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)
Picking the right gift for the wine enthusiast can be more complicated than just grabbing a bottle of wine. If you’re looking for ideas, here are few gifts that would make just about any wine lover smile.
The Wine Wedge (about $10 for a set of two)
- If you have ever tried stacking wine bottles in your refrigerator you understand why this is a great solution. You can use one wedge to stack bottles against the wall or use two to create a sturdy pyramid of up to six bottles.
govinowine Shatterproof Stemless “Glassware” (about $13 for a four-pack)
- I love this drinkware because it can go anywhere — from a picnic to a party — and is proof you don’t have to drink good wine from a bad glass. Originally designed for the sales force in the wine trade, these sturdy “glasses” quickly found fans among the general public. The drinkware is made from BPA-free polymer plastic, and the shape and thin walls showcase a wine’s aromas and colors just as well as traditional glassware.
Winerd (about $35)
- My family and friends enjoy any type of game but add wine to the challenge and the game is on. This adults-only board game combines trivia with tasting and appeals to amateurs as well as professionals.
Perfect Pop Champagne Opener (about $7)
- This gadget boasts a foolproof and safe way of opening sparkling wine bottles. No need to even remove the foil. Just place the opener on the top of the cork, loosen the wire cage, twist and voila! Off comes the foil, cage and cork.
Personalized Wine Travel Map (about $160)
- I loved finding a personalized wine gift as unique as this travel map, which helps you keep track of your family wine travels throughout the world. It comes in a mahogany frame with 52 color-coded flags and pins to mark your visits, favorites and even dream locations to wineries and vineyards. You can personalize the map with your family name or your winetasting club.
The Wine Glass Chandelier (about $400)
- If you drew my name this year (and your budget is big) then your shopping search has ended. Not only is this gift functional for glass storage, it also makes the ultimate cellar or kitchen island conversation piece. It’s made with original wine barrel rings and wood staves forming the frame for a mix and match of up to 15 stemmed glasses on the first tier and up to 18 on the bottom. A gift well worth the splurge for any wine lover.
We all have our wine traditions and for me it’s port wine at Christmas. I cannot imagine ushering in the holiday without this one-of-a kind, fortified masterpiece.
It takes its name from the city of Oporto, Portugal, and possesses many unique viticulture and winemaking techniques. The growing area, Portugal’s Douro Valley, has very hot summers and cold winters, making it a rather inhospitable area for viticulture.
Its isolated landscape is just as uninviting with its steep hillsides, poor, dry soils and archaic-looking planting terraces. In spite of the weather conditions and poor terrain, the port grapes thrive.
As much as the terroir affects the final product, the process used in making port is unmatched throughout the world. Just after harvest, a celebration of sorts begins with the traditional foot-treading in open trough wine vats by families and winery workers. They march, walk and even dance in keeping with this winemaking tradition. This may seem a bit awkward to envision, but the human foot is perfect for the task.
Port styles range from crusted and ruby to tawny, all blended from wines of different vintages made in different years and having spent time in wood barrels. These styles are ready to drink immediately after bottling. Vintage and single quinta (house) ports differ in that they spend minimal time in wood barrels before being bottled for the long, slow aging process.
- NV Graham’s Six Grapes Porto, Portugal (about $32 retail)
- NV Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $74 retail)
The official Christmas shopping rush is well under way – a dreaded experience for some, a joy for others. Knowing your recipient appreciates wine makes for an easy list of ideas, and having the option of shopping in your pajamas is a perfect solution for those wanting to avoid traffic and crowds.
With online shopping you can compare prices with the click of a button and search out the best values. Over the next few weeks, many sites will offer sale prices and “online only” deals for easy savings. Add convenient around-the-clock shopping hours and front-door delivery and you are almost finished checking off your list.
But, online shopping for a wine lover in Arkansas has its downside, as alcoholic beverages cannot be bought online in the Natural State, so shopping is limited to wine accessories.
To avoid shipping costs, some stores offer online viewing or ordering and in-store pickup.