Lively Libations: The Top Wines for This Holiday Season
Isis Daniel hadn’t thought much about wine until her friend said to her, “You look like you should be drinking wine” and she took her to a wine bar to try cabernet. It triggered her journey to become one of the internet’s most sought after wine experts.
Isis Dan, sommelier
With mentorship from sommelier Maia Parish, classes from Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, and some encouragement from her mother, Daniel is now TikTok’s resident millennial sommelier (@themillennialsomm). Daniel is a Level 2 Wine & Spirit Education Trust professional and hosts Tasting Thursdays on her Instagram account. She is a regular # WineTok creator who strives to make wine more approachable.
We asked Daniel for her top suggestions for holiday dinners or New Year’s Eve brunches and budget-friendly options, regardless of whether you’re trying to save money or want to splurge on something special.
Enjoy the Holiday Dinner
Sunset Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel
When you’re planning a big holiday meal, Daniel recommends an old vine zinfandel, specifically the bottle from Sunset Cellars (her personal fave): “Old vine zins are a great choice for those who want the flavor, the depth, and the richness to go with a wide range of hearty, delicious dishes. Zinfandel is still a great wine to pair with lighter meats like chicken or turkey. You just need to choose a younger zin. For hearty meals older vine zins that have stored for a time are ideal.”
Forget Champagne! Try Something New for New Year’s Eve.
It’s not New Year’s Eve without sparkling wine! This sparkling wine is not just for toasts at midnight, but it can also be used with dinner.
“Sparkling wine is a great match with almost everything, so I always recommend Cava. The Freixenet Cava is an excellent alternative to champagne. It’s produced in the same way as champagne but at a much better price. Cava is also lower in acidity than champagne. If that’s what you’re after, Cava is the wine for you! Champagne is my preferred sparkling wine pairing. I enjoy waffles and chicken for New Year’s Eve brunch.
Budget Brut for Med School Students
Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut, Black Girl Magic Rose
If you’re on a limited budget but still want to feel festive, Daniel recommends these options from McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic. The sparkling brut costs just $30, and the rose is just $20. With the crisp apple flavors and citrus, pear and white flowers, Daniel is partial to sparkling brut “It’s slightly sweeter and is a great match with holiday meals. It’s very approachable and easy to drink.”
Think Outside the Bottle
Orange wines, also referred to as skin-contact wines are a current trend. They use the skin of white grapes during the process of fermentation. This produces wines that come in a variety of unusual hues, from amber to deep orange. Unique flavors such as butterscotch, earthy, and herb tone or wet leaf might be a result of the choices made during the bottle-aging process of orange wines. Daniel is a strong advocate of orange wine and recommends everyone give it a try.
“There are distinct flavors, and tannins that are derived from stems or seeds of grapes that can change. When it comes to the style, there are a few the traditional methods and methods employed by winemakers when it comes to wine made from orange,” Daniel explains. “Orange wine is delicious and is a distinct taste. It’s great with mushrooms and squash and roasted veggies such as this.”
Be sure to leave room for dessert (Wine)
A holiday dinner should be followed by dessert. Dessert wines such as ruby ports are an excellent option. If you’re looking to try something new, Daniel recommends ice wine. Daniel describes the process in simple terms The process of making ice wine is from grapes that were frozen on the vine. The ice crystallizes the water so when the grapes are crushed juices, sugar, and acidity can be separated from the water, resulting in an intense flavor.
“I am a port gal myself however I also enjoy ice wine. I’ve been on an obsession with ice wines, and I recommend the Wagner Ice Wine Riesling. Dessert wine is essential when you’re looking for a dessert wine. I don’t even like chocolate, but if I’m drinking a port, I’ll grab a piece of chocolate and relax. That’s the beauty of wine pairings: “If you don’t like the wine, try something else to eat, If you don’t like the food, choose the wine.”
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