If you go by my email, the hottest holiday wine gifts this year are accessories — every day has brought yet another news release with lots of exclamation points and breathless prose. But gadgets, as always, are not at the top of the Wine Curmudgeon’s recommendations. Because the math rarely works out: How many $100 accessories are worth 10 bottles of quality $10 wine? This year’s recommendations are after the jump:
Tag Archives: holiday wine
Those of us who are supposed to know these things have been insisting that wine drinkers are throwing off their Winestream Media-inspired shackles, and drinking what they want — rose, even. In this, they’re being more adventurous than ever. We now have anecdotal evidence, as the 2014 holiday wine season is underway, that this is true.
Wine drinkers are buying tannat.
“If someone had told me I’d be selling tannat, I’d have told them they were crazy,” says Tina Messina of the Wine ConneXtion in suburban Boston, who can’t keep the Uruguayan red wine on the shelf after a tasting last month. “We were shocked. So, yes, wine drinkers are willing to be more adventurous. Someone needs to explain what the wine is about, and then they’re willing to try something they normally wouldn’t buy.”
This doesn’t mean, said the retailers interviewed for this post, that they won’t sell a lot of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir this holiday season. After all, this is still the United States. But as Mike Osborn, the founder and vice president of merchandising for on-line retailer Wine.com, told me: “It’s all about selection, so they can try something they may not have hard of before. They want to be able to show a new bottle to a friend and ask, ‘Did you know about this?’ “
What else will we see during the 2014 holiday wine season?
• More expensive wine, at least for “those who have the resources to buy it,” says Messina. She says consumers who feel more confident about the economy are spending more on a bottle than over the past decade. She has seen more purchases in the $15 to $25 range this season; earlier in the year, $15 was the cutoff on the high end.
• Varietals and regions from all over the world, and not just California or France. Because, as near as anyone can tell, the trend is that no one thing is especially trendy this year. Which fits into the adventurous theme.
• But adventure only goes so for, says Wally Plahutnik of John’s Grocery in Iowa City. “People will be adventurous for themselves, but they want a safe bet for gifts,” he says. “And that means name recognition, the cachet that the big names bring.” In other words, this could be the most profitable holiday season in 10 years for the best-known Napa Valley producers.
• Accessories, but as gifts from non-wine drinkers to their wine drinking friends. That’s because they’re scared to buy their wine-drinking friends a bottle that the friends may not like, says Plahutnik. In fact, no one I talked to said they thought accessory sales would be any bigger this season than in any other, despite the push I’m seeing from accessory manufacturers. I’ve been overwhelmed with releases about everything from wine chillers to wine stoppers from manufacturers who see the reviving economy as their best opportunity in a decade.
Thanksgiving wine suggestions from around the Internet:
• Keeping it simple: From Real Simple, part of the Martha Stewart magazine empire, “affordable” wines for Thanksgiving. And who says we’re not making progress on the cheap wine front? The recommendations include so many wines that I’ve reviewed here that I think the author may have visited the blog once or twice. They include Gruet sparkling (though the article says it’s New Mexico, which hasn’t been true for years); the Pine Ridge chenin blanc blend (and can the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame be just seven weeks away?); and the Sicilian Planeta red. One caveat: This is a dated post, despite its high Google position, and some of the wines listed will be hard to find.
• Surprisingly simple: From Forbes, which offers mostly affordable wine, including too many that aren’t all that good. Still, one of the world’s great wine values, the $12 Acrobat pinot gris, is included. Equally as bizarre — the $10 Handcrafted chardonnay, about as simple as chardonnay from a Big Wine producer gets, is next to the $60 Sea Smoke, a 14.9 percent California monster with 16 months of oak and a critical darling. The only thing those two wines have in common is that they have grapes in them.
• Never simple: From Eric Asimov at the New York Times, whose annual Thanksgiving column, which I always enjoy, is not unlike the Passover Seder scene from “Annie Hall” — lots of arguing between people who mostly agree about they’re arguing about. His choices include a $14 white Loire from Fournier Pere et Fils, made with sauvignon blanc that I’d love to try. But I’ve never seen in a store and Wine-Searcher,com says it’s only available from east coast retailers. The rest, as delicious as they sound, seem to be as New York-centric as the Fournier.