Serious Grape: A Mixed Case for Holiday Emergencies

"If nothing else, get three bottles of sparkling wine into your house or apartment now."


[Flickr: bignoseduglyguy]

It's that time of year again, when your life is about to get really hectic.

Before you hit the panic button, do yourself a favor and go out this weekend and buy a mixed case of wine.

With a mixed case of wine in your closet, you'll be prepared for the drop-by visitors, last-minute takeout decisions, and leftovers that can make the most organized person scramble. Most of us remember to buy wine for the family dinners and big celebrations of the months to come—it's the smaller stuff that makes you want to tear your hair out.

I'd recommend buying three bottles of each type of wine to make up a case of twelve bottles. My wine recommendations, after the jump.

Sparkling Wine

If nothing else, get three bottles of sparkling wine into your house or apartment now. Sparkling wine is affordable, versatile, and food friendly. It's great with takeout like fried chicken and Asian food. And it turns any brunch or dinner into a celebration with very little effort.

Keep it affordable and head for a bottle that costs under $20: a Prosecco from Italy (like the NV Zonin Prosecco, with its soft flavors of honeyed apple and tangerine peel), a Cava from Spain (like the classy 2006 Raventós i Blanc L'Hereu Reserva Brut with its flavors of toast, apple, and citrus), or a crémant from France's Alsace region (such as the NV Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut with its fresh citrus, pear, and brioche notes) or from Burgundy (try the NV Domaine des Roches Crémant de Bourgogne with its full-bodied strawberry and toast flavors).


Like sparkling wine, rosés are versatile and food-friendly. They're also good for takeout (like chicken, pasta, or even the salad you put together at the salad bar), but where I find they come in handy is for gussying up leftovers and pots of soup. I love rosé with big pots of minestrone, turkey sandwiches with loads of cranberry sauce, and the final scrapings of last night's casserole.

My favorites include: the excellent 2008 Robert Oatley Sangiovese Rosé from Australia, with its round strawberry flavors, the 2008 A to Z Wineworks Rosé's raspberry, strawberry, parsley, and cucumber aromas and flavors, and the 2008 Scherrer Winery Dry Rosé's crisp, dry flavors of strawberry and stone.

Italian Reds

I'm drinking lots of Italian red wines these days. They're great with pizza, pasta, stews, and roasts. Ask your local wine merchant for their recommendations for regional red grape varieties like Nerello, Montepulciano, and Nero d'Avola. Some bottlings I like that use one or more of these varieties are the 2007 Dievole Fourplay with its flavors of cherry, blackberry, licorice, and tobacco; the 2005 Costantini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with its abundant blackberry, cherry, spice, and hints of leather; and the 2007 Feudo Principi di Butera Nero d'Avola with its black cherry fruit and light tannins.

Dry Riesling

Riesling is another versatile food wine that will pair with Indian or Asian cuisine, sushi, salads, anything with apples involved, sausage, or fish. Look for affordable dry Rieslings from France, Austria, Germany, New York, California, or Australia. Some I've enjoyed recently include the 2008 Erich Salomon/Undhof Riesling Salomon with its interesting peach, apricot, and sour lemon flavors, the 2008 Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve with its herbal, apple, and citrus notes, and the affordably delicious 2008 Black Swan Riesling with its classic notes of petrol, apple, and honey and its dry finish.

Full disclosure: with the exception of the Cava, the crémant de Bourgogne, the A to Z Rosé, and the Scherrer Rosé, all the wines mentioned here were samples.