1) Holiday parties: To prepare yourself for tired artichoke dip and meatballs in mystery sauce -- which defy wine to begin with, plus the fact that few people serve decent wine at parties -- always follow one rule of thumb. BYOW. One to give, one to drink. If you practice safe wine, you'll be much happier.
2) Last-minute shopping: First, stop at the mall's restaurant for a couple of glasses. Doesn't matter what time or what wine ... the alcohol will come to your aid when you have to battle the chick fighting for the last available iPod. Against your liquid courage, that bitch has no chance.
3) Undesirable family: This is when wine becomes savior. To handle the anal-retentive mother, the grizzly, macho father, and neurotic siblings, all one needs is a glass of delicious, preferably inexpensive, red wine. It's amazing what you won't care about.
4) Office holiday parties: Unless you work for a cool company offering a top-shelf open bar, company holiday parties invariably serve miser-ably bad wine. Take drastic action ... drink beer.
5) Tree trimming: Stoke the holiday spirit by heating up a batch of spiced, mulled wine: red wine, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Invite friends over. Proceed to get wasted and neglect the tree. Better yet, join the millions of Americans who are buying the pre-decorated fake ones ... tacky? Yes. Utilitarian, absolutely.
6) Holiday cards: To really tell Aunt Ethel what you think of her, drink a high-alcohol Zinfandel before writing the card. Seal and mail it before you sober up. Prepare for the fireworks display in a week or so.
7) Eating: To wash down the ubiquitous bricklike fruitcakes, generic cookies and waxy, cheap chocolate, always have a bottle of sparkling wine on hand. Refreshing bubbles, especially those with a tad of sweetness, make everything taste better.
8) Weight gain: Ignore it ... diet after the holidays. Remember that wine is good for you, in moderation. Repeat that mantra several times a day.
9) Dressing up: Since the pounds are adding up, you may need to dig out the glittering "fat clothes" from the closet. Drown your sorrows with a glass of lighter white wine. See No. 8.
10) Holiday music: Drown out the incessant "chestnuts roasting," "jingle bells," and "holly jolly" with a bit of bubbly. Explore the season's great bargains on sparkling wines, so you hear the "pop!" instead of the drone.
11) Wrapping presents: Who thought this up? The gift wrapper lobby? I ease my annoyance with this least favorite activity with lubricating red wine. But pry it out of your hand before you tie the bows.
12) Cleaning up the aftermath: To cleanse yourself of the havoc that has barraged your life, a good cathartic house-scrubbing is in order. To make it easier to swallow, chill a bottle of Chenin Blanc, and drink it as a reward when finished.
Amberley 2003 Chenin Blanc Margaret River. SW = 4. . $12. Australia does it again, with class and value. Smooth and tropical, with a slight edge of sweetness makes this Chenin perfect alone or with food.
Barefoot Cellars Chardonnay Champagne Extra Dry. SW = 6. . $8. Apricots and raspberry flavors make this inexpensive California bubbly like fruit cocktail without the heavy syrup. Great balance of sugar that will please most palates.
Corvo 2002 Rosso Sicilia. SW = 1. . $10. Earthy plum, red currant and a touch of tobacco define this rather manly wine worth twice the price.