2020 Holiday Wines

17 Dec

Happy Holidays!
As we wrap up this unprecedented, dumpster fire of a year, we still have holidays to celebrate while quarantined at home. What we know is, WE NEED MORE WINE.

So here are JvB’s wine picks for the Christmas Holidays to wrap up 2020!

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should ignore white wine. 

You should start the festivities with something dry, fun , and fruity! Albariño is what you should be looking for! This is a wine you can start to pour anytime, while cooking, when you’re still opening presents, and before or after the big meal, this is fresh and zesty and will keep people happy all day long!  You are looking for wines from Spain’s Rías Baixas region, the southwestern coast of Galicia, to source some stunning, Mediterranean  Albariño! Some of the better-known producers you’ll find on the shelves include Paco & Lola, Martin Codax,  Pazo de Señorans, Castro Martin Family Estate, and Pazo Pondal. 

Total Wine has over a dozen Albariño wines from Rías Baixas ranging from $10-$30, Wine.com has almost two dozen bottles in the same range. These are high pleasure wines that deliver. They drink well on their own, and best of all, they pair amazingly well with the appetizers, the vegetable sides you’ll be serving, AND the meats, whether you are serving a turkey or other bird, ham, or roast. 


Ready to raise your game? You need a delicious and decadent white wine.  White Rhône Blends are what you should be looking for. These wines from the South of France have a fuller mouthfeel, while still providing fresh fruit notes and broad acidity. When I pour these wines for a first-timer at the tasting table, tasters consistently find these wines to be a glamorous experience and are immediately impressed. Whether that is for you or for your family, it can’t hurt, right?   

People get confused by the term Rhône blend. It’s quite simple: winemakers will blends several Rhône grape varieties to make a lovely mixture- from grapes such as bourbolenc, grenache blanc, roussane, marsanne, clairette blanche, and picpoul. They might be hard to pronounce, but all you have to do is enjoy! And the resulting, fuller mouthfeel and luxurious response will continue to improve as you pair the wine with roast, goose, turkey, baked ham, or other complex flavor combinations from the holiday meal.

One of my favorite winemakers of Rhône style wines is Sue Tipton of  Acquiesce Winery in Lodi, California. (Sidebar: yes, it’s California and not France. She uses the same grapes in a different location, but with similar Mediterranean growing weather & conditions.) Tipson’s Rhône-style wines simply shine with brilliance, flavor, and joy in the bottle, and of course, I heartily suggest you try their wines! (Click the link above!) But every decent wine store in the USA will also have Rhône style blends, from luxurious Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blancs to the entry-level La Vielle Ferme Blanc for a mere  $7.50 at Total Wine ,  which is most likely in a prominent aisle in your local wine store! You’ll find a bevy of wines in between those ranges.

OK, – let me take a breath. Ahhhh. It’s December. There is snow on the ground in many places. And we’re with only our closest family. Let me take another breath, and think pleasant thoughts:  

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” – Andre Simon     

Moving ahead! 

When it comes to choosing red wines for the holiday meal, it is imperative to do your best in pairing the wine choice with the meal. For a great food & wine pairing, we must match the weight of the food with the weight of the body in wine. So you are looking for bright and fruity with medium to moderate weight. Here are three great options, easily found on your local store’s shelves or at Total Wine or Wine.com (And NO, I’m not advertising them, I’m just trying to help you find wines more easily.)

Cru Beaujolais. Here we have the structure and depth of expensive pinot noir at a fraction of the cost. You can choose to age these, or drink them relatively young! The ten crus (regions) are divided into two groups, first,  those you are LIKELY to find: Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. Secondly, those that are more rare: Chinas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, and St-Amour.  You should be able to find wines from Fleurie (known for floral aromatics and bright fruit)  or Morgon (known for depth, robust flavor, and structure) in most wine stores int the $20-40 range, and these wines consistently deliver far above their price point. 

Chianti Classico: Towards the full-bodied side, these wines are made from Sangiovese grapes grown under the lovely Tuscan sun, they are refined wines with lovely tannin and structure that range from high teens to mid 30’s in price. It’s hard to go wrong here, if you know the secret: look for the black rooster on the label, which is the guarantee that the wine is indeed from the DOCG Chianti Classico! You’ll recognize some of the most popular winemakers: Antinori, Banfi, Castello di Monsanto, Mazzei, Ruffino, Santa Margherita, and Viticcio just to name a few. Highly popular, easy to drink in quantity, and always delivering high quality.  Chianti Classico is NOT just for Italian food. Trust me. Try it. You’ll thank me.  

Rioja Riserva is still under appreciated in the USA, which is good for those in the know. It’s funny, because a “JS 93 point” Chianti Classico wine is almost $30, but you can grab a JS 92 point Rioja for $14 bucks! In Rioja you’re going to find the Tempranillo grape, usually with oak aging, and moderate tannin, in a very food-friendly approach. These wines are highly structured like Cabernet Sauvignon, with beautiful fruit like Garnacha/Grenache.  Truly, what’s not to like?  Bodegas LAN, Bodegas Muga, Faustino, Marques de Murrieta, Marques de Riscal, R. Lopez de Heredia, Viña Ardanza,  and Viña Real are just a few of the household names you should be able to find on your local shelves with price ranges from the $15- $50; with a slew of killer options in the high teens to high 20’s. One more bit of knowledge is that it’s easier to find AGED Rioja on the shelf, to increase your wine lover’s drinking pleasure. Both Total Wine and Wine.com have bottles from 2009-2011 for around $30. Talk about a mic drop moment- BOOM! You’ll be amazed at how fabulous these wines are, and how well they pair with your meal. 

Let us take another breath.


I’ve likely given you TOO much to consider, but I always think more options are better. 


As we wrap up this dumpster fire of a year, I look forward to 2021 with the awesome news that in spite of the trauma and drama of covid-19,   JvBUnCorked continues to thrive in blog form as well as on Twitter and Instagram. And I can not wait to get back to doing tastings and wine dinners with you in person! 


What are YOU looking forward to in 2021? 

à votre santé!



3 Responses to “2020 Holiday Wines”

  1. Exploring the Wine Glass December 26, 2020 at 12:29 pm #

    I love the Dropkick Murphys!


  2. Peter & Erika December 23, 2020 at 12:50 pm #

    nice choices, right along the lines i have been thinking.  miss you my friend hoping you and yours are well have a wonderful christmas and a fun new year maybe see you at the new years zoom? thanks for the dropkicks i had forgotten that bit be well my friend we will be back together soon i hope all the best pwg

    Liked by 1 person

    • jimvanbergen December 23, 2020 at 1:14 pm #

      Many thanks Peter! Much love to you & Erika! Miss housing a glass with you both, and doing our shows. Here’s to the future!


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