Wine Varietal Substitutions: Change Up Your Holiday Party

holiday parties wineAs the holiday season officially kicks off, no doubt there will be parties to host and attend. Here are some fabulous wine substitutions to be made whether you are the host or guest. 

•  If you like white zinfandel, consider a Riesling.
White zin is the “Kool-Aid of wine.” It can be a good introduction to the wonderful world of wine because it’s sweet, and everybody likes sugar. But there are a number of wines at many price points that are also sweet and carry a much more interesting profile — a fuller body, honey and pear or apple notes and much more. Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines are a great place to start.

Fun fact: red zinfandel hails from the same grape as white zinfandel, except the red variety includes the grape’s skin – white does not. The skin gives the wine a more robust flavor and color than its popular cousin, deep, rich and full of zest. It’s quite different from white zin, but worth investigating with a curious palate.

•  If your go-to white wine is strictly Chardonnay, try a bottle of white from the Côtes du Rhône or a sauvignon blanc from just about anywhere.
Wine can be confusing because varieties may refer to a grape, a region or both. Chardonnay refers to a specific green-skinned grape and is grown all over the world, most notably in Burgundy, France. Côtes du Rhône is from the region of France of the same name and is usually made from a blend of grapes, none of which, by the way, are chardonnay.

Chardonnay is very popular and, it is said, a rite-of-passage grape for wineries. While Chardonnay is a relatively straightforward selection, Côtes du Rhône offers white and red varieties that will be fun crowd-pleasers at parties, and it’s inexpensive. An export grape from the region is Syrah, remarkable for its now-global prevalence, from Washington state to South America to South Africa to Australia, where it’s called Shiraz. For something completely different and light, try sauvignon blanc, which can be herbal and tart , with good acidity and complexity.

“Sauvignon blanc can be like drinking passion fruit – not quite orange, cherry or lemon – just passion fruit,” he says. “I’ll never forget one time I had it with tuna sashimi. It was such a perfect pairing…These are the things that make life great

•  If you like Moscato before dinner, try Sauternes or port wine with dessert.
Again, sweet wines are popular, but Sauternes from the region of Bordeaux with the same name, has a distinct flavor because of a unique geographical attribute. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by a fungus that usually causes souring. But, thanks to the weather in the Sauternes region, the fungus instead adds sweetness and complexity to wine. Varieties range from very sweet to dry as a bone. Port, Portuguese fortified wine, and Sauternes are amazing with nuts, blue cheese and foie gras, or goose liver pâté, slathered on baguette, Kleinfeld says.