This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Dec. 5, 2005.

WT101 - Festive holiday wines

When it's time to think about wine for a festive occasion - or a quiet evening by the fireside on a chilly night - many of us like to turn to something a little more celebratory than the wines we usually serve, and perhaps a bit more warming.

With the holiday season upon us, the joyous pop of the Champagne cork and the audible purr of pleasure that attends the opening of a bottle of fine Port are, or ought to be, as much an audible signal of the Christmas season as jingle bells or chestnuts crackling on an open fire.

But for many wine enthusiasts who've grown accustomed to the dry table wines served with dinner, sparkling wine ("bubblies") and sweet fortified wine ("stickies") can seem awfully daunting simply because these wines are different. How do you open them? How do you serve them? Do they go with food? Can they be aged?

If you'd like a little guidance in discovering these pleasures, you've come to the right place. In Wine Tasting 101, the popular monthly wine-education feature in our WineLovers' Community online forum, we'll be spending the month of December tasting both "bubblies" and "stickies" and comparing notes on good Champagnes (and other sparkling wines) as well as Ports, Madeiras and other powerful and warming dessert wines in the fortified style.

Lots of experts will be there to answer questions, and I will too; I'm also pleased to announce that international Port expert Roy Hersh, the publisher of the excellent For The Love of Port Website, has agree to serve all month as guest expert, answering questions and offering comments on Port, Madeira and other fortified wines ... and bubblies, too. Roy, a member of the Sommelier Society of Washington, D.C., and the Enological Society of Seattle, is one of only a handful of Americans selected by the Port Wine Institute (I.V.D.P. Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) as a member of its "Confraria" or Port wine brotherhood. It's a pleasure to have him working with us this month, and I hope you'll take advantage of his generosity by dropping in on our online forum with your Port and fortified-wine questions.

To participate in Wine Tasting 101, simply click to the WT101 "folder" (section) of our WineLovers Community online. The following link will take you there. Feel free to read all the discussions, and you're most welcome to join in any of the conversations. No need to wait to be introduced!

Grand Veneur Réserve Grand Veneur 2003 Côtes du Rhône ($10.49)

This is a very dark-garnet wine with a reddish-purple edge. Red fruit, ripe and full, raspberries and red cherries and fragrant red pepper on the nose and palate. Ripe and luscious cherry-berry flavors, good acidity and smooth but perceptible tannins build structure, although the fruit is forward in the "California-like" style of the 2003 vintage in the Southern Rhone. Excellent wine, approaches Châteauneuf-du-Pape for a fraction of the price. It's a typical regional blend of 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Syrah. U.S. Iimporter: Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, Va. (Nov. 23, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: Good with any red meat or poultry; it made a very fine match indeed with Marcella Hazan's roast duck featured in the 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Nov. 24, 2005

VALUE: Exceptionally good value for this price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although Cotes-du-Rhone Villages is by and large a wine for drinking while its bigger siblings like Chateauneuf-du-Pape age in the cellar, I wouldn't bet against this "baby Chateauneuf" improving for five years or so under good storage conditions.

Alain Jaume et Fils has an informative Website in English and French at

Here's a link to the U.S. importer's Website:

Compare prices and find vendors for Réserve Grand Veneur on

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