Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wine Tips for the Perfect Holiday Celebration

This Christmas my home won’t be filled with friends and family but nonetheless will be filled with lots of Christmas spirits. I’m not only referring to the happy and joyful feelings we carry around this time of year but of those fun and delightful libations. For those of you who will be doing a lot of entertaining this year, here are a few tips to help keep the drinks and party flowing.

Wine Temps
Everyone knows you serve red wine at room temperature. But what everyone doesn’t know is this refers to room temps between 54-65 degrees, not 75 degrees. White wines should be served a bit cooler at 41-50 degrees. I must add a note here, please do not store your red wines in the refrigerator unless this is a wine refrigerator. Standard kitchen fridge temps are kept just above the freezing mark. While your wine will not freeze, much of the flavor will be lost. If you do not have a wine fridge you can use chill packs that store in your freezer until you’re ready to use. Then you place over your bottle of wine. I typically keep one on for about 20 minutes, any longer and I find the wine becomes too cold. You can also do a quick chill in a bucket of water and ice. Again, just long enough to chill the wine not make it ice cold. The same method can be used for your kitchen fridge, just remember to pull the wine out after about 30-40 minutes. If you find the wine is too cold in the glass, cup your hands around the bowl to warm the wine.

Wine Order
If serving an array of wines through a dinner course, wine order is important. Serve dry wines before sweet wines and light wines before heavier. If serving both whites and reds, whites should precede the red wines. You can serve sparkling wines with either the appetizer or with the dessert, just be sure you’ve done your homework on pairing the weight and sweetness level of the wine to the dessert.
If you’re hosting an open house with appetizer and serve yourself foods, you have more leeway. Personally I say let guests drink what they want but if you want to offer some tips, start with colder wines (sparklers, rosés, whites) with the food and move to warmer wines when mingling. Maybe offer up a nightcap of Port to warm the bones before heading out in the frosty air.

Sparkling Wine
Celebrating with sparklers this season? Be sure to include a little bit of everything. Spumante for the sweet wine lovers, Prosecco (Italian) – fruity and dry, Cava (Spanish) -  light and fruity, Champagne (French but can only be called Champagne when from the region of the same name) – demi-sec (sweet) to brut (dry). I’ll cover more on these wines in my blog next week. 

Clean Up
At the end of the night if you should find your good linens with red wine stains, soak the stain in white wine, pour salt on the stain and rub gently. Use a sponge or cloth to then take up the salt and the wine. You can also purchase products made specifically to remove wine stains. I have used them in the past and they really do work.

Perhaps the most important responsibility as a host or hostess is to recognize when a guest has imbibed a bit too much. Nothing will put a bigger damper on your holiday or others than to learn of a friend or family member who has been jailed or worse because they drank too much and got in their car to drive. Have a few cab company numbers on hand. Or maybe one of your guests will volunteer to be chauffer to those who have had too much. I certainly wouldn’t want to shuttle a bunch of drunken people around but who knows, maybe someone will get a kick out of it.

Am I sad I won’t be with my family for Christmas this year, yes a little. It will be the first time I’ve been away from my family at this time of year, ever! But I have to look at it this way, it will give my husband and I a chance to start our own traditions and do things our way. We’ve already decided for Christmas Eve we’re doing it party style and each of us will be making two hors d'oeuvres to bring to our “party”. Christmas Day, we’re braising pork belly, something I know my family would not have any interest in eating.

Whether celebrating the season with many or a few, take the time to appreciate all you have and what the New Year may hold.


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