Wine expert Joe Campanale is one of the driving forces behind New York City's Epicurean Group, a gaggle of cozy Italian restaurants—dell’anima, Anfora, L’Artusi, L’Apicio—known for their excellent wine lists. Below, Campanele considers holiday entertaining and suggests appropriate party juice.
Q: What kind of delicious yet wallet-friendly wine should I serve at a holiday party?
Campanele: Throwing a party for New Year's Eve is a great excuse to drink some delicious wine. But that doesn't mean you have to break the bank. Below are some of my favorites that are all affordable, delicious and, if you buy too much, you wouldn't mind drinking them in 2016.
Muscadet is one of my favorite dry and inexpensive white wines. It goes so well with so many foods, but especially if you're planning on doing oysters or raw bar because of its acidity and briney minerality. Domaine de la Pépière makes some of my absolute favorites—it's amazing that you can find such expressive wine for under $20 per bottle: 2014 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet "Le Gras Moutons" ($17). Large bottles are always festive (and look expensive!). Pépière's wines are also often found in magnums (two bottles) for under $60 like this nicely-aged 2012 Granit de Clisson ($55).
Riesling is the ultimate flexible white wine for whatever you're eating.
Riesling is the ultimate flexible white wine for whatever you're eating. After a trip to the Finger Lakes for New York sommelier Thomas Pastuszak and Jess Brown's wedding last year, I fell in love with these wines. The dry Rieslings from this area—including Thomas' just-released and very delicious Empire Estate ($20)—represent excellent values and are as easy to drink as they are on your wallet. At L'Apicio we pour the Red Hook Seneca Lake Riesling made by our friend Abe Schoener ($25).
Italy has more indigenous grapes than any other country. These are grapes that are from the region they are grown and are largely not grown anywhere else. Because of these grapes' relative obscurity (especially when compared with more famous grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir), they tend to demand lower prices. There are so many great Italian reds to choose from under $25 that are unique and very representative of the place from which they come. One grape that sommeliers have been going crazy over is Frappato, mostly due to the extraordinary quality of Arianna Occhipinti's ($15). But that wine is rare and, though not expensive, it certainly isn't inexpensive either.
Jordan Salcito, wine Director for Momofuku restaurants, recently released an excellent version of this grape that is savory, but still fragrant and will pair well with a variety of Christmas foods: 2013 Bellus Frappato Scopello ($21).
I love Beaujolais. It is my go-to wine for pretty much any occasion.
I love Beaujolais. It is my go-to wine for pretty much any occasion. Where else in the world can you find the absolute best examples of wine from a world-class region for around $30 to 35? My favorite Beaujolais have more in common stylistically with Burgundy, just a bit to the north, than the mass market stuff. Also, they don't say the word Beaujolais on the label, but rather the name of the specific town from which they come. 2013 Michel Tête Juliénas ($25) is one of the best of that whole appellation and combines beautiful fruit with floral and earthy notes. Also, it's relatively easy to find high quality magnums of Beaujolas for under $60, like this 2012 Clos de Roilette Cuvée Tardive ($59).
And I have to throw in at least one sparkling wine here: 2014 Ca' dei Zago Prosecco "Col Fondo" ($19). After working on the summer pop-up Alta Linea, where I dove deep into Italian aperitivo culture, I fell in love with good Prosecco. More producers are making dryer and more natural wines that ultimately are more expressive of the uniquely beautiful place that Prosecco grows in. The Ca' dei Zago is what's called a "Col Fondo," or non-filtered version. It is slightly cloudy and a great way to introduce your guests to something new within the realms of something very familiar. Plus the sound of popping corks is always so festive.
Have a wine-related question you'd like answered? Hit the comments.