For many a host or hostess, holiday entertaining can be as daunting as it is delightful. Whether your tradition is a casual buffet or a sit-down feast, selecting and serving wines to complement Christmas dinner need not be daunting.
You will be able to reduce your stress and potential disasters by following these simple tips and words of advice: Have a flexible plan, make it fun — but most importantly, serve wine.
Picking wines to accompany a meal is a straightforward process. After all, wine is the perfect beverage solution because it’s easy and there is something for everyone.
First thing to do is to create a budget and stick to it. Wine doesn’t need to cost a lot to be good—there are plenty of delicious wines that cost less than $10 a bottle, and you don’t need to open the most expensive bottles to impress your guests. Take comfort in knowing that terrific wines to go with your soireé are available in every price range.
Greet guests with a glass of bubbly. No matter the size or scope of your party, sparkling wine is the perfect aperitif, it’s fun, and many believe that bubbles serve to stimulate the appetite. There’s no need to get hung up on the formality of Champagne—there’s an abundance of sparklers and often best values can be found in an Italian Prosecco or a Spanish Cava.
Unless you know your guests’ preferences, look for food-friendly wines that pair well with a variety of foods. While you may have moved on from White Zinfandel and would love to serve a red Bordeaux, there are some people who simply don’t enjoy red wine, no matter how good it is; so make sure that you have at least one red wine and one white wine available. Look for easy-sipping versions of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Merlot.
If you have guests who insist on drinking wines you don’t care for, such as White Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, or Merlot and only drink one glass at that, no worries.These wines are often available in four-packs of single-serving bottles, so you can graciously serve a glass without opening a full bottle. (You will then have wine for their next visit as well.)
Determining how much wine to have on hand can seem like a shot in the dark. Plan on three glasses of wine per person when wine is the principal beverage being served and estimate five glasses per bottle. It’s best not to get carried away with too many wines and it’s best to purchase wine, using this formula: 60 percent white wine / 40 percent red wine. Think of your event as a great opportunity for guests to try new wines.
When serving wine, serve it at the right temperature. Most people serve their whites too cold and their reds too warm. To attain the correct temperature, remember the 20/20 rule: Chill red wines for 20 minutes before serving; and remove whites from the fridge 20 minutes before serving. That way, the reds won’t be too warm and the whites won’t be too cold.
When serving wine with dinner, your options might include a white with the first courses, red with your main courses and a sparkling or dessert wine to complete the meal.
Offer snacks that are high in fat and protein, to help guests moderate their drinking. The cardinal rule of food and wine pairing is not so much as what you’re serving as how it’s being prepared. Pair wine to the seasonings and cooking method as opposed to simply the starch or protein.
No matter how much you want to share a special bottle with friends, if one of your guests declines a glass, respect that decision and offer either chilled water or a selection of non-alcoholic beverages.
Don’t worry about having enough pieces of stemware to accommodate your guest list. Any glass can be a wine glass., but if you really want wine glasses, you may want to consider renting. Glasses come to your house clean and go away dirty; need we say more?
Guests might enjoy knowing a little about that special bottle you’re pouring, but avoid a lecture. Don’t call attention to the price or the difficulty you had in obtaining it, and don’t brag about your great taste. Simply pour, sip, let the wine speak for itself and relax, it’s going to be a great evening!