Tell Us the Wine Your Relatives HAVE to Have, and We’ll Give a Better Suggestion

updated Dec 17, 2019
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

I don’t want to be insensitive or yuck anyone’s yum, so I’ll just say this: There’s a good chance you’ve been asked to pick up of a bottle of wine that you’d, um, rather not drink. I get it! Luckily I’ve got a few suggestions that’ll satisfy the ask at hand and your own taste buds. Here are are five popular wine styles that you may be asked to pick up this holiday season, and some “better” alternative crowd-pleasing ideas.

Credit: Wine Library

The Requested Wine: White Zinfandel

White Zinfandel almost ruined pink wine for an entire generation of wine drinkers, so strong was the association it created between that bright pink color and bad, rookie-wine-drinker hangovers. But wineries like Beringer and Sutter Home still churn out thousands of bottles of the stuff every year, so someone is drinking it, and honestly, I get it. Sweet things taste good! Starbucks wouldn’t sell eight trillion Frappuccinos a year if we all hated sugar.

If you’re related to one of these white Zin holdouts, there are more interesting ways to satisfy a hankering for something fruity and sweet. Try this delicious, slightly sweet (but not cloying!) rosé of Gamay from Beaujolais producer Domaine Thibert. It tastes like fresh, wild strawberries and will make you nostalgic for summer picnics, but the bubbles make it a festive choice for this time of year as well. Wines like this are a great reminder that sweet doesn’t have to equal boring and headache-inducing. 

Buy: Thibert Petillant Rose De Gamay, $20 at Wine Library

Credit: Diane McMartin

The Requested Wine: Pinot Grigio

If you have a relative who likes the kind of anonymous Pinot Grigio you can buy in large bottles on the bottom shelf at the grocery store and is more interested in, say, quantity than quality, you’re in luck. Italy produces gallons of delicious, interesting white wine that has a lot more going on than Pinot Grigio and is very affordable. The Falerio white blend from De Angelis is a blend of varieties native to Italy’s Marche region. It’s crisp and refreshing, with flavors of peaches and juicy limes, and will please almost any Pinot Grigio-drinker.

Buy: Falerio Bianco, $11 at Wardman Wines

The Requested Wine: Moscato d’Asti

Poor Moscato d’Asti has earned a bad reputation, thanks to a lot of bland sparkling wine that’s cheap, sweet, and not much else. But the Muscat grape that this style of wine is made from is wonderfully aromatic and complex, and it deserves better! Buy what you’ve been asked to get — just pick up a good one! Try this classic Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont producer Ca del Baio, and don’t forget to stop and smell the beautiful aromas of orange blossom, apricot, and tropical fruit.

Buy: Ca’ del Baio Moscato d’Asti, $19 at K&L Wines

Credit: Diane McMartin

The Requested Wine: Chardonnay

For the relative who loves a certain ubiquitous Chardonnay and probably puts ice in it, try a classic, affordable white Burgundy. For less than $20, Jean Paul Thiber’s Macon Fuissé kills it. It’ll have enough ripe fruit and “Chardonnay” character for your sister-in-law, but if you like wine you don’t have to drink over ice, you’ll love it, too. 

Buy: Jean Paul Thiber’s Macon Fuissé, $18 at Bermans Fine Wine & Spirits

Credit: WineBid

The Requested Wine: Merlot

I know a few people whose house red is a large-format bottle of Merlot featuring, shall we say, autumn leaves. If you’d like to please them, but also enjoy what you’re drinking, there are lots of easy-drinking red blends out there. Some are better than others, but one of my favorites isn’t one you’ll find nestled next to Apothic Red and Menage à Trois. Marselan is a grape that’s mostly grown in Southern France. It’s a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, and Domaine de Couron’s Marselan has soft tannins and lots of ripe plum and blackberry flavors that will please any Merlot-lover. Plus, it’s very affordable.

Buy: Domaine de Couron’s Marselan, $11 at Highlands Wineseller

And if I could leave you with a final word of advice about holiday gatherings and wine, it’s to serve wine you’d like to drink to everyone (within your budget of course). Don’t hoard the good stuff because certain people “won’t appreciate it.” Serve what you feel good about without a lot of fanfare that can put pressure on people, and you just might convert a few of your white Zin-loving relatives.