Crowd-Pleasing Holiday Wines

jack-crowdpleasing wines-vertical-crdt-scott suchmanAs a sommelier at Woodberry Kitchen and wine buyer at Grand Cru, Jack Wells often gets called upon to bring wine to holiday gatherings with his friends and family. In the early days, he’d often reach for personal favorites—obscure and interesting bottles, like orange wines, Pet-Nat, reds from Jura and whites from Juraçon. Then his family started dropping hints that the bottles he loved might not be ideal for a crowd. “I began to realize that my geeky-ness wasn’t making people more interested in wine,” he says. “It was too much too fast.”

Regardless of your knowledge of wine, the holiday season can be a tricky time for buying bottles that’ll make everyone happy. While Wells suggests avoiding extremes or wines that might play to your own inner wine geek, he also cautions not to be too selfless when choosing a bottle, unless you want to spend the evening drinking something you dislike. “A customer will often say things like, ‘I’m having a friend over for dinner, and she likes big, bold Cabernets, so let’s get a big bold Cabernet, even though I’m more of a Pinot Noir drinker.’ Let’s find a happy medium between Cabernet and Pinot Noir so you don’t have to struggle through dinner.”

Here are are some bottle Wells recommends for a crowd:

Sean Thackrey ‘Pleiades
“This is a spectacular blend of Sangiovese, pinot noir, zinfandel and viognier,” Wells says. “Pleiades is a medium-bodied wine that shows bright red fruit and a slight evidence of oak aging. This wine pairs very well across a wide range of foods and palates.” klwines.com, $20

Old Westminster ‘Channery Hill’
“This is a blend of Merlot (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%),” says Wells. “It’s a medium-bodied red that shows bright and lush red fruit along with some undertones of rusticness. This will put Maryland on the international wine map.” oldwestminster.net, $30

Chateau Maris Picpoul de Pinet
“In the summer, in the fall, in the winter and spring, Picpoul de Pinet is a year-round wine,” says Wells. “This wine, by Chateau Maris in the south of France, is most certainly a quaffer (that’s wine nerd for easy-drinking). No one can deny the crushability of this wine.” larchwine.com, $14 

Rafael Palacios Godello ‘Louro’
“This wine is made with a grape called godello from Northern Spain,” says Wells. “This is a very balanced, medium-bodied white wine that perfectly showcases richness alongside minerality.” winelab.net, $17

Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé
“Don’t be afraid to pop some bubbles for a holiday meal,” says Wells. “With racy acidity and a slight biscuity texture, this wine will pair well with all of your holiday meat dishes and sides.” wine.com, $23