Strategies for the Holidays, by Dan Berger

When several people gather to celebrate, such as at holiday parties, the drinks are often not particularly high-end, which is perfectly appropriate.

In multi-party festivities, people rarely pay attention to the nuances that are in the glass. It doesn’t make sense to serve classics like the 1961 Chateau Petrus at large gatherings. Classic wines call for introspection and sharing with people who appreciate them and who won’t put ice on them!

Large holiday gatherings usually call for simple, flavorful wines. At such events some people may overindulge, which is a pitfall of any large gathering where the libations flow freely. Hosts should be aware of these issues and plan ahead.

Wine is one of the few restrained alcoholic beverages. From a moderation perspective, wine makes more sense than hard spirits, many of which can be made much easier to drink by adding extra flavors (e.g. cola) that can mask the alcohol.

But wine can also be risky.

For example, a chardonnay whose label says it contains 14% alcohol may seem moderate compared to whiskey’s 40% alcohol. But compare this Chardonnay to a German Riesling which contains 7% alcohol. Obviously, the latter can be healthier and possibly even tastier.

Those concerned about total alcohol consumption have several options today that were not available a few years ago. Among the low-alcohol wines available to consumers are also several New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, such as Giesen, a Marlborough producer, whose de-alcoholized SB ($10 to $12) is flavorful and true to type.

Savvy wine lovers are also familiar with the exciting and refreshing white wine called vinho verde from Portugal. A superb value is from Broadbent, with just 9% alcohol ($11).

Low-alcohol beers can also be great choices. One of the more interesting soft drinks comes from Lagunitas, the Northern California brewer. It is a delicious non-alcoholic beer alternative.

Hoppy Refresher, as the company calls it (locals call it “hop water”) is described on the company’s website as “filled with Citra, Equinox and Centennial hops for a big splash of flavor surprisingly fruity”.

Mimosas are another festive drink that you can easily make at home with inexpensive sparkling wines (cava from Spain or prosecco from Italy) and orange juice. The more juice you use, the lower the quality of the sparkling wine. It is a waste of money to use quality French champagne to make mimosas because adding anything to a good wine almost always dilutes the qualities of the wine we are paying more for.

A popular mixed drink for festive occasions was once known as a “champagne cocktail”, with a lowercase c. He didn’t necessarily use real French champagne. It required a little sugar as well as a pinch of bitters, and today is not as popular as it was a century ago.

I suspect that the champagne cocktail became popular after the end of prohibition (1933), when quality French champagne (after WW1) was expensive. At the time, cheaper champagne was sour on American palates.

As a result, the drink needed a sugar cube to make it palatable.

No wine of the week.

To learn more about Sonoma County resident Dan Berger, and to read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Photo credit: TerriC on Pixabay

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