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A Holiday Wine Guide for Every Crazy Person in Your Family

I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out the best way to navigate the shitshow of the holidays with my family, and the best answer I’ve come up with is wine.
Illustration von Yuliya Tsoy

I come from a large family. My father has six younger sisters, and our immediate family rounds out around 30 people. Entering a family event feels more like walking into a house party than it does a holiday dinner. The only thing that rivals their largeness in numbers is their largeness in personality. They are loud, jolly, and fun, and their laughter can be heard a block away from my grandmother's house. They can also be overbearing and obnoxious, as families often are. I've spent most of my life trying to figure out the best way to navigate the shitshow of the holidays with my family, and the best answer I've come up with is wine.


But just like not all wines pair with all foods, certain wines pair better with certain family members. So what should you be serving this holiday season? Here are some suggestions.

Disclaimer: These are not based on specific members in our family, Aunt _____, so please do not message me on Facebook about it. Also, please don't call my dad. See you at Christmas!

For the Republican: Cabernet Sauvignon Boastful and heavy with a heyday back in the 90s, much like your uncle who is entertaining the idea of voting for Trump, California cabernets are great for sharing with Republicans. Cabernets are classic and still a red wine gold standard for many, and Republicans won't fight you on it. And that's key, because what can start as a simple disagreement about wine can quickly turn into a fistfight over tax reform if you aren't too careful.

For the Know-It-All College Liberal: Beaujolais Young, energetic, and tart, Beaujolais is barely aged, just like your cousin who won't shut the fuck up about feminism but denies fundamentals surrounding intersectionality. Beaujolais goes down like water, so instead of trying to explain why white people with dreadlocks are offensive, just binge drink and talk about the last Mac DeMarco record.

For the Stoner: Skin-Fermented Pinot Gris Funky in color, bouquet, and flavor, this orange wine is bound to blow minds, high or not. While they, "Whoaaaa" over its vivid, amber color, and smoky, almost tequila-y smell, you can explain how it's a white wine made like a red wine. They will trip out and say, "Wait. Whaaat?" at least three times before needing to "go get something out of the car" again.


For the Prying Type: Lambrusco Bubbly and fruity, but very prickly, lambrusco is a great way to demobilize a conversation you definitely don't want to get into. It looks like a celebration, but really it's a cease-and-desist. The cheek-sucking dryness of lambrusco can stop even the most chatty of Aunt Cathy's before they start in with, "So, when are you going to…"

For the Goth: Slovenian Teran Intense and deep with high tannins and warm fruits, Slovenian teran is great for dark conversations. It smells like wet, dead violets and tastes kind of like blood. With the right palate, I'm sure there are also heavy notes of angst and Joy Division's Closer.

For the Homie: Sangiovese A fruit-forward sangiovese tastes like the holidays with notes of warm cherry pie, mulled spices, and a touch of dry leaves. It's light enough so that you can have multiple glasses, making it the perfect bottle to share with that one relative that is your homie while you reminisce about the holidays of your childhood and catch up on the last year of your lives. You will drunkenly vow to get together in the New Year. You have to!!! You mean it this time!!!

For the Church-Goer: Off-Dry Riesling Light and bright with notes of pineapple and Sunday school lemonade, off-dry riesling is one of the most inoffensive and easy to drink wines. And it's not red, so you get to skip that whole conversation (keep them away from the teran). It's just sweet enough for the devoted who don't regularly drink to enjoy, but just dry enough for us heathens to crush a couple cups worth in a corner while avoiding the topic of abortion.

For the Elder: Ruby Port Rich and sweet with deep notes of chocolate, raspberry, and cinnamon, this fortified dessert wine is great for saddling up for story time with a wrinkly wise-one. By the time you're done slowly sipping it, they will have finished telling you about the war and you'll both be significantly more drunk (port is around 30 percent brandy).

For the Ignorant Asshole: NOTHING Wine is too good to be wasted on casual misogyny/racism/denial of climate change.

For the Ones You Love: EVERYTHING There is a reason they call it "sharing" a bottle of wine, and that is because it is more enjoyable that way. Whether it's Two-Buck Chuck or the cellar's finest, sharing wine with loved ones is always going to be memorable. From the conversation it provokes to the laughter it ignites, to the emotions it unearths, wine brings us together and closer in ways we might not have otherwise.

Wine can also be the spark that sets shit ablaze, so please be responsible this season. Don't get totally wasted, and avoid bringing up Obamacare. Happy Holidays!