The holiday season is rife with opportunities to experiment with food and wine pairing, give wine as a gift, and all-round make wine a sharing experience.

Sparkling wine, including Champagne, is practically the default holiday wine. Not only does it instantly create a festive mood, but it pairs beautifully with a wide range of foods, even more testy fare like vegetables.

Other whites, like a good California Chardonnay, characterized by its ripe fruit and balanced acidity, offer pleasing contrasts to the earthy, salty flavors of traditional holiday foods like turkey, stuffing and squash. A crisp Chardonnay is also great with Hanukkah foods like latkes topped with a tart apple sauce. Kosher wines, which have strict rules governing their production, are one of the fastest growing sectors in the wine industry and can be purchased in retail stores throughout metro Detroit.

Big, zesty red wines like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends, and Syrah are wines that generally have the guts to stand up to robust roasted meats and rich side dishes. These are also classy and universally-enjoyed wines that would be appreciated by any wine-lover on your gift list.

A good quality Port, a sweet, intensely-flavored fortified wine, makes a nice gift especially when given along with chocolate, strong cheeses and nuts, the foods it pairs with best. A small poriton of Port is usually sipped as a post-dinner dessert wine. Port is also a great cooking wine, particularly in savory and sweet sauces.

The holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of the case discounts that most retailers offer. Most discounts average around 10% off the total case price, and most stores will allow you to purchase a mixed case and still enjoy the discount. Between all of the parties, gift giving and hostess gifts, it’s not hard to use 12 bottles of wine during the season.

While you’re at it, gift yourself with a wine saver system, like Vacu Vin, and you can enjoy your leftover wine for many days to come. And the best advice to heed is this: no one ever ruined a holiday party because the wines weren’t proprely paired, so have fun and enjoy wine with the people you love most.

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