5 wines your winter dinner party needs

By: M Loves M

Even though I've grown up around great food and wine, I can relate to the pressure that comes with walking down the wine aisles trying to find the perfect bottle for your guests or hostess. No fear my dears, I am here to help! I recently took a visit to one of my favorite downtown Italian restaurants, Terroni, to meet with a wine expert and dear friend about the best wines for our tables.

Marin Preske is a sommelier (i.e. she knows her stuff). During my visit we chatted over some amazing drinks and small plates. She helped me put together a great list of five wines, pairings, and tips of the trade. This visit amplified my love of wine to a whole new level. The history and work that goes into each bottle is enchanting in and of itself. I had the chance to taste each wine listed and let me tell you...take any of these wines to your upcoming gathering and your friends and family will be thrilled!

First up is a non-vintage, sparkling white wine from Italy:

WINE 1:Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Cuvee Brut

This dazzling, sparkling white is the perfect blend of ripe fruit flavors with a hint of vanilla. Preske mentioned, "It is a great drink to get started with, to whet the palate." This Franciacorta has a full flavor but it is very light. It is made similar to Champagne, so it is more complex than your typical sparkling wine. The grapes used in this wine are 80% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Nero and 1% Pinot Bianco.

PAIRING: Recommended foods for this wine would be cured meats, like prosciutto, to nutty aged cheese, like Parmesan, or the classic oyster.

TIP: For a sparking wine, such as this one, look at the size of the bubbles and how long they last. The smaller and more persistent the better!

WINE 2:Fattoria Moretto, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Secco

Preske mentioned a sparkling wine, such as this one, is a great pick for any gathering, especially if you are unsure of a guest's preference. This Lambrusco comes from an area of Italy known for food, Emilia-Romagna. The pleasantly dry flavor helps enhance each bite, adding elegance to your holiday table.

PAIRING: This bottle would be a great choice to put out with your cheese plate or appetizers. It works well with salami or younger cheeses, like blue cheese or gorgonzola.

TIP: Preske recommends serving sparkling wines in a long, cylindrical glass!

WINE 3: i Clivi Friuli Colli Orientali San Pietro Friulano

Preske shared with me the sweetest story about the father and son, who produce this amazing white wine. This Friulano is a delightful choice for lovers of white wine, looking to try something new. It has a very round, yet crisp flavor. It definitely has some body to it, but has the necessary acidity for rich foods. With a gorgeous label this decadent white is also a great, entry-level choice for vino newbies too.

PAIRING: Salty ham or cheeses will match seamlessly with this Friulano, or even a simple pasta with parmesan and lemon. It can also be enjoyed with fish and omelettes. Preske says one of her favorite weekday lunches is a glass of this wine with an herb omelette. Doesn't that sound so good?!

TIP: Keep your whites at 50-55° F. Then, take out 15 minutes before serving.

WINE 4:Cascina Morassino Barbaresco

This wine made from 100% Nebbiolo is medium-full body, powerful, but filled with finesse. It comes from a thin-skinned grape and is full of aromatics (earthy, red cherry flavors). It is a deeper red and very silky. My personal favorite! I purchased a bottle of this red beauty for our Christmas Eve dinner tonight!

PAIRING: Open this bottle for any red meat dish, especially fillet. Or, pair it with any aged cheese.

TIP: Many of us serve our reds too warm. If you have a red out on display stick it in the fridge for one hour to cool. If you have it cooling, take it out one hour before serving.

DIGESTIVO 5:Montenegro Amaro Liqueur Italiano

As you may have noticed all of these wines are produced in Italy. We all know the Italians know their food and they know their wine! This last bottle is a very traditional drink for the end of the meal, a digestivo. It is meant to help soothe the stomach at the end of dining or before a second round of food. This specific bottle is infused with herbs, vanilla, and orange peels. It has a slight medicinal taste, with floral undertones.

PAIRING: This traditional drink can be served alongside dessert or at the very end of the meal. Best served with some good ol' family time and conversation!

TIP: Serve this digestivo in a smaller glass with a single ice cube or at room temperature.

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