If wine is on your holiday list we have a little gift for you: a full fledged holiday wine guide. Whether you’re shopping for something to put under the tree or a bottle to enhance your holiday dinner, wine can bring a little extra cheer to the season.
To get in the Christmas spirit and prepare for New Year’s festivities, we spoke with Christian Nesheim, certified sommelier and owner of Vinifera Wines and Ales in Plymouth for over 10 years.
What is a good "winter" wine?
“I lean towards reds,” Nesheim says. “People are looking for something to make them feel warm, to make them feel comfortable.” Red blends are a great choice, he notes, because they’re so balanced. “You can get smooth with a lot of flavor, and you don’t have to have something that caters to food,” he says.
Nesheim adds that although it might seem cliche, he also enjoys a good glass of port during the winter. “Port is a fortified wine,” Nesheim says. “It’s a wine with a little bit of neutral grape spirits to bring up the alcohol content, so it’s great to sit around and have a little glass of port by the fireplace.”
What’s a good wine to take to a Christmas party or holiday party?
“Bubbles!” Nesheim says without hesitating. “Especially if you’re coming to a holiday party, and you’re going to be able to share it. I think bubbles set the tone of celebration.”
What’s a good wine to give as a gift?
This one is a tricky one, Nesheim notes, especially if you don’t know the recipient’s palate. The safe bet is almost always cabernet sauvignon. “Everyone knows what cabernet is, and there’s great cabernet at every price point,” Nesheim says. “That’s always a really safe way to go because wineries pride themselves on making sure their cab is good, because that’s their namesake.”
What wines pair easily with a charcuterie board?
“Go for something unusual,” Nesheim says, noting this applies to both reds and whites. “Most of the best pairings for charcuterie are [wines] that show themselves off.”
The white grape varietal Viognier is a great candidate for charcuterie because it’s so aromatic, Neshiem explains. “And then Cab Franc in the red world is kind of blowing up,” he says. “It’s like a cousin of Cabernet essentially, and it’s a lighter, dryer style.”
What Christmas wine would you pair with a holiday dinner?
For fish and chicken, Nesheim says it’s truly up to the person. “Grab what you like. It’s going to work. Especially with fish and chicken; those whiter proteins work so well with so many different whites,” he says. He notes that sauvignon blanc is more traditionally paired with fish and chardonnay with chicken, but as long as you find something that tastes good, it’s going to suit those two proteins.
“For red meat, I always love a heavy red with lots of tannic structure, which is that dryness,” Nesheim says. Although cabernets and red blends are standard, he says he likes to look for something a little more delicate. “Something Spanish, something with a little bit more like a Tempranillo. It’s got weight, but it might not have that high acidity.”
What are good dessert wines for the holidays?
While there are a lot of options, Neshiem says he’s noticed dessert wines are harder to find in stores these days.
Ice wine is one such option, although he notes they’re expensive. For ice wines, grapes are left on the vine until after the first freeze. Then, the still frozen grape is squeezed. “You get this sugar concentrated juice out of it. And they ferment that, that’s how you get ice wines,” Nesheim says.
There are also chocolate ports, which Vinifera carries over the winter because, as Nesheim notes, they’re fun to taste. “It’s red wine with chocolate extract added in, and they found ways so it doesn’t coagulate,” he says.
Although they can be harder to find, there are also varieties of raspberry wines, apricot wines and more. “I’ve seen some apple wines that are fortified with brandy. We have one or two of those and they’re delicious,” Nesheim says.
What Champagne or sparkling wines are you stocking up on for New Year's Eve or Day?
Bubbles are bubbles, according to Nesheim; there’s no reason to get caught up in the prestige of Champagne over other sparkling wines. “Champagne comes from that French region, and they’re extremely expensive. With the tariffs and all the shipping issues we’ve had in the past few years, they’re even more expensive,” Nesheim says.
Vinifera stocks up on Prosecco during the season, which Nesheim says is a great choice for everyone. “I think Prosecco is perfect because there’s always a little bit of residual sugar left in it,” he says. “It doesn’t make it sweet, it’s just not as dry, and everybody likes it.”
In your opinion, what’s the best wine of 2022?
Perhaps a sommelier’s most difficult question. “People ask me, ‘What’s your favorite wine?’ And it’s like ‘I don’t know, which is your favorite child?’” Nesheim says. To help narrow it down, we went with a low price point and a high one.
“I have a $14 wine called Luberri. It’s a Rioja from Spain that I just can’t get enough of,” Nesheim says. “It probably is one of my top 10 for the year.”
For high end, Nesheim chose a cabernet. “There’s some great high-end cabernets out there right now. Venge is around $70 and, for an impressive bottle of wine, there’s nobody doing it better.”
For an extended wine guide courtesy
of Nesheim, visit plymouthmag.com.