Wines for a Special Occasion — Outsmarting Wine

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special occasion wine

With the holidays looming, the wine mind naturally turns to occasions where we can break out the special stuff. Here are four of my favorite options:

Older Champagne: While most sparklers are meant to be drunk soon after release — when bubbles are vigorous and the taste shades to the citric and snappy — a good wine merchant can steer you to a bottle of mature Champagne (i.e., 10 years or more of bottle age). Its delicate bubbles and haunting, hazelnut flavors will make your important occasions seem that much more memorable.

Mature Wine, Decanted: On the subject of aged wine, nothing beats the aromas and tastes that emerge when a fine, age-worthy red like Bordeaux from France, Barolo from Italy or certain California Cabernets gains 10 or more years of bottle age. A well-stocked store will have bottles of this ilk, ready to amaze your guests not with bright fruit flavors but with notes of mushrooms, forest floor, a beefy gaminess or other unique signs of vinous maturity. You’ll want to “decant” the wine, or separate it from its age-rendered sediment by pouring the wine from the bottle into a large glass container, or decanter. Doing this will make you feel like a wizard of wine, preparing the wine as if you were a wine-savvy Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

Attach a “How to Use” Note: Even on special occasions, many of us drink wine too hesitantly and reverentially. So, I like to attach an official “How to Use” note to the neck of a special-occasion bottle. It will remind you and your guests to “Consume Entire Contents by Night’s End."

Photo by: Amy Fletcher ©

Amy Fletcher,

Every week, Mark Oldman -- wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers -- shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he'll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

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