Tell Us the Most Stressful Part of Your Holiday Season and We’ll Tell You What to Drink

updated Dec 6, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

The holidays can be stressful! (Understatement of the year?) Things that can help ease all that stress: a walk, a hot bath, a yoga class … and some wine. While I can’t plan your route, start the water, or pick a yoga studio near your home, I can suggest a great bottle of wine for you. So let’s go: You tell me what has you the most stressed this holiday season and I’ll tell you what to drink.

A caveat: Far be it from us to imply that alcohol is (or should be) the one-stop answer to life’s problems. And many of us actually are drinking less over the holidays. But! If you do indeed love a glass of wine with your holiday activities, let me suggest just the right ones to pair with your particular flavor of holiday challenges.

1. The inevitable family disagreements.

No matter how hard you try to steer the conversation at big holiday gatherings to easy topics (like the weather or sports!), sometimes it’s not enough. Something comes up that highlights a family rift over politics or childrearing, and people start arguing. One thing you surely will get everyone to agree on, though, is how much they like the plush, easy-drinking Casa Santos Lima Confidencial. It’s a “confidential” red blend from the area around Lisbon in Portugal, and it’s an amazing value for $10, with flavors of ripe plums and strawberries. Plus the name will give you something neutral to talk about to break the tense silence. It sort of drinks like a cross between an old-school California Merlot and a Côtes-du-Rhône. I don’t think I’ve ever poured this for someone and not had them like it.


2. All that family time.

If you’re blessed to have several branches of your family tree all come together during the holidays, you know that as wonderful as it is, it can also be a little chaotic. No one can agree on when to leave for even the simplest activities and someone’s child is always screaming. And sometimes all this rowdiness can result in tension and snapping and arguing and meltdowns and wondering if perhaps there is a sensory deprivation chamber you can close yourself into for a few minutes? Probably not at your great aunt’s house, but surely you can carve out a quiet moment for yourself to sip and appreciate a glass of wine.

Something with a touch of sweetness is perfect for quiet moments like this. Have a little splash of Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese (or another sweet white from Austria or Germany), a beautiful dessert wine from an iconic Austrian producer. Breathe. Notice all the beautiful aromas of peaches, tropical fruit, and flowers. Notice how you get that big pop of sweetness right when it hits your tongue, and then the acidity hits after you swallow, making your mouth water. Take another deep breath. Re-enter the mayhem centered and fortified.


3. The endless list of holiday baking and cooking.

Those elaborate, two-toned candy cane cookies seemed like a great idea when you were daydreaming about holiday baking back in October, but now it’s 11 p.m. the night before your office cookie exchange. Or perhaps the ham is taking a little longer than you thought it would and everyone is getting a little hangry and snappy. These are times to fix yourself a snack that’s not cookie dough and pull out a bottle of something beautiful to sip and contemplate while you wait by the oven. My beloved Kerner, an obscure grape from Italy’s Alto Adige region, is perfect for this. It’s aromatic and beautiful to sniff and contemplate like Riesling, but fleshy and substantial enough to sip alone. Luxurious and unusual, this one from Abbazia di Novacella will make even die-hard red-only wine drinkers take notice.

Credit: Cocchi

4. The madness of traveling.

If you’ve been on the road in holiday traffic or think you might lose it after a day full of delays at the airport, you’ll probably be ready for a drink when you reach your destination. A higher-quality vermouth — like Cocchi’s Dopo Teatro — is the perfect late-night “little something.” Its sweetness is balanced by a double dose of the quinine that gives vermouth its bitter notes, and it’s bright red and full of ripe cherry flavor. Pair with a piece of dark chocolate and forget how lumpy that pull-out couch is.

5. The pressure of finding a special gift for every single person you love and adore.

In a shopping fugue state trying to find the perfect present for all your closest friends and family? After a long day at the mall, or just a long session on your couch trying various combinations of discount codes, you’ll need something that’s like the wine equivalent of your favorite sweatpants. If you like bold, plush reds that are also affordable, Washington State is a great place to look for them. Columbia Crest’s H3 Merlot is like the wine equivalent of chocolate-covered cherries, and it’s soft enough to have a glass all by itself without making you feel like you’ve swallowed a chalkboard eraser from tannin overload. 

What else is stressing you out this time of year? And what are you drinking this holiday season?