The holiday season is the perfect time to explore new wines. Regardless of whether you’re gathering with your loved ones (in the safest manner possible!), meeting with friends virtually over video chat, or spending the holidays by yourself, there is something so special and so fun about cooking a new dish and pairing it with a wine you’ve never tried. We were so excited to chat with Brett Zimmerman of Boulder Wine Merchant to get his wine recommendations. Check out our full interview below. 🍷
If someone wanted to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for a holiday gift, what would you recommend? For red wine drinkers? White?
For the red drinkers out there I would recommend getting into something from the 2016 vintage in Piedmont. Look for the villages of Barolo or Barbaresco and enjoy Nebbiolo at its finest. This is an epic vintage that offers some of the greatest young Piedmont wines I have ever tasted. This vintage has all the stuffing and structure of a great 2010, 2000, or 1990 vintage, but the wines are also approachable today with gorgeous aromatics and supple detail that surrounds the monstrous frame of tannin and acidity.
For the white lovers out there I would definitely consider 2018 White Burgundy. I know it might be a bit of a repetitive suggestion to hear Burgundy coming from my mouth, but this vintage is so good for both now and later. These wines have all of the power and longevity of the 2017 vintage, but also offer a rounder and more voluptuous style upon release, which makes them so unbelievably tasty without further delay. The villages of Meursault, Chassagne, and Puligny are always a treat, but also look for value in the appellations of Chablis, St. Aubin, Santenay, and Beaune. There are plenty of good value treats to appreciate in this fine vintage!
Are there any wines that you find to be more popular than others during the holidays? If so, what do you think makes them so special for the season?
We find that most of our customers reach for a bottle that is delicious and approachable. Especially with the challenges of this year, having something that is tasty, easy to enjoy, and value priced is a good product to have on the shelf. Some of the categories that move the most are Tuscan red wines, Southern Italy, value Spanish wines, Côte du Rhône, Sauvignon Blanc, and lower priced sparkling wines. That said, there are certainly some categories where people splurge. We see an increase in Port sales, fine Armagnac and Cognac, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and luxury Champagne.
What qualities should the average person look for when shopping for wine?
This is a difficult question to answer and could be compared to asking someone for what they look for when shopping for clothing. I think that the time of season and mood has something to do with the wine selection. Once you identify with the general feeling, I like to look for regions that offer history and culture. I love turning people on to the delicious mountain regions of Northern Italy, and Eastern France. There are so many fun red wines that are lighter in color and offer unique and spice and mineral tones. The whites from these areas are refreshing and bright with mountain herbs, honey, and rarely show any wood character. Ultimately, a wine should simply taste good in any variety category or region around the world. A wine should be balanced and offer enjoyment for more than one glass. Lower alcohol and lighter wood use can certainly provide for more refreshing wines that work well as an aperitif or matched with a savory meal.
Would you suggest serving a dessert wine at a holiday party? If so, do you have any bottles that you’d recommend?
I wish more people purchased dessert wines. From a production and collection perspective, these are some of the most exciting wines made on the planet. The right dessert wine can be magical with food and they are always unbelievably complex and layered beyond the richness of sugar weight. There are so many exciting white dessert wines that come from the Sauternes, Barsac, Cadillac, and surrounding regions in Bordeaux. Made using Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon primarily, these wines are luscious with apricot, peach, vanilla, and honey flavors. In a red style, I think Recioto della Valpolicella from the Veneto region in Italy is always good with chocolate and dark berries. In the fortified category, Port and Madeira are my favorites and often overlooked. Madeira is so great and offers a wide range of enjoyment options. It is particularly brilliant with desserts featuring caramel, nuts, and chocolate.
Is there a wine that you find to be underrated? If so, what makes it so special?
The wines of Alsace are so underappreciated. This is one of the greatest regions for white wine in all of Europe. The wines are amazing with food, reasonably priced, and offer world-class complexity. The wines of Marcel Deiss, Trimbach, Weinbach, Zind-Humbrecht, and Andre Ostertag are some of the finest in the region.
If one were to put together a gift basket of wines, which bottles would you recommend including?
We like to start with the style of wine that offers approachability to a wide range of palates. Once we have a few wines, we add some of our olive oils, dried pastas, fresh cheeses, Wagyu steaks, Tenderbelly or River Bear pork products, Blackberry Farm provisions, and perhaps a few jarred sauces or artisan crafted chocolates from around the world. We have a ton of amazing food products to include in gift boxes. We also have some really fun accessories like Coravin wine preservation systems, Zalto glasses from Austria, and beautiful hand-crafted wine bottle cradles from Portae!
Last year, you mentioned that local Colorado distilleries have taken off in the last few years. Are there any new local spirits that you’ve enjoyed recently?
We love to support the local Colorado distilleries. There are some great products coming from the mountains starting with Woody Creek, just outside of Aspen. The Boulder Wine Merchant selected our own barrel of whiskey from them that we are offering through the holidays. In addition, Breckenridge distillery is producing some great spirits at 9,600 feet in altitude. 10th Mountain in Vail has a nice selection of Colorado whiskey and 291 in Colorado Springs has an awesome Rye product that we have enjoyed offering at the store. In Denver, one of our favorites is Law’s – they specialize in whiskey and have a delicious range of barrel aged products.