The holidays bring with them family and food — and invariably a little infighting. “During the holidays, family togetherness often means putting people with irreconcilable differences in the same room,” says Joshua Wesson, 42, the president of Best Cellars Inc. and a winner of the prestigious Food and Wines from France Sommelier Contest. “Forget about deep psychological differences — some people can’t even agree on what to eat.”
My experience bears this out. At the same table, you’ll find hearty meat chompers and committed vegetarians who won’t bite into anything that had a mother. You’ll meet shellfish suckers and oyster avoiders, cholesterol counters and bingeing Brahmins.
“For times like these,” says Wesson, “you need wines that make peace, wines that span the chasms between food groups. You need ‘not too’ wines: not too sweet, not too soft, not too tannic. And unless your funds are unlimited, you need something affordable if you’re providing for a big gathering.”
Indeed, affordability is the principle on which Wesson founded his highly successful wine stores — first in New York City and, recently, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Both locations feature 100 wines that are priced at $10 or under, each one picked by Wesson, who regularly jets to vineyards in California, South Africa, Argentina, France, Italy — anyplace where grapes will ripen and ferment. Here are his picks for inexpensive, family-friendly wines.
Selbach Bernkastler Riesling QbA, Germany, $9.
Low in alcohol, high in flavor, a little fruity.
Sokol Blosser Mueller-Thurgau, Oregon, $9.49.
Fruit juice with an attitude.
Llano Estacado Chenin Blanc, Texas, $10.
Goes great with sweet, savory dishes.
Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc, France, $10.
The world’s best alternative to Chardonnay.
Hedges Fume-Chardonnay, Washington, $10.
A blend of Chard and Sauvignon Blanc.
Juicy Red and Rose
Chateau Grand Cassagne Rose, France, $8.
Deep, haunting flavors — yet dry.
Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir, California, $10.
Think black cherry and low tannin.
Borsao Campo de Borja 1997, Spain, $6.
The world’s greatest red-wine value.
Bogle Merlot, California, $10.
Smooth and full of red-fruit flavors.
Bois de Renard Syrah, France, $10.
Gets its strength from its fruit.
Thomas Mitchell “III,” Australia, $10.
Spicy, fruity, yummy.
Joshua Wesson is president of Best Cellars Inc., a retailer that features prime wines priced at less than $10 apiece. Best Cellars stores are located in New York City and Brookline, Massachusetts (www.bestcellars.net).