The big day is just around the corner and most of us are finishing up planning for our special Christmas celebration. While some plan the holiday party specifics weeks in advance, it interests me that the selection of Christmas wine is often listed forlornly on the last page of notes. It usually is hidden with a penciled-in reminder, “Don’t forget to buy beer and wine.”
I consider the choice of wine I will be serving equal to, if not more, important than the main course of Christmas dinner. While some items like food and flowers can’t be stored in advance, wine will wait humbly in the corner until the big day, making it one of the easiest items on my holiday checklist. But wine purchases can add considerably to the budget so searching out ways to save can pay off.
By planning early, you can take advantage of wine discounts and in-store specials. Buy by the case and not the bottle. Because wines do not have a specific hurried drink-by date, buying in bulk can save you money. Many retailers will offer savings from 10 percent to 20 percent and may allow a discount on mixed assorted bottles so you don’t have to be stuck with the same wine.
Some retail stores offer savings on odd bottles of wine they are trying to move. Many times they end up in the clearance section not because of poor quality but because of torn, scratched or damaged labels. While I have found many bargains in these bins, keep in mind that you should always buy the most recent vintage. As I have preached before, wine isn’t a bargain that is past its life span.
If you’re not buying by the case, your best savings option is to take advantage of a retailer’s “wine day.” These discounts can be up to 20 percent off and apply even when buying only one or two bottles at a time.
Shop around to find the best deals. Many consumers will drive across town to save on a sweater or wait in long lines for the best deals, so be open to searching out the best wine prices.
Focus on quality for the best value. This is where buying my past “Value” wines may be your best choice. Shop for savings.
For many, Christmas and Port wine are inextricably linked. A bottle of Port is a must for any wine lover’s Christmas season celebration checklist. I cannot imagine the holiday without a glass of this special wine.
Port wine takes its name from the city of Oporto, Portugal, the only location in the world able to boast the prestigious Port label. Oddly enough, the growing region of Portugal’s Douro Valley is one of the most inhospitable areas of viticulture in the world, with baking-hot summers averaging 100 degrees and subzero weather in winter. Its isolated landscape is just as uninviting, with steep hillsides, poor, dry soils and archaic-looking planting terraces. Yet, in spite of the extreme temperatures and poor terrain, the Port grapes thrive.
Port is made mainly from five authorized varieties, with Touriga Nacional (too-REE-gah na-SHUN-al) being the lead grape in the blend. This grape adds tannin and black-currant aromas. The other grapes offer their own unique attributes: Tinta Roriz gives spice; Touriga Francesa adds softness; Tinta Barraco contributes high sugar; and Tinta Cao provides bold flavor.
As much as the terroir affects the final product, the process used in making Port is also key. Just after harvest, a celebration of sorts begins with the traditional foot-treading in open-trough wine vats by families and workers of the wineries. They march, walk and dance in keeping with this winemaking tradition. This may seem a bit awkward and unappetizing, but the human foot is perfect for the task because it won’t break the pit in the grape.
Port styles range from crusted and ruby to tawny, blended from wines of different vintages made in different years and having spent time in wooden barrels; these styles are ready to drink immediately after bottling. Other styles are late-bottled vintages aged in wood and also ready to drink. Vintage and single Quinta Ports differ in that they spend minimal time in wooden barrels before being bottled for the long, slow aging process.
- Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal (about $40 retail)
- 2003 Churchill Vintage Port, Portugal (about $100 retail)