The Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes—reportedly the happiest people on earth—have a word for coziness and contentment. They call it hygge. Hygge permeates their societies with a sense of goodwill and well-being. In her cookbook and wellness guide, How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017), Signe Johansen links hygge to food and drink and calls it “healthy hedonism.”

This time of year we often focus on “out with the old, in with the new,” as the expression goes. The twists and turns of the past year have been harrowing, and the new year looks to be just as forbidding. However, we do have a period of solace available during the winter holidays, so let’s use it to soothe our souls while we can and take comfort and joy in friends and family. This is the time of year for get-togethers, gift giving, and imbibing. It’s the time for hygge.

Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Chardonnay. Photo by Rodney Margison

The bubbly nature of sparkling wines—Spanish cava, Italian prosecco, and French Champagne—brings conviviality and festiveness to social events. Most don’t cost an arm and a leg, but you can always splurge on an extra-special bottle. 

Creekbend Vidal Blanc Sparkling Wine from Oliver Winery ($25 at the winery) is affordable, fresh, and delicate. The Furst Cremant d’Alsace ($26, Feast Market & Cellar) is a dry and delicate sparkler from France. Ruinart Champagne Blanc de Blanc ($65, Feast Market & Cellar), from a historic Champagne house in France’s Champagne region, is 100% chardonnay and intense, with great depth of flavor.

For many, cabernet sauvignon is a comfortable and comforting choice for holiday social events or gift giving, and California provides an overwhelming selection. Daou Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California ($25, Feast Market & Cellar), is powerful and soft-textured. On the higher end, J. Lohr Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($100, Feast Market & Cellar) is both restrained and complex. 

Chardonnay is another comfort wine good for the season. Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Unoaked Chardonnay—Central Coast ($13, Feast Market & Cellar) is fresh, clean, and crisp. 

After dinner, a small glass of dessert wine with a few good friends makes for a cozy evening. Maison Nicolas Sauternes 2015 (500 ml, $16, Feast Market & Cellar) has flavors of fruit and honey and sweetness balanced with sharp acid. The higher-quality Château Suduiraut, Sauternes (500 ml, $65, Big Red Liquors) adds complexity, body, and character. 

Locally, Oliver Winery offers Creekbend Catawba Late Harvest (500 ml, $28 at the winery) and Creekbend Vidal Blanc Ice Wine (375 ml, $35 at the winery), two unusual and interesting choices to consider for gifting.       

So, let’s create our own hygge, sit back, and forget our troubles. And I will drink to that.