Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a Dallas and Miami-based distributor of beverage alcohol—has some tips for consumers looking to give the gift of wine and spirits over the holidays.
Here are some tips provided by Southern Glazer’s experts, Eric Hemer, Senior Vice President and Director of Wine Education and Brian Van Flandern, Executive Director of Mixology, Spirits Education and Special Events.
For the Holiday Host or Hostess
When attending a holiday party, bring something sparkling to keep things festive.
“You can’t go wrong with Champagne, but there are many more affordable options as well,” says Hemer. “Prosecco, that fun, festive bubbly from northeastern Italy is a great choice, and now Prosecco has its own higher quality production zone: look for the term ‘Superiore’ and initials DOCG on the label. Even better quality for just a few dollars more.”
Guests can also consider gifting a great spirit for sipping at a more laid-back gathering.
“Kentucky Bourbons and Irish Whiskeys are great sipping spirits because of their mellow flavors and smooth character,” says Van Flandern. “Or, to make life easier for your party host, give them a spirit that’s easy to blend in punches so guests can self-serve, this way the host can sit back and relax. When winter has you thinking about holiday spices – from cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg – try a nice spiced rum when making your holiday eggnog or punch blended with a seasonal fruit juices.”
For the Boss
“Bosses like bubbly too, but not everyone can afford Champagne, and Prosecco might be too fun and festive for the boss,” says Hemer. “Fortunately, California and Oregon have numerous high quality sparkling wine houses making wine by the Traditional Method – the same method and grape varieties as in Champagne. These offer a touch of class similar to Champagne, but for less money. Retail prices range from $24 to $30.”
Van Flandern adds, “You can also make a statement with a great spirit. If you want to impress your boss, try a Single Malt Whisky or Fine Cognac. There are excellent 12-year old Scotches for under $100. Or, you can splurge on a premium Single Malt Japanese Whisky to show you’re willing to invest in the best.”
For the Foodie
For the foodie in your life, try giving a wine or spirit that pairs well with a great meal, or that serves as a great aperitif or digestif.
Hemer suggests lighter bodied reds that tend to go well with a wide variety of foods, even fish and fowl.
“One of the most versatile choices is Beaujolais-Villages, a light, fruity red from southern Burgundy in France. For a big step up in quality and a small step up in price, look for wines from the Cru Beaujolais category. Other lighter red wine options include wines made from the Pinot Noir variety, as well as wines from northern Italy such as Barbera, Dolcetto and Valpolicella; Bourgeuil and Chinon from France’s Loire Valley; Mencía from Spain and Blaufrankisch or St. Laurent from Austria.”
Van Flandern explains, “Aperitifs are meant to stimulate the appetite, so the drink should be high in acidity but relatively low in alcohol like dry Sherries or Vermouth’s. A digestif’s main purpose is to help aid in digestion, so a touch of sweetness and a higher alcohol percentage, which you can get with a lovely Cognac, Brandy, Port or sweet Sherry, is welcomed to help your foodie friend settle after a meal.”
For the Adventurer
Wow the explorer looking to expand his or her palate with a gift from an emerging wine region or one of the hottest spirit category trends this year.
“Fortunately, there is a wide range of interesting to never-heard-of before grape varieties and regions available in the U.S. today,” says Hemer. “Unoaked, dry white wines to look for include Furmint from Hungary, Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece, Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc region of France, and Falanghina from Campania, Italy. Red wines include Zweigelt from Austria, Lagrein and Schiava from Trentino, Italy, Carignan (Cariñena) from Languedoc and Spain, and even wines from Georgia and other eastern European countries like Saperavi (Georgia), Mavrud (Bulgaria) and Fetească Neagră (Romania.)”
Van Flandern adds, “A Whiskey lover looking for something new will enjoy being the first person on the block to enjoy a whiskey made from sorghum, an Eastern gluten-free, grain with a rich history in America dating back to the civil war. For those traditionally into Tequila, gift a great bottle of Mezcal. Both spirits are made from the agave plant, but the unique distillation process used to make Mezcal gives it distinct smoky flavor that the adventurous drinker is sure to appreciate.”
For the Wine Snob
“Wine collectors wax euphoric over rare and expensive wines, typically red, that are meant to be laid down and matured in their cellars for extended periods of time,” says Hemer. “Such categories include top quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and ‘Bordeaux Blends,’ Classified Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and others. Retail price ranges on this rarified category start around $100 and keep on rising.”
For the Health Nut
Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable are growing and popular wine categories, and more of these wines are available than ever before.
Hemer comments, “The rub here is that many wineries farm and make wines by these methods, but don’t have official certification on the label. Ask a knowledgeable retailer to identify such wines or look for official certification on the label, such as USDA Certified Made with Organically Grown Grapes, Certified California Organic Farmers (CCOF), Oregon Tilth, Ecocert, Demeter, etc.”
For healthier spirit options, Van Flandern shares, “Blanco (white) Tequilas are lower in calories but taste phenomenal. Pot distilled Vodkas are a wonderful way to enjoy a great vodka with flavor, without worrying about putting on the extra pounds. Low-ABV (alcohol by volume) spirits are another way for consumers to enjoy a great flavorful cocktail without the guilt. Try giving a nice fortified wine such as Fino sherry or dry vermouth, or a lower-proof liqueur such as bitter-sweet Amaro — an Italian liqueur that’s usually less than half as strong as most spirits.”