The holidays are one of the most trying, and rewarding, times of the entire year. Most of us go through the full range of human emotions in a single month. What starts as excitement and anticipation for time spent with loved ones can sometimes morph into us being anxious that we aren’t prepared for the holiday. Many will feel the melancholy and nostalgia of remembering those who are no longer with us, and simultaneously feel a great appreciation for the people that we have around us still. There is no doubt that this time of year is bittersweet, much like wine.
Science has shown that when we’re stressed or anxious, our perception of bitterness and astringency is amplified more than just a little. An example of this would be if you’ve ever brought home a bottle of one of your favorite red wines after a long, stressful day only to find that it tastes harsh and aggressive. This has to do with a compound called glucocorticoid that our adrenal glands release when we are acutely stressed. With that in mind, here are a few wine suggestions to help you find the perfect wine for your state of being during the holidays.
Because of the sensitivity to bitterness and tannins, we are best off reaching for a sweet red or crisp white wine with no oak aging when we’re feeling the pressure of the holidays. Lambrusco, which is a sweet, sparkling Italian red wine is a great option on the red side. With creamy notes of cherry and strawberry, this wine does not disappoint. For a white wine, one might choose a German Spatlese Riesling, which is sweet and very aromatic. If crisp white wines are more your style, a good Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand is just the thing. You may detect notes of peach, apple and even fresh-cut grass. It’s incredibly refreshing after a long day of shopping for gifts.
It’s inevitable. At some point, most of us grapple with a bit of melancholy and sadness at some point during the holiday season (especially after all of the presents are opened). What is needed here is a fruit forward red wine with a lighter body to soothe one’s soul. Some of the best options are Pinot Noir, Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain, or Gamay from Beaujolais, France. Creamy strawberry, red cherry and floral notes are just a few of the scents you might recognize in these wines. Even if you can’t smell these things, the light body and ease of these wine varieties are sure to enliven even the most apathetic among us.
For the moments when you are ready to celebrate and gather, bubbles are the traditional choice. Most of us think of Champagne when we think of sparkling wines, but there are some other fantastic options that definitely deserve consideration. Spanish Cava is made with some of the same grapes as champagne, and is comparable in flavor at an almost always more affordable price. This is another circumstance where the aforementioned Italian sparkling red wine Lambrusco would be a great fit. However, if you’re looking to be the talk of the party, French Champagne is always a good bet, though you will probably pay a bit more for this option.
On the off chance that you feel bored during this season and are looking for a wine to combat that, spice it up with a robust red! California Zinfandel bursts with juicy fruit flavors that are tempered by notes of baking spices, vanilla and even sweet tobacco. An equally adventurous wine is Syrah (Shiraz in Australia.). Here, you will find scents of dark fruits, olives, mushrooms, wet earth, pepper and even mint. If reds aren’t your thing, treat yourself to a tart bottle of Melon, or get really crazy and pick up some Sake, which is rice wine.
Whatever your mood or holiday preference, there is always a wine that will pair perfectly for you. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Be aware of how each wine you drink pairs with you and your guests’ moods and soon you will be that one they call when they’re in the mood for wine, but not sure what to drink! QCBN
By Clay Lightfoot