Ah, the holidays! That magical time of giving thanks, being grateful, living in the moment, and slowing down each day to savor time with your loved ones. Wait… that’s not what everyone does? Okay, okay: lets not be bratty about it. The holidays *are* a time to enjoy with your family. Consider yourself fortunate if you have a few folks that request your presence this time of year. You are one of the lucky ones, even if it doesn’t feel like it 24/7.
Now, on to a common holiday headache: Your sister’s new husband (or insert any family member here) is quite the wine connoisseur and he’ll be in attendance at Thanksgiving. You’ll want to arrive armed with enough knowledge or gadgets to come across as the sophisticated, smart young person that you are, but with little to no air of competition. Just casual knowledge… you know, things you picked up along the way, while living your incredibly fascinating life. Here’s how to get started.
1) Pick up a decanter.
Whether you go simple and functional or fancy, a decanter is an easy way to take the tone up a few notches. Best part is, they actually do serve a purpose. A decanter is great for two primary functions: old wine and young wine. Young, big, tannic wines (think Cali Cab) enjoy time in a decanter to relax the tannins and allow the aromas to “bloom”. An older vintage also benefits from air time, and enables you to avoid any sediment that may have naturally accumulated. Win-win.
2) Pét-Nat Sparkling Wine.
Pét-Nat is allll the rage right now. Not only do you have your finger on the pulse of the wine world, you’re getting the party started by bringing out the bubbles. Pét-Nat is short for pétillent naturel, or naturally sparkling. In Sparkling wine production, a dosage is added to still wine in order to start up the bubbles. In Pét-Nat, the wine is put straight into the bottle and allowed to finish fermenting once sealed- nothing additional is added. The result is usually slightly less bubbly, and sometimes a little hazy. It’s a bit of a gamble to seal it up and hope the magic happens, but that’s one of the interesting things about this style.
3) A Weird Grape
There’s nothing a wine nerd loves more than a grape he or she hasn’t heard of. Granted, you won’t know until after you buy it if they haven’t heard of it, but there are plenty to choose from and your odds are good. Head to your local wine shop and ask for the weirdest varietal they have. An unintentional consequence: this will also excite your wine retailer and forever endear you to him or her. Need some ideas? Bukettraube. Blaufrankisch. Arneis. Auxerrois. Ribolla Gialla.
4) Serve Whites Slightly Warm(er)
This works especially well for a white that has seen a bit of oak treatment, like a Chardonnay. A lot of wine lovers actually prefer to drink whites at the same temperature as reds. Granted, this is a matter of preference, but in the case of Chardonnay, drinking it too cold will actually mask a lot of their charms. Oak tastes bitter when its cold, and the warmer tropical notes will not show at all. If you find yourself fighting a losing battle on this one, just make it into a game: invite everyone to taste the same wine straight out of the fridge and then again 30 minutes later when its warmed up. See what happens. If everyone remains unconvinced of your knowledge, at least you’ve deflected with a bit of time.
5) Saber a bottle of Sparkling Wine
Just kidding. Do. Not. Do this. It is bound to end in disaster, you risk making a mess and sacrificing a.) a bottle of wine or b.) a digit. If there’s one thing no one wants on a holiday, its a trip to the emergency room.