Chanukah and New Year’s Eve coincide this year, so festive libations are most definitely in order. Whether having friends and family around for cocktails and candles, or for a full-on celebratory dinner party, adult beverage offerings are a must.
Celebratory wines, whether bubbly or sweet, suit the Chanukah season’s festivities and make for great gifts. Dessert-style table wines pair well with Chanukah’s rich foods, such as latkes with applesauce or sour cream. They also offer a lower-calorie sweet alternative for those who eschew fried jelly donuts, chocolate coins and the like.
The pairing of sweet wines with salty foods can be magical — making sweet wine taste a little less sweet and salty foods merely less savory. The two flavors seem to counteract each other a bit, allowing both to shine.
And sweet wines may be paired beautifully with both sweet and salty foods. Just as chocolate-covered pretzels or kettle corn can be wonderful, Champagne, Spanish cava or Italian prosecco also go very well with salt and fat, which make them ideal for winter festivities. The bubbles alone tend to induce good cheer. Sparkling wines and still white wines with great acidity yet a little residual sugar, like a good Riesling or an Alsatian gewurtz, should work beautifully with fried fatty and starchy foods like potato latkes.
Here are a handful of fun, festive wines to consider serving at, or bringing to, a Chanukah party or New Year’s bash:
Herzog, Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, 2015 ($25; mevushal): This luscious, aromatic, fruity, yet serious sweet wine offers aromas and flavors of pear, honey, peach, apricot, mandarin oranges, mango, custard, and a smidgen of candied ginger. It has enough acidity and complexity to keep it both balanced and interesting.
Hafner, Icewine Gewürztraminer, Kosher, Burgenland, Austria, 2010 ($35; mevushal; organic): Rich and luscious with honeyed fruit, crushed juniper berry, baked cinnamon, candied orange and grapefruit, lemon zest, with some candied nuttiness, orange blossom and slight anise or black licorice twang in the lengthy finish. Juicy sweet yet somehow also controlled and tart, this is complex and fabulous.
Hagafen Cellars, Dry White Riesling, Coombsville Napa Valley, Rancho Weiruszowsky Vineyard, 2014 ($24; mevushal): This light, bright, bracing, dry Riesling is superb with a nose of lychee, peach, lemon zest and a touch of ginger-heavy allspice, following through on the palate to flavors of under-ripe white peach, grapefruit and Meyer lemon. It is clean, vibrant and refreshing throughout.
Abarbanel, Old Vine Riesling, Batch 66, Vin D’Alsace, France, 2012 ($19; mevushal): This lovely if slightly restrained wine offers classic citrus-flint and floral aromatics followed on the palate with the fresh, racy tang of citrus, spice and herbs, with enough of the acidity and nerve one associates with Alsace to keep it vivacious and food friendly.
Abarbanel, Lemminade, Gewurztraminer, Vin D’Alsace, Old-Vine, 2015 ($23): This is a beautiful, bright, vibrant, somewhat rounded yet refreshing and very slightly sweet gewurtz, with tingly acidity and wonderful aromas and flavors of white peach, lychee and wildflowers, with notes of ginger and cloves. Serve it only slightly chilled with poultry, Asian cuisine or Cajun cooking.
As for bubbly:
Gilgal, Brut, Galilee, Israel ($18): this wonderfully, fun, value-driven, super tasty sparkling blend of 50 percent Pinot Noir and 50 percent Chardonnay offers apple and citrus aromas and flavors, accented with spice and toasty oak within a well-balanced frame showing crisp acidity and good length.
Elvi, Cava, Brut ($19): This budget-friendly Spanish Cava is light and elegant, offering bright citrus aromas and flavors that ride on a light frame of tight bubbles and notes of apples, peaches, melon and toasted bread, along with a mild spiciness and a little lemon in the pleasantly long finish.