How To Pick Wine For All Your Holiday Needs

It can be hectic to keep track of gifts and invitations during the holiday season. From office parties to cookie exchanges and festive gatherings, there are plenty of opportunities to get together with friends, family, and even acquaintances. Amidst all of these events, picking out personalized gifts can become a tedious task.

Thankfully, as long as the recipient drinks wine or the event you're attending is not at odds with alcohol, a bottle of red, white, rosé, or orange is an excellent option. Of course, if your plan is to walk into a wine shop and grab something on the spot, you might be faced with indecision or uncertainty in the moment.

To assist your shopping and make it as simple as possible, we've compiled a list of the most likely gifts you'll need to get through the holidays. We've selected a style or variety of wine for each category, and even gone as far as specifying a specific bottle. That way, if you really want to make your life easy, you can just load up an online cart and check holiday shopping off your to-do list.

For dinner with your parents

Whether you live with your parents or are on opposite ends of the country, a holiday dinner celebration deserves a nice bottle of wine. As long as your parents don't have highly specific desires when it comes to the stuff, you can be pretty confident that they'll be happy with whatever you bring.

This might not be the occasion for a wildly unconventional style of wine, but you can still step away from the standards with a familiar variety. Chardonnay is taking on a new identity in Margaret River, Western Australia, and it'll surprise any naysayers of the varietal with its fresh and fruity style. If they need any convincing, famed wine writer and critic Jancis Robinson described these wines as "superior."

Although chardonnay from this region might not be flooding store shelves, you should be able to find a couple of options. Our top choice is by Stella Bella, and boasts flavors of stonefruit, almonds, and white flowers, with a saline citrus twist and a mineral backbone.

For your wine-enthusiast friend

If you really want to wow your wine-loving friend, then look for something out of the ordinary. Whether you pick up a bottle made from a near-extinct grape or one from a far-off region you wouldn't be able to find on a map, part of the joy of wine is in its discovery. If your pal has seemingly tried it all, we recommend choosing a vin jaune from Jura, France, made with savagnin grapes. The name translates to yellow wine, and due to a winemaking process that uses oxidation to its advantage (much like Sherry), the liquid is indeed a different hue.

Keep in mind if you go the vin jaune route, you should be prepared to spend more than an average bottle of wine. Thankfully, these wines are commonly sold in 375-ml bottles, so you can moderate the splurge. The wine goes through a six-year aging process to develop its characteristic nutty aromas and remains protected by a veil of yeast for the duration (via Jura Tourism). Over the course of the years, some wine evaporates (known as the angel's share), leaving winemakers with considerably less volume by the end of its maturation — hence the higher price tag.

Wines from Jura are still very limited in the U.S., so shop online if you want to have access to more options. Our favorite is Domaine Rolet's Arbois vin jaune, which showcases tantalizing nutty aromas, dried fruit, mushrooms, and spice.

To bring to a large holiday party

There's no shortage of parties during the holidays, and while the festivities can add some cheer to your routine, it's another story for your bank account. Thankfully, you don't have to splurge to get your hands on a great bottle of Cava. This Spanish sparkling wine is made using the same method of fermentation as Champagne, but with local grapes.

While you'll find a vast range of price points and quality on the market, there are plenty of options under $20. You'll be able to bring a bottle of bubbles to pop open at an event, without worrying if a fellow partygoer decides to use it for a drinking game. Molì Parellada Mercat brut nature is an excellent option that tastes far more expensive than the $15 or so you'll shell out for it. With notes of apricots, nectarines, and pears, these fruity bubbles are pleasantly crisp and ideal for any celebration.

To bring to a holiday cookie exchange

It's no secret that the opportunities to munch on sweet treats increase exponentially during the holidays. Whether you're having cake every night or attending cookie exchange parties, you'll soon notice that many wines that work well as an aperitif or with dinner just won't cut it with dessert. Instead of resorting to politely sipping on tea as you sample cookies, consider bringing an appropriate style of wine.

A lot of people shun moscato wines for being too sweet and floral. However, the best wines to pair with sugary food are typically on the sweeter end of the spectrum. Moscato d'Asti is an excellent expression of the grape, and it is usually made in a lightly sparkling low-alcohol style. If your holiday cookie event is occurring earlier in the day, you'll certainly appreciate the lighter nature. Look for Moscato d'Asti DOCG on the label for added quality control. Wine producer Batasiolo makes Bosc dla Rei, a solid example that is sure to be a hit with shortbread cookies.

To serve at your holiday dinner

Unless you excel at hosting, chances are your holiday season will be a mix of going out and inviting people over. When it's your turn to host, it's natural to want to be prepared, right down to the bottles of wine you'll be pouring. There are various considerations to keep in mind, such as what food you're serving and how many people are attending. That being said, we're fond of having a savory red wine on the table, no matter the circumstances.

For excellent value and taste, Portuguese wines are a great option to please a crowd without breaking the bank. Plus, while your guests may have tasted Vinho Verde or Port, the local red wines are often set aside in favor of familiar options from France, Italy, or the U.S. Surprise everyone with a delicious red blend from Dão — Prunus by Gota Wine is an elegant wine brimming with red and dark fruit notes and spices. It will warm up your insides and pair nicely with a range of dishes.

For your friend who has it all

We've all got that person on our shopping list — the one who buys the latest in everything and is always equipped with new gadgets. While they might shun an ordinary bottle of wine, chances are they'll be pleased to receive Champagne (who isn't?). If their fridge is filled with Moët or Veuve Clicquot, the best way for your gift to stand out is to give them a bottle they've never seen before.

Per the name, grower Champagne is produced on a smaller scale by the people who grow the grapes. Conversely, Champagne houses buy grapes from vineyards across the region and pump out large volumes of bubbly. (You're welcome to slip in that tidbit of info if they look perplexed by the unfamiliar name on the label.) While it's worth exploring the options you can find locally, Champagne Tarlant Zero brut nature should satisfy just about anyone. With no added sugar, this crisp style offers zesty aromas and a layered finish.

For a gift exchange

There are lots of types of gift exchanges, and while some make it clear who will receive your gift, others leave that up to chance. It can be tricky to think of the right present when you have no clue who it's meant for, but of course, that's part of the fun. As long as there are no restrictions on gifts containing alcohol, a bottle of wine is a solid choice. If the recipient isn't happy about it, we're sure they won't have any trouble quickly regifting it.

Since it's hard to choose a wine for an unknown giftee, our suggestion is to make your selection an educational moment. For the consumers who have not yet fallen under its spell, riesling is often stuck in the category of sweet German wines. For those in the know, this couldn't be further from the truth. Pewsey Vale Vineyard riesling from Australia's Eden Valley shuts down all of those assumptions. A gentle acidity mingles with lemon, lime, and grapefruit notes and an herbal finish. Eliminate any hesitations by wrapping a string around the bottleneck with a tag that says "drink me."

To serve for a cozy holiday date night

Unless you live in a tropical climate, temperatures tend to be cooler during the holiday season. Picnic dates are replaced with romantic evenings by the fireplace ... or your electric heater. Whatever the specifics, layer on the coziness with a bottle of red wine. While a juicy red wine is a welcome addition to a picnic, for an intimate evening indoors, we recommend a deeper more complex option.

Spanish reds from the Priorat region have an intense and concentrated taste, and although the tannins are generally quite notable, they are incredibly smooth on the palate. Whether you're serving it at a candlelit dinner for two or are sipping it on the couch as you watch a movie, this type of wine is all about flavor. Giné Giné by Buil & Giné is a savory blend of grenache and carignan grapes. With jammy berry flavors, hints of herbs, and a kick of peppery spice, this 14% ABV wine will warm you up from the inside out.

To serve at a holiday brunch

While we don't condone day drinking year-round, it's fair game during the holidays — especially if you're dealing with family tensions. Thanks to the wide array of dishes served at brunch, it's easily one of our favorite meals. Given the diversity of foods, it's best to go with a versatile wine, and none fits the holiday brunch vibe better than sparkling rosé.

While you could splash out for Champagne or try a bottle of Prosecco rosé, we're choosing something closer to home. New Mexico may not come to mind when you think of U.S. wine regions, but Gruet Winery proves otherwise. From Champagne, France, to Engle, New Mexico, the Gruet family has been making wine stateside since the 1980s. The N.V. brut rosé has a pleasant balance of floral aromatic and strawberry flavors, with a refreshing mouthfeel and a smooth finish. Basically, it goes down quite nicely, which is a good quality for a wine you'll be drinking with breakfast foods.

For your work party

Now, depending on your job and employer, the holiday party might be a huge affair with an open bar and endless trays of canapes. Or, perhaps it's a casual event with delivery pizza and a BYOB attitude. In the former case, please leave bottles of booze at home. However, if it's expected that you bring refreshments, our suggestion is to make it extra refreshing. There's nothing worse than being stuck making small talk with your boss as you wonder whether your teeth are stained from a heavy red wine.

Albariño is one of the grapes used in Portuguese Vinho Verde, and as a varietal wine it stands out for its vibrant nature. It's known for its citrus and stone fruit flavors, with hints of tropical fruit too. Some of the main vineyards growing the grape are situated near the Atlantic Ocean, giving the wines a saline quality from the sea air. Show up with a bottle of Paco & Lola albariño and you'll have no trouble sipping on this mouth-watering wine throughout the night.

To keep on hand for last-minute invites

Even the most organized person can end up with an unexpected invitation and no time to pick up a gift. In these eventualities, it's always a good idea to have a few versatile options on hand. Wine will often satisfy whatever gift-giving needs you have, whether you're thanking a host for a meal or a holiday get-together.

Wines from Beaujolais are primarily made with gamay, a lovable grape that showcases pleasant red and dark fruit aromas with hints of spice. While the quick-to-market styles of Beaujolais nouveau have their share of haters, the wines that are made with patience and attention deserve high praise. Fans of pinot noir may recognize an overlap in flavor profile, and it makes sense given that the two grapes are cousins (via Wine Folly).

If you want to be sure you'll impress whoever the recipient is, stash a few bottles of Beaujolais Cru wines for spontaneous gifts. This category consists of 10 vineyard areas known for their superior soils. Domaine de Colette in Régnié produces wines concentrated with red fruit aromas and smooth tannins, and pairs well with meat or vegetarian dishes as well as cheese boards.

When you don't know what will be served

Depending on your relationship with your host, you may or may not be comfortable asking about the exact details of the menu they plan to serve. Or perhaps, you're at the wine shop and need to make a decision on the spot. In these instances, pinot noir is a versatile option that should satisfy most meals. Chilean pinots, in particular, tend to straddle the line of fruit, spice, and earth in their flavor profile, making them an excellent choice for a range of foods.

Red meat or chicken will complement the wine, as well as saucy pasta, heartier fish, and even shrimp dishes. And if you're dining on oysters and a delicate white fish, the typical presence of red fruit in the wine and its silky tannins make it a solid option for an aperitif. Pinot works best in the cooler regions of Chile, and the Casablanca Valley is a fine example. Viñedos Veramonte's line of Ritual wines makes an excellent pinot noir that is sure to be gone quickly no matter where you bring it.

To gift to your boss

There are certain unspoken scripts about gift-giving, and in some milieus, you had better have a present for your boss when the holidays roll around. Unless you just received a massive bonus, there's no reason to shell out on something big, and a bottle of wine will often fit the purpose at hand. Again, save your money and skip the prestigious brands; if your boss is a big wine connoisseur they may very well have a large collection already, and if they're not then they probably won't care about the specifics.

In this case, a wine from a classic region and a reliable producer is a good bet. Bordeaux is our top pick here, thanks to its tradition, international acclaim, and range. Château Haut-La Pereyre Bordeaux Supérieur is a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes, with a nicely rounded finish. Notes of red and dark fruit add bold complexity, while the smooth tannins make this one a pleasant sipper with a variety of food pairings.