Choosing the appropriate wines to serve at your holiday gathering is crucial for the success of your celebration. Sometimes, however, determining your menu can really be a challenge, especially when it comes to libations. In this interview, Brett Zimmerman of Boulder Wine Merchant offers great advice for hosting an exceptional party.
Can you suggest a few top wine picks for this holiday season?
Since most American wine drinkers require a reason to drink Champagne, I would like to make the answer to this question really easy. I am selecting three outstanding grower produced Champagnes to consider for the holiday season.
- Roses de Jeanne ‘Cote de Val Vilaine’ Blanc de Noirs Brut, Côtes des Bars
- Cedric Bouchard is the producer of these extraordinary wines from Champagne. They are all organically produced and selected from meticulously tended vines. Dry, pristine, and focused.
- Agrapart & Fils ‘Terroirs’ Extra Brut, Avize
- For anyone who loves the 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Champagne, this is the perfect offering. Agrapart produces wines from the best Grand Cru sites in the Cotes des Blancs. Crisp apple, brioche, toast, and nuts.
- Bérêche et Fils Reflet d’Antan Brut
- Raphael Bérêche is a super talented winemaker producing wines with profound complexity and depth. This Reflet d’Antan is a combination of vintage wine that is blended with a portion of juice that is aged in Solera, similar to the way Sherry wines are produced. The style combines bright acidity with a voluptuous texture on the palate.
What entrées or hors d’oeuvres would you recommend serving with those “top picks”?
One of the reasons I choose Champagne as a match for hors d’oeuvres is for the general diversity these wines have with respect to food pairing. The bright, lifted acidity and effervescence works beautifully with a wide array of food flavors and styles. Not to mention, the wines are delicious as a celebratory cocktail, as well. These Champagne wines are also rich and complex enough to pair with savory entrées. The Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs would be amazing with duck, pork, or veal.
Can you offer some advice for the hosts and hostesses this season, in terms of variety and knowing how much to buy, etc?
I am a big fan of starting with something sparkling when people arrive. It is festive and generally pairs well with appetizers. In the alternative, I might suggest a fun cocktail that has holiday flair. It is relatively easy to batch the drink in advance and simply assemble the cocktail when your guests arrive. As a general rule, we suggest one drink per guest per hour. That said, you might have to adjust up or down based on the type of event or specific group of people. If you have a friendly retail store like the Boulder Wine Merchant, we are always happy to take returns if you happen to buy too much product.
What are a few of your go-to tips for buying great wine?
Ask for recommendations. As a staff, we work hard to taste as many wines as we can and pride ourselves on developing our education and palate in order to help guide our customers. We do our best to offer thoughtful suggestions in any price category. If you are in a hurry and just need something easy and reasonably priced, I would recommend checking out our monthly newsletter. We put a ton of time and effort into finding delicious seasonal selections that offer great value for our customers, and these wines are delicious and approachable.
The monthly wine club sounds like it would be a great gift for someone who “has everything”. Can you tell us more about it?
The monthly wine clubs are very popular this time of the year. We have a variety of clubs that should fit most budgets. If you are feeling like splurging and have a serious wine collector in the family, you could consider signing up for Somm’s Locker. This is a small, select group of wine collectors that allow me to purchase wines for them on a monthly basis. The focus of the wines selected is rare, hard-to-acquire wines from the greatest producers around the world. We will consult with the customer and assess any current cellar that they may have. The goal is to help develop and enhance the collecting experience for people. We generally ask that people commit to $500 per month, but most of our members are at the $1000 mark.
Do you have any suggestions for someone who doesn’t know much about wine, but would like to purchase for a wine lover?
Find regions of the world that generally offer quality and value. I like areas such as: Rioja, Côtes, du Rhône, Germany, Puglia in Italy, and Beaujolais. Within these regions, look for producers who make wines organically or biodynamically. This is usually a good indication that the producer spends time in the vineyards and in the cellar making great wine.
What “wine gift” would you suggest for the collectors – what type of wine & why?
For a serious collector it is usually a good idea to stick with something blue chip and age worthy. Regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany, Piedmont, and Napa Valley all fall into this category. From there we can always help people find a great producer or vintage that will impress even the most discerning of collectors.
If you are feeling adventurous, you could consider a delicious bottle of wine from a lesser known region or producer as a fun gift. Have our sales people suggest something fun from Austria, Greece, Jura, or small region in Italy. We love turning people on to new and different wines that will hopefully broaden the scope of what people drink.
Tell us about this month’s wine specials.
Generally speaking we do our best to offer wines that are under $15 for our monthly newsletter, but December is a time that we open up a few selections to reflect outstanding wines that offer value, but are simply at a higher price point. It is fun to include wines like the 2014 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Blanc in the newsletter for $29.99. This is top quality Chardonnay from one of Puligny-Montrachet’s finest producers. The depth and complexity of this fantastic value White Burgundy far exceeds its price.
Do you have any holiday events coming up that we should know about?
We will be featuring a rare opportunity to taste the exclusive wines of Champagne Krug. Together with the new Food Lab location on East Pearl, we are hosting a food and wine tasting on December 22nd from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. Tickets are $75 per person (all inclusive) and can be purchased by calling the Boulder Wine Merchant at (303) 443-6761. There are only a few seats remaining!
How can our readers get in touch with you if they have any other questions?
People can always contact me at the store at (303) 443-6761. I am also available on Twitter @brzimmerman or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Instagram is @boulderwinemerchant.