Whenever I see a magnum from one of my favorite producers, I almost always buy it without a second thought. That’s because I host a Christmas dinner party with my extended family every year, and we go through around a dozen standard-size bottles over the course of the night. Hosting a party like this is a serious challenge–not only do you need to make sure there’s enough wine to go around, but you also have to choose those wines carefully so that they appeal to everyone’s diverse tastes. It took my family and me a number of years to refine our Christmas wine list, but we have finally come up with the perfect combination of wines that make everyone in the family happy.
For much of my life, New Year’s Eve celebrations revolved around dancing, fireworks, and flutes of Champagne. However, in the past few years, I’ve made wine a much bigger part of my holiday celebrations. It all started when I was invited to a friend’s house for a formal New Year’s Eve dinner party. I brought along a magnum of 2001 Ridge Monte Bello to share with everyone. As the night wore on, I noticed that several of the guests had pulled their chairs over to my side of the table hoping for a refill. They’d never had Ridge wine before and wanted to learn more about the producer. This gave me an idea: what if I hosted a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party?
A wine collector I know buys dozens of bottles online around the holiday season, and over the years, he’s become acquaintances with the UPS driver who drops off the packages. They often have conversations about their favorite bottles of wine while he signs for the deliveries. One year, my friend decided to get the UPS driver a Christmas wine basket to show his appreciation for handling the deliveries with such care. He chose three bottles of wine that he thought the driver would enjoy and gave the basket to him during one of his usual deliveries. The driver was thrilled with the unexpected gift and the thought that went into it.
About ten years ago, one of my colleagues was looking for the perfect Champagne gift basket to give to his brother for Christmas. His brother is a huge fan of Dom Pérignon and was particularly fond of the 1998 vintage. After shopping around, my colleague heard about a gift basket at Costco that included a bottle of 1998 Dom Pérignon. By the time he got to the store, though, the baskets were sold out. Rather than buying a different pre-made basket, my colleague decided to make his own version instead. He bought a beautiful Longaberger basket and two bottles of 1998 Dom Pérignon online, then filled the basket with his brother’s favorite snacks. In the end, his brother appreciated the gift that much more, knowing that it had been made with him in mind.
My father loves to drink Pol Roger, especially as Christmas approaches. Starting in early December, he brings a bottle to just about every holiday party and dinner event on his calendar. I’ve seen him drink Pol Roger with everything from festive cheese platters to Christmas ham to gingerbread cookies. No dish is too salty, too sweet, or too hearty for his favorite bottles of Blanc de Blancs and Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
After your first experience with the best Southern Rhône producers, it’s hard not to fill your cellar up with these incredible bottles. One of my colleagues started buying Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Pure in 2004, and she has continued to buy this label ever since. The wine’s fine tannin, elegance, and perfectly ripe fruit flavors draw her back to this producer year after year, and she has also started collecting some of the estate’s other delicious wines, like the Signature label.
Three years ago, I was invited to a New Year’s Eve dinner party with a small group of close friends. I knew that I wanted to bring a bottle of wine, but I was having trouble deciding what type to bring. I assumed that everyone else would be bringing the usual Champagne for New Year’s Eve, so I crossed that off the shortlist. I wanted to choose a wine no one else in the group would think to bring, like New-World Pinot Noir, Riesling, or Torrontés. I eventually decided on a bottle of Rhys Pinot Noir, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for the event. The wine paired beautifully with our food and it was a nice change of pace from the sparkling wine everyone else brought.
Some bottles are destined to make great wine retirement gifts. In a recent discussion on the Wine Berserkers forum, member Andrew Demaree wrote that he gave a bottle of 1997 Montelena to his father to celebrate his recent retirement. To Demaree’s surprise, another forum member responded to his comment saying that he, too, had been given an entire case of the exact same vintage after retiring from his company. Demaree wrote back, “That’s fantastic. They must’ve thought very highly of you!”
A few years ago, I attended a retrospective tasting event of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at a local wine bar. We sampled wines from some of the best years for Napa Cabernet, and it was easy to see which vintages everyone enjoyed the most. The 2007 wines in particular were a huge hit among the crowd. The man sitting next to me gushed over a glass of intense, incredibly complex 2007 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, saying it was one of the best wines he’s ever had. Most of the 2007 wines received similar praise; it was clearly the winning vintage of the night.
The 2018 Napa harvest ended on a high note this fall. Most winemakers across the region are reporting superb grape quality, high yields, and low sugar concentration in the fruit. Hudson Vineyards director Kelly MacLeod says, “This year, it really was a winemaker’s dream. They got to consciously choose exactly what they wanted.” While it’s still too early to tell how these wines will develop over time, all of these factors could result in a collectible, age-worthy vintage. If you’re looking for flavorful New-World wines that are well-balanced with comparatively restrained alcohol, the 2018 vintage may be your dream year, too.
Usually, winemakers in Bordeaux are hesitant to call a vintage superb until all of the grapes have been picked and the wine has finished fermenting. This year, however, winemakers across the region are thrilled with the quality and ripeness of the grapes–they’re already calling the 2018 Bordeaux harvest one of the most successful of the past decade. While it’s still too early to make any definitive predictions about the investment potential of the 2018 vintage, based on the health of the grapes picked so far, you can expect to see plenty of age-worthy, intense wines. This is a vintage that you’ll want to keep a close watch on as it develops over the next few months.
Champagne is home to more than 100 different houses, and each one has its own distinctive style. From Bollinger’s biscuity, full-bodied profile to Gimonnet’s delicate apple flavors, Champagne house styles are incredibly diverse. With so many to choose from, it can be difficult for even experienced collectors to find producers that make wine in the style they most enjoy. Whether you’re starting your collection of top-quality Champagne from scratch or you’re an experienced collector who wants to try new producers, learning about individual Champagne house styles can help you invest in wines that will suit your palate.