Instead of just picking the first bottle that catches your eye and hoping for the best, George Miliotes, Master Sommelier for Seasons 52 at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, provides tips for choosing wines that’ll make memorable holiday gifts.
Drink these before they are famous: Be an early-adopter! Impress your guests with great, well-priced wines from winemakers who are currently flying under the radar, but may soon be headed for their “close-up.” Sure to be a hit are Aveleda Vinho Verde which is a light and refreshing white that all will like (and is at a great price point) and Crasto Red from Portugal where an awakening in red wines is taking place.
Big, bold cabs: Cabernets pair perfectly with rich, roasted red meats-holiday favorites like roast beef, rack of lamb, filet mignon. Cabernets also pair well because they refresh the palate after each bite. Consider South African choices such as De Toren Fusion V and Mulderbosch The Faithful Hound. They are universally high quality, and while not cheap, will certainly not break the bank either.
Small grower Champagne: Make a New Year’s resolution to try something new—small grower Champagne. These growers offer unique wines, showcasing the flavor of the land and the maker’s personal stamp of quality. The more famous champagnes are often born of blends of grapes from a myriad of growers and crafted for the masses. Small grower Champagnes cram maximum flavor and personality into the bottle, often without the big price tags of the big brands. Ask from Gimmonet, Chartogne-Talliet and Pierre Peters at a good wine shop and you will be delighted.
Taste-test is best: Taste a wine and ask yourself if you like it or not. Don’t put too much emphasis on points, scores, reviews or price. And, if you want a second opinion, ask the advice of your local wine merchant. Be sure to let them know your usual taste preferences and price range.
Don’t be afraid of screw caps: Screw caps are fast becoming as readily available as corkscrews. More and more excellent wines feature screw caps, which open easily and keep the spirits flowing. Screw caps are especially handy at large holiday parties. Wine in screw caps can range from inexpensive but great value wines such as Indaba Chardonnay to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at all price and quality levels to great Oregon Pinot Noirs like Chehalem or Scott Paul.