It is that time of the year when everyone is giving advice about which wines are to be recommended for the Christmas family feast and the usual end of the year celebrations. Of course, these are special times, so special wines are often talked about, usually rarities, those bottles one has had in the cellar for that special occasion. There is always that temptation to bring out a wine that has been maturing for a long time, that has been developing those wonderful flavors aging can provide, and which is meant to be a particular pleasure well beyond the table wine one usually serves. Old Bordeaux or Burgundies can finally see the light of day. But at times like these, there is, I think, also a tendency to try to impress others with such wins. As a host, it is natural that you will want your guests to know that you have reserved something particular for that roast or ham or turkey.
Well and good, but the question arises as to whether others will appreciate what you have taken the pains to serve. If you are surrounded by wine aficionados, there is naturally nothing to worry about if the bottle is not faulty. But for guests who appreciate wine but drink it only moderately, would that special bottle really please? I ask because not everyone is equipped to delve into the multi-dimensional aspects of really good wine. That is not a put down or snobbism: certain wines, like certain meats or fish, are not to everyone’s liking. I have had the experience where my host brings out “that special wine” that he thinks will impress, but frankly doesn’t. Because it is touted, high-priced, rare, or old does not necessarily means it will titillate everyone’s taste buds. My advice is to be sensible: the really good wine you serve with the holiday meal is the one you enjoy most and will taste wonderfully with the meal. Now that’s a good bottle, no matter what the ratings are, who the producer is, or from where it comes. And yes, avoid choosing a wine solely on the basis of its super rating by one of the wine journals. The super-guru Hugh Johnson recently gave a lecture in Geneva in which he said he was incapable of knowing whether a wine was a 90 or a 95 point wine, but he knew what was good and very good and why.
That seems to me to be the point. When I choose a wine to go with a festive meal, I try to think of who is going to drink it. To make sure that it will go with my plans, I open it before the guests arrive; I taste it; I retaste it several hours later before deciding to serve it with the meal. It may sound touchy, but would you serve meat to a vegetarian or fish to someone who does not eat seafood? When you think of holiday wines, think of your guests with the same attention you would in preparing their meal. Otherwise that superlative bottle you have been waiting to uncork will not necessarily be appreciated by those for whom it is intended.