Have a supply of wine on hand for holidays


Some of us real winos keep a lot of wine around the house. Some winos have a basement or cellar or electronic coolers to store wine. Some real winos move from one city to another and realize they have a lot of wine.

But most people don’t buy by the case or half case. I know serious wine aficionados who buy a bottle or two at a time. There is nothing wrong with either approach. But with the holiday season fast approaching, maybe it’s time to keep a small supply on hand.

I’d suggest you always keep six bottles of wine in your home. It makes you prepared for any meal and any guest. The list should include two reds, two whites, a rosé and a sparkling wine.

It’s easiest to start with the two reds. One of those reds should probably be Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab goes best with steak and big flavors. Any decent wine shop and even liquor store will offer several Cabernets at reasonable prices below $20. Mondavi, Louis Martini, Concannon and many others offer good value and varietally correct wines.

Your second red wine should probably be on the lighter side. Personally, I’d recommend a Pinot Noir. Pinot is lighter on the palate. It’s excellent with seafood and other dishes not quite as bold as beef entrees.

There are lighter-style Pinots, think Oregon and Burgundy, and bigger, bold Pinots often from California. If you want something other than Pinot, try a Spanish tempranillo, French Beaujolais or Italian dolcetto.

It’s easy to start the whites with Chardonnay, but do you like them butter and oaky or clean and crisp? California’s big, buttery, woodsy Chard has dominated the market for years. That style of chardonnay pairs great with food.

But in recent years, unoaked Chardonnay has really boomed. The unoaked Chards usually give a fresher fruit taste, crisp and nice acidity. If you want sheer elegance for a special occasion, buy white burgundy or Chablis cru at your nearby wine shop.

Your second white wine is a little trickier because of the wide range of choices. Lighter whites which drink easy include the entire family of Pinot whites. Pinot grigio is often the lightest of the family and is made around the world.

If you like a drier white wine, move to the Pinot Blancs. Riesling is a favorite of many and is made from very dry to very sweet. Arguably, the world’s best riesling comes from Germany or the Alsace region, but you’ll also find great Riesling from Canada, New York, Washington and upper Michigan.

Keep one rosé in-house because it’s the most flexible wine on your small wine rack or cardboard wine box. There are a few great Pinot rosé wines from California and Oregon, but real devotees will tell you the best rose’ comes from Provence in Southern France. World-class rose’ comes at less than $20 a bottle.

That funky pink wine is about as far from white zinfandel as wine can get. French rose’ is a great food wine for lighter dishes.

Sparkling wine sales are growing around the world. Drink more and you’ll want more. Too many people have very dry champagne memories from weddings past stuck in their mind.

Today’s entry-level bubbles should start with Italian prosecco and Spanish cava. Both offer tremendous values with top bottles available for under $20 and often less.

You don’t have to spend $300 a bottle to get the best French champagne either. You can buy great grower bubbles, grower meaning grown and produced usually in small lots, in the $50 to $100 range.

Howard W. Hewitt of Indianapolis writes about wine every other week for more than 20 Midwestern newspapers. Reach Howard at: [email protected]

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