Holiday Parties Take Flight

11/26/2008 10:12

 Holiday Parties Take Flight

By Marian Jansen op de Haar


Festive gatherings of friends and loved ones are one of the best things about the holidays. Yet with the bustle of the season, who has time to plan and prepare an extravagant event? Consider instead hosting a wine tasting with some elegant yet easy to prepare appetizers. Wine tasting has become a popular party theme for both new wine lovers and wine aficionados, and understandably so. Comparing wines is an excellent way to educate you palate, experience a wide array of flavors, and discover new favorites—all while having a good time!

There are many ways to structure a wine tasting party. For the holidays you might consider organizing the tastings into flights paired with appetizers. A “flight” is a series of two or more 2 oz. pours of different wines to compare and contrast side by side. This easy-to-organize option has endless possibilities. Wine flights can be grouped in many ways – it’s what makes them so fun. Wine groupings can be created by varietal, region, vineyard, etc. One theme you might consider starts with the appetizer, not the wine. Try creating flights based on types of cuisine, such as Spanish, Southwestern, French, or whatever your palate craves most.

By pairing an appetizer with the flight, you can create an easy and educational holiday social. First, select appetizers that are easy to prepare. Next select your wines; flights should begin with the lightest wine and progress to more intensely flavored ones. It’s also a good idea to taste sweeter wines last in the flight, as dry wines will tend to taste flat and sharp after a sweet wine. Finally, have your guests try the appetizers with the different wines, and presto – an instant mingler! The way the flavors of the wines interact with the food makes for instant conversation.

Asian cuisine makes an excellent choice, as the foods offer a wide spectrum of flavors – from spicy and tangy to salty and sweet. These distinct flavors will allow your guests to experiment and discover how food changes the flavor of each wine. When pairing wine with Asian cuisine, balance is key. Wines heavy with alcohol, oak and tannins tend to overpower or clash with many spicy Asian dishes, so keep chilies to a minimum and wines lighter.

To complement the flavors of your favorite Asian style tuna appetizer, try a lightly oaked Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California: Solaire by Robert Mondavi, Chardonnay Sta. Lucia Highlands, 2006. This smooth, lightly buttery, dry wine has aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, mango and freshly cut pineapple. The intensity of this wine balances the intensity of the fish, while the citrus flavors complement the rich salmon and the slight butteriness echoes the texture.

Another wine to try is the Bonterra, Viognier Mendocino and Lake Counties, 2006. This medium bodied white made from organically grown grapes exhibits tantalizing floral, green apple, pear, honeysuckle and mineral aromas. The palate is round, which soothes the spiciness of Asian dishes, while the floral notes and pure green apple and pear flavors harmonize with the complexity of Asian flavors.

Finally, taste a German Riesling such as Loosen Brothers, Riesling Mosel Dr. L, 2007 This slightly sweet, low- alcohol wine has a crisp acidity and a nice touch of minerality on the finish. The ripe peach, apricot and apple flavors together with the sweetness and bright acidity, complement but do not overpower the fish.

If you’re not a fan of tuna but would still like to try this flight, try pairing it with an appetizer with a creamy sauce. The wines in this flight are either crisp or round enough to complement or echo the creaminess of the sauce.

Just remember, when designing your own flight, let your palate be your guide and have fun. Whatever you choose, you’re bound to have a memorable time.

Happy Tasting!

Marian Jansen op de Haar is the Director of Wine for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

She has over 30 years of wine experience under her belt and single-handedly developed the Fleming's 100 wines-by-the-glass program. 

Gottannins is happy to have Marian as a guest contributor to our site and if this debut piece is a sign of what to comes, we think we'll all learn some awesome new things about the wine world. Stay tuned for additional stories and keep the feedback coming. 

Her bio may be viewed here.



For more information visit



Search site

© 2008 World Wine Groups All rights reserved. World Wine Groups endorses responsible and moderate drinking; most of the time.