Ask a Somm: What wine do I bring to a holiday party?

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Holiday party. Photo from, Creative Commons Holiday party. Photo from, Creative Commons

When invitations to celebrate the season start arriving at your doorstep, what should you bring to the holiday parties? Wine, of course! These are the suggestions from Fabio Gallo, President of the Piemonte sector of the Italian Sommelier Association.

You don’t want to show up to a holiday party empty-handed, and wine is always a warmly welcomed gift. However, one size does not fit all. The wine that’s suited for a family gathering will be different than the bottle you bring to the office party. We asked Fabio Gallo, President of the Piemonte sector of AIS (Italian Sommelier Association) to give us a few party-specific suggestions.

To the in-laws

For dinner with the in-laws, Fabio suggests a nice bottle of Moscato d’Asti, that slightly sparkling, lightly sweet wine of the Monferrato hills. “The in-laws are going to be a bit older,” or at least not in their 20s and 30s, and so they will prefer something that is easy to drink, neither too heavy nor too sugary, but just sweet enough. This sparkling wine fits the bill, and, as Fabio says, “Almost everyone likes Moscato d’Asti.” It is a good wine to drink with appetizers, as its low alcohol at just around 5% won’t make you woozy; and its sweeter profile, happy effervescence, and light body is a surprisingly complement to savory, salty, and fatty foods. It is also, of course, the ultimate wine for dessert, from fresh fruit to Christmas cookies. Suffice it to say that you won’t put your relationship or marriage in danger if you bring a bottle of this bubbly.

Christmas cookies. Photo from

With family

For a dinner with the family, Fabio suggests two wines that show how important your family is to you; and, in the case of a large family, both wines are special enough that they’ll be savored and enjoyed by all. His first suggestion? “A fortified wine from Sicily—preferably red, such as a red Marsala.” He notes that it is different from a passito. The two can be confused because they are both higher in alcohol and sugar (or can be, in Marsala’s case), but a fortified wine has liquor such as brandy added to it, whereas passito is made from dried grapes. On the other hand, if you’d like something that pairs well with a special dinner and elevates a meal from good to excellent, “Bring out the Barbaresco.” This dinner is a reason to celebrate, especially if you’re getting together after some time. 

With friends

For a dinner for friends, Fabio suggests something a bit different: “A Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige. It is an excellent wine, and personally I enjoy it very much. But it’s also a good choice because it’s unexpected.” Most people know and appreciate Gewurztraminer, the classic white that comes from this northern Italian region bordering on Austria and nestled in the stunning Dolomite foothills. Pinot Bianco, on the other hand, is rather less known. Friends should be open and excited to trying anything new—or, heck, any wine at all (so unless your friends are ardent winelovers like yourself, maybe don’t bring out that Barolo you were saving). 

At the office

Finally, what to bring for a dinner with your co-workers? Office parties might not be as rousing a good time as they apparently were three decades ago when Bill Murray tried his darnedest not to enjoy one in Scrooged, but they are still cheerful, convivial dinners. How can you get (or stay) on your co-workers’ and boss’s good sides? “Bring two bottles of Prosecco.” It’s nothing too fancy, but appreciated by everyone; and it will get the conversation going and encourage people to break away from their normal office attitudes and relax.

Holiday partyPhoto from Toni Blay, Creative Commons


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