5 Tips for Serving Wine This Holiday Season

Tufts alumni with expertise in wine and winemaking offer their best advice for choosing and sipping wine with holiday guests
People sitting at a dinner table drinking wine and eating during the holiday season
Whether a cozy snuggle in front of the fireplace or a group seated around a big table, choose a wine that matches the emotion of the moment and evokes a memory, says cookbook author Tania Teschke, F99. Photo: Ingimage
December 7, 2021

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As winter weather settles in and the year-end holidays approach, ‘tis the season for holiday gatherings with families and friends. Wine may be on the menu at many of them, whether cooked into savory dishes or poured into glasses.

If you’re hosting a get-together, perhaps you have a few questions about choosing and serving wine. Tufts Now checked in with three Tufts alumni who are wine experts for their favorite tips around enjoying all kinds of vino this holiday season.

Choose wines that have meaning for you.

"Wine is really about emotion and connection," says cookbook author Tania Teschke, F99. Photo: Courtesy of Tania TeschkeWhether a cozy snuggle in front of the fireplace or a group seated around a big table, choose a wine that matches the emotion of the moment and evokes a memory, says Tania Teschke, F99, author of the cookbook The Bordeaux Kitchen: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions.

“My family lived in Bordeaux, France, from 2013 to 2016, and since then we've gravitated to Bordeaux wines,” says Teschke. “As we got to know people and chateaux in Bordeaux, we collected bottles and brought them back to the U.S. Now, we break those out for holidays. What's special to us is that we know the people who made the wine. Wine is really about emotion and connection.”

When pairing wine with a meal, match the main dish.

Tasty side dishes are a key component of any holiday meal, but when choosing wines to serve, pair them with the main dish. Roast chicken and turkey go great with whites, says Peter Hahn, A86, who owns and runs Le Clos de la Meslerie, an award-winning vineyard in Vouvray, France.

He recommends something full-bodied, like a Vouvray demi-sec, which is slightly sweet, to complement the diverse set of flavors in a holiday meal. “If you can’t find a Vouvray, a German or Austrian off-dry Riesling will fit the bill perfectly, too,” he says.

Peter Hahn, A86, owns and runs Le Clos de la Meslerie, an award-winning vineyard in Vouvray, France. Photo: Courtesy of Peter HahnProper pairings aren’t much of a concern for Grace Hafner, A13, who has a master’s degree in vineyard and winery management and works as a winemaker for Domaine de la Solitude in Martillac, France. (For three generations, her family has run The Hafner Vineyard in California.) She focuses more on making sure she has options for everyone’s preference and serves red and white wines along with champagne.

“I really like to start with champagne because it brings your appetite up,” says Hafner. “It’s nice as you start tasting little hors d'oeuvres—especially oysters, which we eat a lot of here. Then I might switch to Chardonnay because it's a little bit heavier in the mouth with more texture.”

Plan on half a bottle of wine per person … at least.

If you’re hosting a party, the amount of wine you should have on hand depends on the number of attendees. Hahn says to plan on at least half a bottle per person—even if some of the guests aren’t wine drinkers. “Always better to have some left over than to leave people thirsty,” he says.

Hafner agrees and always errs on the side of having too much than not enough. In France, where multi-hour lingering meals are the norm, Hafner often plans on one bottle per person at her dinner parties. “If there are 12 people, I’d have two bottles of champagne plus three or four bottles each of red and white wine so there is enough variety throughout the night.”

The right wine glasses can enhance the experience.

Grace Hafner, A13, works as a winemaker for Domaine de la Solitude in Martillac, France. For three generations, her family has run The Hafner Vineyard in California. Photo: Courtesy of Grace Hafner

Stemless wine glasses may be having a moment, but Teschke and Hafner much prefer stemmed glasses for any kind of wine. Why? Holding a glass by the goblet section warms up the wine, whereas holding the stem keeps the temperature of your hand from affecting it.

Additionally, the opening of the glass should be a few inches across but not too wide, and the size of the goblet is important, Teschke says. “You want a goblet that you can fill to about a third full and swirl without spilling the wine. A huge goblet requires too much wine to fill.”

Another aspect to consider: Some glasses are heavier and chunkier while others are lighter and delicate. Teschke notes that lighter glasses indicate better craftsmanship and have a more graceful and elegant feel, but they’re often more expensive, and you don’t need to spend a lot for a decent glass.

Wine can be a festive ingredient in holiday dishes.

Each wine expert shared a few dishes they love to make with wines. Here are their picks:

Hahn: “One of my simple favorites is Vouvray and rosemary slow-roasted chicken: An organic, free-range chicken from one of our local farmers, stuffed full of fresh rosemary from our garden, sitting in a baking pan with half an inch of Vouvray demi-sec and chicken stock, roasted with potatoes, carrots, leeks, and garlic for two and a half hours. Just the smell of it cooking will draw crowds!”

Hafner: “I love to make risotto with whatever white wine is open at the house, because frequently I’ll have a couple of bottles open, and risotto is a great way to use them up.

“For red wine, it’d have to be beef bourguignon, which is beef stew made with Burgundy or Bordeaux wine. Also, a red wine reduction sauce is easy to make, and then you can pour into ice cube trays and freeze, to be popped out later for use.”

Teschke: “In beef bourguignon, generally you have beef, shallots, mushrooms, butter, bacon—and there’s even chocolate in mine. Similarly, in coq au vin, or chicken in wine, you have shallots or onions with mushrooms, butter, and bacon, and it calls for Cognac in addition to red wine.”

You must be 21 years old to consume wine or other alcoholic beverages in the United States. Please drink responsibly. Never drink and drive.

Angela Nelson can be reached at angela.nelson@tufts.edu.