Today's casual lifestyles-and relaxed gatherings around kitchen islands -inspire hosts to ring in the holidays with different wines to pair with everything from one pot winter headliners-to small plate/grazing options, and of course, Instagram ready cheese boards.
Last century's go to's Bordeaux/Burgundy Premier Cru+Grande Crus, Rhone wines, Brunellos California Cabs, oaky chardonnays... like formal dining room decor and rigid 3 course meals-still satisfy-but in our experience- other countries' liquid palate pleasers-and snack like versatile appetizers are now the preferred pairings. AND more fun.
Another added plus- these global wines are remarkable $ values-often astonishingly so.
Across the Pond:
Remember the excitement of discovering Spain's Riojas, Argentina's Malbecs-or New Zealand Sauvignons-perhaps on travels abroad?
This year's sensorial stunners just might come from the terrific DÀO region---even if one can't actually touch down in that north central Portuguese area...(aka the Burgundy of Portugal).
SUGGESTIONS: From Thanksgiving (or Halloween?)-through New Year's- holiday occasions to gather a crowd are best matched by savory wines that pair well with foods. Fortunately-Dào wines enhance any thankful feast or third decade welcome-with an array of aromatic flavors, freshness, and the right amount of acidity to enhance-not overwhelm any cuisine.
A crowd fav at a recent luncheon featuring Dào wines...the textured fruity 'orange' tone Casa Da Passarella- O Fugitivo Curtimenta-from native grapes grown in granite soil -yielded quite the impressive sip with balsamic notes- citric -honey flavors.
Another winner-the Casa De Santar (pictured above) actually greeted us. NICE!
Both white wines would be an excellent choices for discerning palates-and diverse crowds alike. Versatile and not oaky-the fruity freshness-tropical-citrus hints-and elegant mouthfeel- play up tapas style appetizers-sautéed or grilled vegetables- as well as white meats (turkey) for the carnivores or grilled fish.
Even the mild yeasty flavors of miso-sashimi-or sushi- work well with these selections.
Softer medium body reds with fruity notes (cherry-cranberry-strawberry) are ideal for long evenings with or without food. Aromatically light spiced sips -with moderate tannins-- this style of wine- are ready to deliciously drink now.
Many Portuguese reds-happily-are known for their freshness -not relying on oak aging per se.
For by the glass solo experiences---or to serve en masse with lean roasted meats- root veggies/creamy polenta-and meal worthy, crowd pleasing snacks... think nachos, hummus-salsa-chips, soft cheeses, and naturally-Friday night pizzas (a thing)...the crowd worthy Pedra Cancela (2016) -a blend of native Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz grapes- has deep ruby-garnet- plum cocoa flavors, and elegant tannins (bargain priced here-at $10-$13).
Another popular choice-Fonte Do Ouro ($19) is similarly a welcoming blend of native grapes (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro e Jaen)...with soft tannins, rich red berries + chocolate flavors-AND an elegant finish- with 9 months aging in French Allier oak barrels.
Heartier eats -everything from aged cheeses to cold weather stomach fillers (stews, chilis, braised meat, roasts)-and highly spiced global cuisines require the POW of bolder reds.
The top rated Quinta de Lemos Dona Santana 2006 is a modern earthy red blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen and Alfrocheiro grapes. Well balanced and spiced -with expressive black cherries, tea leaves, and chocolate flavors it retails for around $30-$32/bottle . IMO this dry intense red rivals other countries higher quality (and priced) wines.
Another highly rated winner-the full bodied Casa De Santar Reserva has firm tannins, intense berry fruits and distinct spices- with vanilla subtleness - that pairs well with the intensity of filling fiery foods from the Caribbean- Asia-Africa...as well as typical American steakhouse fare. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels-and 2 months in the bottle-this dry red is approachable (imo) -with a ruby-brownish color and just enough tiny sweet hint. At $18-$20 a bottle (about)-this wine qualifies as a by the case purchase ---ensuring enough available- for when guests arrive-and then finally leave.
FYI: from a country with 267+ native varietals (DNA tested!)- the native grapes from the beautiful country of Portugal are not as well known as red grape powerhouses cabernet sauvignon - merlot -but the indigenous Touriga Nacional that makes complex elegant reds-and the white grape Alvarinho-are hoped for future plantings-voted on premier Bordeaux producers. Meaning-widening the French area's grape pool due to climate change impact.
Portugal's excellent wines are rigorously rated in a strict blind tasting format -guaranteeing an authenticity and quality of regions-from protected DOCs...and the younger winemaker generation of Portuguese winemakers-are 60% women.
GENERAL INFO: www.cvrdao.pt