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The holidays are right around the corner and that means it's time for parties, celebrating and entertaining. Wine expert Leslie Sbrocco and Food & Wine's Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle talk must-have wine and cocktail glasses, holiday picks and punch ideas to make your gatherings merry and your spirits bright.
Prosecco from Italy is the perfect big party bubbly for the holidays — it's affordable and delicious, with golden apple and citrus notes, and this one also happens to be made from organically grown grapes, a rarity for prosecco.
You can spend a fortune on crystal flutes, but these versions from CB2 are both stylish and affordable — again, a great option when you're having a lot of people over.
Leslie's Pick: 2017 Biltmore Estate, Méthode Champenoise Brut, Sparkling Wine, $25, Biltmore
Enjoy a taste of elegance with Biltmore Estate's bubbly. The winery is part of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, considered to be America's "Downton Abbey." The historic estate is magnificent, and the winery is one of the most visited in the United States. Winemaker Sharon Fenchak crafts a wide range of world-class wines from grapes grown in North Carolina and California. This stylish sipper is complex and succulent with a lovely, lingering finish.
Riedel is famed for their signature glasses and their Champagne glass shape is a cross between a flute and a slim white wine glass. It's the perfect choice to serve high-quality sparkling wine.
Ray's Pick: 2018 Novellum Chardonnay, $14, Wine.com
The holidays are all about knowing your audience when it comes to wine — and if you've got a range of generations and tastes coming over for dinner, choose something everyone will like. This affordable French chardonnay comes from the southern French Roussillon region; it's rich in flavor (but not too oaky!) and impossible not to like.
A good quality wine glass will make your wine taste better but doesn't have to be expensive. These stems from Nachtmann are classically shaped, just the right size and very modestly priced.
Leslie's Pick: 2018 Twomey Sauvignon Blanc, $25, Twomey
Hailing from one of Northern California's most famous winemaking families — the Duncan's of Silver Oak fame — the Twomey wines are a class act. Their lusciously juicy Sauvignon Blanc is a blend of fruit from Napa and Sonoma Counties and makes an ideal holiday sipper with freshly cracked crab, roast turkey or cheese platters.
The shape of these white wines glasses has curves in all the right places. A slightly larger bowl allows for whites to express themselves while not breaking the bank.
Ray's Pick: 2018 Cloudline Pinot Noir, $19, Wine.com
It's rare to find terrific Oregon Pinot Noir for under $20, but this cherry-inflected bottling from Cloudline (an affordable label from the benchmark producer Domaine Drouhin) does the trick effortlessly. It's light enough for roast turkey and flavorful enough for roast tenderloin.
Riedel is a famous name in wine glasses, and their handblown crystal stems sell for over $100 apiece in some cases. Yet they also make lovely, affordable, varietally-specific glasses — like this one designed specifically to bring out a Pinot Noir's gorgeous aroma.
Leslie's Pick: 2017 Barone Fini Merlot, $12, Barone Fini
This smooth Italian Merlot is one of the best red wine values on the market. With a classic label, the stylish bottle looks (and tastes) like it should cost twice the price. Made with grapes grown in the northern Italian region of Trentino near the picturesque Lake Garda, it's full-bodied enough to make lovers of big reds happy but elegant enough to make lovers of silky reds swoon. The Bonmartini-Fini family behind the wine has roots in the business dating to 1497 — plenty of time to get it just right.
When it comes to holiday parties, stock up on these crowd-friendly stemless glasses. They are dishwasher safe, hold 15 ounces of wine, and for the price, who cares if they get broken?
Punchbowl Party Drinks
For parties, try making big-batch cocktails or punches — that way, as the host, you won't have to stand around mixing drinks for everyone when you'd rather be making conversation.
Ray's Pick: Coquito Cocktails
This Latin twist on the classic eggnog is sure to appeal.
These retro cocktail glasses speak of the elegance and glamor of the Jazz Age (the name comes from Nick and Nora Charles, the detective heroes of the 1930s and '40s movies portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy). They add a subtle pizzazz to any party and are great for individual cocktails like martinis and Manhattans or larger-batch drinks like coquito, Puerto Rico's tropical take on eggnog.
Leslie's Pick: Big Bowl of Bubbles
Nothing says party like bubbly! I like to make a simple punch with fruit, juice, vodka or gin and prosecco or cava. You can make it as strong or sweet as you like. Or, if you want to ditch the booze, just add sparkling water or sparkling cider. I use cranberries and cranberry juice to keep a holiday color scheme, but you can use orange and apple juice, too. This makes approximately 12 glasses. Double it if you have a large punch bowl.
- Ice cubes
- Fruit of choice (sliced oranges, sliced apples, pomegranate seeds or cranberries)
- Spirit of choice (vodka or gin)
- Juice of choice (cranberry or cran-apple, apple or orange)
- Cinnamon sticks and shaved nutmeg
- 1 bottle prosecco or cava
- Fill punch bowl halfway with ice cubes.
- Add the fruit of your choice.
- Add one cup of spirit for every four cups of juice.
- Season with cinnamon sticks and shaved nutmeg.
- Top with one bottle of prosecco or cava.
The modern shape of this Britta Optic punch bowl is appealing. Sleek and stylish, it's sure to dress up any party bar.
As a finishing touch, these minimalist wine markers help partygoers keep track of their glass. Made from Bavarian merino wool, they won't scratch up your nice glassware and they're naturally stain-resistant.