It's official the race to the to the end of the year finish line has begun. Are you wine ready?
The rush is on to fill the shopping baskets and plan for the days ahead and wine, spirits and beer are an integral part of the celebration. Being wine ready is as much about what you buy as what you choose to share in the season of giving.
After years of Midwest Thanksgivings and British Christmas' I have been thinking about the general trends I have found in the type of wines that appear on tables near and far. I have provided some general examples.
1) The Go To: Kendall Jackson or J Lohr
My grandmother's go to. Holidays, dinners, sometimes even lunch, Kendall Jackson was her brand. Who does not take comfort in a wine their beloved grandmother used to drink. J Lohr is another up market branded wine to cut your teeth on and start your wine journey. Essentially these wines are that next step up, higher quality and of course consistency in the product.
2) Outside the Varietal Comfort Zone: Malvasia or Primitivo
Need I say more. If you are ready to get off the Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Grigio bandwagon a whole wine world awaits.
3) Pulled from the Cellar: Kistler Chardonnay or Leoville Barton
Always nice to have collectors or connoisseurs as hosts for the holidays or as guests. They have spent years building a diverse range of wines. These are wines above the mass premium level. They can age, they are complex, they express their place and position and evolve and there is not much of the wine about...lucky you. Head to the Eurocave and compare and contrast producers, vintages and regions. The expression of the vintage, producer, varietal and the impact of time becomes more evident in the glass and vintage wine takes on a category all of its own and certainly one to look for as you look around the table.
4) On sale in size: Yellowtail or Cupcake Red Velvet
Quality wine does not need to be expensive and certainly wines in the $5 to $10 dollar range are plentiful and fill an important part of the market. All over the world table wines grace the glasses of local consumers. Search out deals from Argentina, Chile, Italy and Australia and test the wines just like the locals.
These are the top table wine brands in the world. Note the lack of diversity in the parent companies as you scroll through the list. You may think you are buying an independent brand, with a catchy name or label, but the reality is it is part of a larger consolidated portfolio of big company wine brands.
I received my Total Wine wine "flyer" today and it confirmed many of my views about the wine market and the confusion wine choosing can present in the holidays. This picture says it all. Four different wines, four different price points, take your pick, there you are wine, sorted. Thank you.
But is this what we really want wine to be? Wine chosen for you by the big retailers selling brands from consolidated distributors. Just like a Snickers Bar you know exactly what to expect and what you are getting in the package, with consistent pricing. I can see the value in the convenience and the price, but I also see missed opportunity.
For me the joy of wine is the joy of giving in the holidays. Sharing food and interesting wines with friends and family is what writes the next chapter of the story. Not all wine sharers are the same and whichever one you are, the most important thing is you are enjoying wines with friends and family, thankful for another year of experiences, good or bad, and comfortable knowing that if you pick interesting, off the big brand path wines, you will at the very least find something interesting to talk about over your holiday table.
Ready set go.... and good luck.