Finding Great Wines During the Holidays

It’s no secret that the holidays are expensive and that’s why we all shop for “holiday deals”. Not surprisingly, at this time of the year, I am often asked: Are there any deals in fine wine, and if so, how do I find them? Thankfully, the answer is Yes! But like all good deals, you need to look beyond the obvious. 

1.  Avoid the Crowds: If you generally purchase wines that just received 96 points by the “hottest” wine critics, you will always pay full price and then some. If you want to find a deal, look for a wine that isn’t on the critics’ radar, but recommended by someone you trust.

2.  Explore the World: If you always buy wines in your comfort zone, you will never really experience what the wine world has to offer. Many of the most affordable and delicious wines come from producers and places you might not have considered. And I am not talking about Cabernet Gernischt from Ningxia, China; there are fantastic values to be found in places like the Loire Valley or Alsace in France. For example, a Crémant de Loire or Alsace (sparkling wines from these regions) are made in exactly the same manner as their better-known neighbor in Champagne, but at fraction of the price, and they are delicious!

3.  Consider Ingredients: Wine, like any crafted food item, is made from ingredients of varying costs. Grapes are obviously the primary ingredient, but oak barrels – particularly new oak barrels – can add considerable expense to a bottle of wine. Why is this? New oak barrels can cost between $400 and $1200 each, and if only used once, add tremendous expense to the wine inside the barrel. To find wines with “lower oak profiles” ask a knowledgable sales associate at a wine shop. They will understand, and you might even find that you enjoy the “purity of fruit” and “taste of terrior” not unduly influenced by the flavor of new oak.  

— Mark Cartland, Wine Director, Greens Restaurant