that labels are key, and start ranting about palace dinners, and mentioning bottles offered at balls by Counts, Barons, and Marquises.

If you pay attention to them, you’ll end up year after year roaming the path of the Bordeaux Chateaux on specialized Web pages. One calls them “Hollywood wines”.

Characters and Styles

The famous Argentine winemaker, Angel Mendoza, thus states, “Those castles are mentioned by many, but none drink those wines (because they can’t find them, and they’re as expensive as a pair of shoes made by an Italian artisan).

The worldwide famous, prestigious British writer, Hugh Johnson, defends the principle of choosing the wines according to the people who will sit at your table, and according to the host’s emotional state of mind, more than the emotional state of the guests.

Dinner tables in December have a special “mood” where a feeling of “hope” floats above. If something characterizes them, it’s the fact that these dinner tables carry memories with them; some will be forgotten quickly; others remain and become anecdotes, tastes, recollections.

Us, writers, and tasters recommend you choose your wines according to the mood you wish to transmit, and that goes for any dinner, from those “intimate, couples’ dinners”, to those of the connoisseurs (very much in vogue currently). In this category, two styles stand out: the spendthrift wine lover, and the Connoisseur, eager to show off all he knows.

For strictly family dinners, the reader doesn’t need any instructions. No matter how much he might stand firm, the family will impose its criteria in the end. Dear old grandmother carries more punch at that time than a triad of connoisseurs.

The reader need not worry with the countless labels that will try to entangle you as you amble along the shelves crammed with special offers and novelties.

You’ll find a bottle for every one of the emotional states and styles you look for in specialized stores. And if in your selection you flounder and the diners caution you about it, “lie unashamedly”, maestro Jean Huteau advised in his classroom in Paris.

         -If Rosé seems thin, it’s due to the new trend consolidated in 2019: right now the Rosé is fleeing the Reds, looking to conquer new consumers.

         -If the Red has insignificant wood, it’s the latest trend. Tasters are weary of chewing oak splinters.

         -If the White seemed too robust, it’s not the wine, it’s the temperature. It improves once cooled.

As an example of the masterly skill of wine salesmen, we’ve placed as an epigraph on this writing, Madame Bollinger’s sentence:

“Lily”, to her friends, was the daughter of Baron Olivier Law, of Lauriston-Boubers. She took charge of Bollinger when her husband (grandson of the founder) died in 1941, and managed it until 1971.

To this date that is a famous family, not a conglomerate, champagne.


Pairings and romances Between Meats and Wines

Beef is a paradise for red wine.

Among the massive amount of available red wines today, the “Decanter” taster committee highlights for Christmas, the proven harmonies, pairings and romances of these grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Garnacha, and its mixes. Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Zinfandell.

And what about Pinot Noir? We don’t recommend it with roasted meat. If you’re a fan of that strain, try it, and then follow the wise, shrewd counsel and mischievous intention of professor Huteau.

But the best attributes of Pinot Noir wines tend to be buried by the sheer force of beef or oven. In contrast, depending on the strength and cooking time of the Christmas turkey, the famous grape from Bourgogne hardly shines with young bottles, and only stands out with long-aged Pinot Noir (5 years or more).

Tannin is the enemy and Acidity the friend when we’re talking about the Christmas turkey. Hence, when the turkey arrives at the New Year’s Eve table, one remembers with an emotional tear and the wide smile of the taster, Madame Bollinger’s clever recommendation, and you proceed to uncork a bottle immediately.

Prof. Alberto Soria

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