As we cruise into November, we can be sure of a few things: Pumpkin Spice Everything will morph into Gingerbread Everything; our party schedules will have us on the go from morning until night; and we’ll get used to feeling stressed and excited at the same time. Yes, the holidays are right around the corner! (Ugh, my stomach just sank a little . . .)
My upcoming posts will provide a few pointers on creating a wine-buying strategy to cover all the events on your calendar. Friends drop by unexpectedly? No sweat. The dreaded office party? You’re good. Fancy dinner with the in-laws? Handled.
Today I’ll help you find a few go-to wines that are both affordable and inexpensive – the holy grail of holiday wine purchases. Buy them by the case and you’ll be ready for anything – a gift exchange you forgot about; a last-minute invitation from your kid’s best friend’s parents; or just a delicious glass of wine at the end of an exhausting day!
The Wines of Domaines Paul Mas – A Taste of Sunny, Southern France
I first became acquainted with Domaines Paul Mas through #winestudio, an online wine education program that featured several of their bottles. The focus was rosé, and we tried two still wines and one sparkler. You can read my detailed account of those wines here. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed them, and thought they delivered high quality at an affordable price. (BTW, that sparkling rosé would be an excellent choice for New Year’s Eve.)
From his home base in the Languedoc region of France, Jean-Claude Mas crafts wines under the guiding principle of Luxe Rural, a term he defines as appreciation for the simple beauty in life. That appreciation is reflected in his commitment to the farmers who grow his grapes, all of whom employ sustainable and biodynamic methods. The wines themselves are an intriguing mélange of old world traditions and new world flair: varieties native to the south of France give rise to wines with inviting fruit aromas and flavors. It’s a combination that pleases most palates and offers great value.
2016 Côté Mas Sud de France Rouge Intense (13.5% abv; $10.99 SRP for a one-liter bottle)
A blend of Grenache Noir (45%); Carignan (25%); Cinsault (15%); Merlot (10%); and Syrah (5%), this wine has rounded up all the major red grapes of southern France and swirled them into a juicy concoction of cherries, currants, and blackberries accented by some thyme and spice. It’s a simple wine, but one that would have broad appeal at a party or on the dinner table. There’s no oak influence, so you’re tasting lovely ripe fruit and crisp acidity – great with a wide range of foods.
And did you notice that you’re getting a full liter of wine in this bottle? For $10.99, it might be the steal of the season. Buy it by the case, and don’t be shy about opening a bottle just to pour a glass for yourself. It comes with a screwcap and can be put right back in the wine fridge!
2015 Arrogant Frog “Lily Pad White” Chardonnay (13.5% abv; $9.99 SRP for 750 ml bottle)
Arrogant Frog wines are the winery’s tribute to southern France’s unique Art de Vivre: an approach to life based on laughter, creativity, and life experience. This wine is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Viognier, an unusual blend but one that I found very tasty. Each variety is fermented separately, with blending right before bottling.
There’s more complexity to the Arrogant Frog Lily Pad White than I’d have expected for the price, and it turns out that 30% of the Chardonnay finishes its fermentation in oak barrels and spends an additional three months in barrel prior to blending. As Chardonnays go, it’s not buttery and fat like some of the big boys; but neither is it searingly acidic and tart. I’d put it somewhere down the middle, with a profusion of tropical fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of vanilla, balanced by a fresh tingle of acidity.
What About Food?
The back label of each wine offers a few suggestions for food pairings, and it will come as no surprise that cheese and charcuterie plates are recommended. I’d add hazelnuts and sliced pears for the Chardonnay, and duck pâté or fig and prosciutto flatbread for the Rouge Intense. That said, these wines are amiable enough to play nicely with just about anything on your holiday buffet.
My own experiment involved an Empire Kosher roasting chicken that I turned into two meals. The first night, I prepared the chicken according to Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe and served it alongside an arugula salad with blueberries and fresh mozzarella. With a glass of the Rouge Intense, our low-key Wednesday night dinner was elevated to “fancy” status. A winner.
A couple of nights later, I turned the leftover chicken into a simple homemade soup with carrots, onion, and celery. The Arrogant Frog Chardonnay was right at home, accentuating the root vegetable flavors in the soup and pulling out the lemony sweetness of the chicken. I’d definitely put these two together again.
The wines featured in today’s post were generously provided to me as samples. All opinions on those wines are my own, and I wasn’t required to write any review at all. I chose to feature them in a blog post because they’re wines I’d buy for myself and recommend to friends. I think they provide excellent value for the price, a major consideration as we stock up for holiday entertaining. Here’s a go-to white wine and a reliable red to see you through.
Your Holiday Wine Plan, Part 2
I hope you’ll come back for my next post on wines to guide you through the holidays. We’ll move on to bubbles – after all, what’s the reason for the holiday season, if not for sipping sparkling wine? I’ll give you some options at all price points, with some suggestions that are sure to surprise you. Stay tuned!