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12 Wines for Toasting the Holiday Season

Angela Demmel, Barcelona Sommelier, brings us her favorite holiday wines.

The Holiday season is upon us again. You know what that means, it’s wine time. In my world, it’s always wine time, but I never show up to a dinner or holiday gathering unprepared, and neither should you! After beginning my journey with Barcelona just about a year ago, I’ve only scratched the surface of the intricate world of wine. But, through my curiosity and interest, I have found my passion and career. Tasting wine has been the best homework I have ever and will ever have! I’m also fortunate enough to work with close to 500 different wines in my cellar (Thanks Gretchen!), so I’ve been able to explore and taste a plethora of beautiful, unique wines from all over the world…that I now get to share with you.

I’ve put together a list of 12 of my favorites that are perfect for this year’s Thanksgiving. When I think of cold weather, I think of rich white wines and big spicy reds. The many flavorful dishes of Thanksgiving dinner can be paired with so many different styles of wine, so have fun with it. Get some bold wine to go with the big, bold, flavorful stuffing and gravies you’ll be making for your guests. Just make sure to have a glass of wine in hand amidst the madness in the kitchen, it always helps!


I’ve developed a love for Chenin Blanc because it’s so versatile and can range from bone-dry crisp green apple to lusciously sweet honeyed dessert wines. My favorite style is an example such as this, with its deep golden color, honeysuckle and floral nose and rich mouthfeel. On the palate you get mouth-watering flavors of honey and ripe stone fruit with lasting flavors of baked apple on the finish. I would certainly pair this with some snacks from the charcuterie board while you prep the rest of the meal! Les Chanteaux is an exquisite expression of this varietal, delicious to the last drop.

If you like Chardonnay, this is a great wine to try. It’s got the body and the flavors you’re looking for but with that lovely Spanish zing! Garnacha has become one of my favorites for red or white, because it is so aromatic and delicate, but bursting with flavor and power at the same time. Full-bodied with spicy, creamy, honey, vanilla, lemon, and ripe stone fruit flavors on the palate. Produced from old vines planted on the steep hand-harvested slopes of Conreira d’Scala Dei, which literally translates to the “Steps to God”, it’s safe to say this wine is heavenly! This wine has the structure to stand up against most cheesy side dishes or heavily buttered mashed potatoes.

2010 MARQUES DE GELIDA, BRUT GRAN RESERVA                        $48
Nothing like some bubbles to get the Holiday season started! Normally when we think of champagne and other sparkling wines, we think of celebrating with friends and family and toasting to everything we’re grateful for, followed by some cake…this year I want you to try and pair this cava with a salty, buttery dish that will really complement it. An important food/wine pairing rule; pair sweet foods with sweet wines. Sweetness in foods will only make dry wines seem more tannic, astringent and bitter, so take care in pairing your favorite wine with the right dish. This is such a great cava, it’s crisp and dry, but has some nice weight on the palate and beautiful red fruit with lovely notes of that traditional bready champagne flavor. The time it’s spent ageing in the bottle also gives the wine a tasty dried red apple flavor that is perfect to sip on before Thanksgiving dinner.

2012 TEMPRANILLO, VOLVER            $42

The intense, bold ripe black fruit is so telling of where this wine comes from…the hot & dry La Mancha. It’s so cool to taste Tempranillos from the various Spanish regions and see how the climate and terroir impact the fruit in the wine. In such a hot climate, it drinks more like a Cabernet then the oak-aged red fruit driven style you’ll find from the north in Rioja. Volver is rich and juicy, with firm tannins and dark black fruits on the long finish. Open this up while you’re prepping for dinner, it definitely needs an hour or so to open up to really express all the smooth rich fruit this wine has to offer. Make sure to pair this with any dish smothered in a rich flavorful sauce.

AH! Such a special wine. It took me some time to really appreciate the great wines of Rioja, and I’ve found my match. On the pronounced nose there is a medley of buttery oak and dried cherry fruit, with many more layers of fruit and spice unfolding with each sip. It’s so smooth and warms your body up as you drink it. I can sip on this all night on its own but for pairing purposes, drink this along with some crispy Brussel sprouts sautéed with some almonds, perhaps drizzled in a little bit of honey. This has a light enough body to pair well with a grilled veggie dish, but has such complex layers of flavor that it can handle some flavorful spiced dishes as well. Open this up and taste the delicious layers of dried fruit and buttery oak unfold on your palate!

2012 ANTIYAL, KUYEN           $57
Chilean wines are my jam! Organic, great value, and some truly amazing quality wines coming from this country. This is a lovely blend of Syrah (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Carménère (21%) and Petit Verdot (2%). It’s rich with ripe black fruit, strong yet creamy tannins, and beautiful spiciness from the Syrah and that sexy Carménère. (I urge you to grab a bottle of Carménère if you haven’t tried it before. Its smooth like merlot but has a distinct peppery spice that is just too good.) I truly love wines like these, knowing how much time and care is involved in the winemaking makes them so much special and unique. Winemaking is truly a complicated form of art, and this wine is a masterpiece. This is one of my favorite wines I’ve tasted yet in my career. I would sip on this after dinner, while you’re recovering and preparing for dessert. Open it up before dinner, let it breathe for a bit then pour and enjoy…(and repeat).


If you like a wine with some dark fruit and smoky baking spice undertones without the rich full body, southern Rhone wines are just for you! The French are masters of creating these incredibly complex yet elegant wines from Syrah & Grenache that are perfect for this time of year. Full of beautiful candied raspberry & baked figs on the nose, smooth and slightly smoky on the palate with black plums and cloves. This would go great with one of my favorite holiday treats, spiced pecans (coat some pecans with a mixture of sugar, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, hint of salt, egg whites & water then bake in the oven for 45 min).

2011 ACHAVAL FERRER, QUIMERA               $90
Open this at least an hour or 2 before you’re ready to drink it, it needs to breathe, and oh will it be worth it! This is quite a special bottle, from one of the most renown wineries in Mendoza, Achaval Ferrer. A big Bordeaux blend of old vine Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petit Verdot that is aged in new French oak and undergoes additional Malolactic Fermentation to make it remarkably creamy and velvety smooth. It should only be paired with the boldest sauces, or perhaps a salted chocolate dessert. I personally can substitute this for a dessert because it is so delicious and powerful on its own.

This literally translates to “Pretty Vine”, and that’s the first word that comes to mind when you put your nose in it. This is a stunning expression of garnacha, it is bright, with juicy red raspberry and floral notes on the nose with delicious cherry on the palate. The winemakers also practice organic techniques in the vineyard. This is great for the holiday season as a special gift to bring to your host, cause it is a little pricier but so worth it. I would drink this while enjoying the main course, a nice roasted turkey smothered in some cranberry sauce. It’s delicate and pretty, yet bold and outstanding.

2012 VEGA CLARA, MARIO    $65
There’s a lot of love that goes into this wine. I was told stories of the winemaker, Clara, and her passion for growing grapes and making wine. She made this wine in honor of her father, Mario. You will feel the love after your first sip! This is the perfect wine to enjoy on a cold night next to the fire. It’s big and bold, with layers of flavor enveloping your taste buds with each sip. First you find rich red cherry fruit and smoky spice from the Tempranillo followed by strong balsamic notes and black fruit with firm tannins from the Cabernet. The time spent in oak gives the wine those sweet baking spices that fade ever so slowly on the lingering finish. This will certainly warm you up on a cold November night!


2013 MURUA VS BLANCO      $38
This is something to try if you enjoy drinking Chardonnay but are looking for something different and a little wild. It’s a blend of Viura, Malvasia & Garnacha Blanca that has been barrel fermented, giving the wine a spicy oak complexity that makes it a fun change from a typical style of oaked Chardonnay. On the nose you get grilled lemon, pineapple & toasty oak. It is robust on the palate with medium body and perfectly balanced acidity. This would be a great wine to have with the main course against some garlic-herbed creamy mashed potatoes and roasted turkey.


Everyone knows about Beaujolais nouveau, comes out once a year just in time for Thanksgiving and it’s gone within a few weeks. Before I learned of the Beaujolais crus, all I knew of the Gamay grape was that it produces these light, bright, refreshing reds with no tannins that taste like candied berries. It may be a delicious holiday tradition, but this year I urge you to branch out and try this wine. If you like Burgundy, this is more your style if you’re looking for a soft, savory red that has more finesse and complexity than Gamay’s younger, fruitier style. It has lovely earthy tones and scents reminiscent of chocolate covered cherries. On the palate that red fruit carries through with more cherry & cranberry followed by dried rose petals. Dusty soft tannins on the smooth finish. This would go great with the turkey!


I hope this list encourages you all to go out and try something you haven’t before, and really wow your friends and family this Thanksgiving. Wine can be tough to choose, but that’s why we’re here! I’m always thrilled when I can help a guest find their new favorite wine, or fall in love with a wine they’ve never had or heard of before. So I urge you to please come by to try some wine with me in Greenwich, or at the conveniently located Barcelona near you, we look forward to seeing you! I wish you all the best for this wonderful upcoming holiday season, cheers!