Throughout the year, we visit a lot of our members in their home towns. We will host private tastings and dinners. We conduct seminars. Or, we just meet for coffee to catch up after a year or two. That said, the most common question I am asked is “how do you know what to buy when you’re out?”
Easy question to answer now, but reflecting back to our times when we first started out collecting wines, we remember panic buying bottles at the restaurant or at the retail shop.
The holidays are a time when we are entertaining, either as the host, or as the guest. Here are some tips when planning around the holidays and where to find great value in the wines you might come across.
- Varietals matter. If you’re selecting a bottle of wine and looking for something special for the occasion, select a wine varietal that you’re familiar with. Although Cabernet Sauvignon varies throughout the world, you will be able to find similar characteristics that you like in the wine and it might be a better value or a jump in quality.
- Regions, where are you from? Regions are always important when thinking about wine and selecting a bottle to share at the table. If you’re at the restaurant, and cruising down the wine list seeking your favorite Napa Cabernet, keep these things in mind. Be specific. Think of the wine label as your Google Maps. If you’re vague, it won’t necessarily get you to the driveway. With wine, the more details, and specific location, the better.
- Vintage, hold old are ya honey? Vintages matter but not always as much as you think. A “good year” in America is likely 80% of the wines produced each year. In Europe, their climate isn’t as generous and hail, frost, and rain can greatly effect the vintages. That said, style will also come into play with these vintages and you might benefit from decanting or extended aging.
- Bubbles, let’s celebrate! All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling is Champagne. Champagne is a region, so not all wines that pop qualify for this labeling. Whether you’re selecting a Prosecco, Cremant, Sparkling wine or Champagne, celebrate with the best! If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle with a specific vintage on the bottle, even better! These rare wines are held for only the best of the best fruit to produce a “vintage sparkling” that year.
- Gifting… how much is appropriate? Many ask what is appropriate for a gifted bottle and I tend to ask a corresponding question. Are they wine people or just enjoy imbibing? If they’re collecting, or opening wines with you and share a story of the winemaker, their recent trip, or “this is one of our favorites” then I think we have someone who treats wines like a hobby. I’d ask the retail store, or your favorite website, for recommendations. Price doesn’t determine quality, but looking for a region with a story, a slightly older vintage (2007-2012 California looks great now), and a little more specific location. Don’t always go to the fancy label or big wax tops to say it’s quality.
That said, wine is subjective. You’re going to collect, age, or consume certain wines you have a connection with and wines you are excited about. My favorite thing about this time of the year is to experience new wines and discover new producers.
Have a wonderful season celebrating with friends and family.
View the wines in our wine shop for more boutique producers to share this season.