Kushman on wine


What to give the wine lover in your life this holiday.


Klinger wine illustration web

The holidays go with wine as nicely as any meal or party does. But sometimes gifts and other offerings mean more during the holiday season because, well, people and families are complicated.

So here are some useful tips. They’re generalities, but notice the overall don’t-sweat-it approach.

Overarching tip

Sparkling wine. Yep, that’s it. Bubbly goes with almost every food, makes a great gift, and has a celebratory feel that’s eternal. When in doubt for any meal, party, present, or something to get you through the stress, just go with this: any sparkling wine you like.

Wine for Thanksgiving

Don’t worry about it. Thanksgiving food is so varied and, frankly, abundant, that there’s a dish for any wine. Just serve wines you enjoy. Any wines. They’ll work.

If you need more specifics, here are a few: The universal Thanksgiving white is a rich Chardonnay. The universal red is pinot noir. Also, see sparkling wine.

Gifts for the wine lover

This might sound radical, but how about, you know … wine?

Most folks don’t need cork placemats or another Love the Wine You’re With T-shirt, especially if the alternative is a nice wine. So, which wines?

For a boss, family elder, someone who’s serious about wine: a good cabernet sauvignon. It’s the big dog among reds. It says you’re trying.

For someone curious about wine: Argentine malbec. Lots of dark fruit, nice blend of richness with a touch of spice, mildly exotic but totally approachable. Good price, great for everyone, from beginners to the coolest aficionados.

For the thank-God-the-workday-is-over-white-wine drinkers: a buttery Chardonnay. Mean sommeliers will sneer, but it’s still wildly popular — Chardonnay is the best-selling wine in America.

For a gift to take your party hosts: Yet again, go with sparkling wine. It says you care. (Side note: If you take wine, tell your hosts they can do whatever they’d like with it — because they might want to tuck it away for later.)

Wine basics and throwing a holiday party

Don’t overdo it. Serve good, but not great, stuff. People might not notice.

Offer wines people recognize. Be hospitable. This isn’t about looking good; it’s about making your guests happy. If you want, throw in something unusual for variety.

Unless you’re a wine geek with lots of stemware, get plastic, wineglass-shaped glasses for a small to midsized party. They’re sold online and at big box stores and are worth the investment. If your party will have scores of guests, renting wineglasses might be easiest.

Wines to serve at parties

White: Chardonnay (the most popular in America, remember?)

Backups: sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. (Ignore the snobs, they won’t drink white anyway.)

Red: pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon (Between them, they’ll pair with anything.) Backups: the aforementioned Argentine malbec or a zinfandel

Celebration wine: You know this. Sparkling wine.

Rick Kushman is a New York Times best-selling author, the wine commentator for Capital Public Radio, and the creator and co-host of the radio show Bottle Talk with Rick and Paul. To reach him, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..