One of the most popular presenters at Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic, Mark Oldman returns to the event this fall—his 15th appearance—to lead two seminars: “Wines for Quintillionaires” and “Getaway in a Glass: Wines of the Mediterranean.”
An author of several wine books, including his latest, How to Drink Like a Billionaire, Oldman is known for breaking down the barriers to the world of wine with humor and entertainment, making an often intimidating subject approachable and fun. When the pandemic prevented him from hosting live events, he stayed put in Manhattan, bought a special Zoom license (to increase his virtual audience to 500) and pivoted his wine tastings online. He also launched Bevinars, a new platform that brings wine education and entertainment into people’s home (participants purchase wines from wine.com to taste alongside him). It was an immediate hit. Oldman listened to his audience about what they wanted to sip and learn.
“In general, most people want to drink like a billionaire without paying like one,” says Oldman. “People really wanted to learn about excellent values and how to outsmart the system of vertiginous wine pricing.” Oldman has a knack for finding functional substitutes—he’ll feature a $30 stand-in, or a “stunt double” as he says, for a $200 wine.
In another tasting, he’ll pit celebrity wines against each other. “Americans love rankings, wine and celebrities, so the combo of these three things rippled far and wide,” says Oldman. When Sting’s Il Palagio wine did so well, he mentioned the Bevinar results on the air during an interview with Jimmy Fallon last fall.
Wine pro Mark Oldman, who will present at this year’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, passes along his tips for exceptional summer white wines and chillable reds.
But, says Oldman, nothing can take the place of a live event.
“There’s a certain bristling energy in the room—a tennis ball-like synergy that just builds and builds—that I miss so much,” he says. “In the Aspen audience, there’s an unmatched combination of enthusiasm and knowledge. It’s as if there’s nowhere else any of us would rather be.”
Until Oldman toasts the crowd in September, he suggests trying some of Napa’s hidden whites and worldwide chillable reds this summer. Oldman says oenophiles needn’t get precise with seasonal pairings, but these wines are attuned to summer eating—they pair well with light food, and they help celebrate the relaxed attitude of the season. “They reinforce our sense of summer and are a way to celebrate what’s been a difficult year,” he says. “Both of these hidden whites and chillable reds are easy, refreshing transitions to normalcy.”
Napa is known for its red wines, but Oldman says many will be completely charmed and enthralled by Napa’s lesser-known whites. “Napa can really perform miracles on sauvignon blanc grapes,” he says. “Rather than acidic, these will be more fruit-forward with rounded edges, but still very crisp. Like bringing a friend to a dinner party everyone will love.” Fantastic, high-end bottles include Lail Vineyards Georgia, Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc and Kenzo Estate Winery.
Oldman also recommends viognier—rich and tropical with this garden fragrance, but very dry. It’s truly a hidden white. His suggestions for this varietal include Darioush, Clif Family Winery and Krupp Brothers Winery.
When reds are cooled, the effect sharpens their flavors, cools off the alcohol’s heat and increases its refreshment factor. “I suggest 20 minutes in an ice box or 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge,” says Oldman. “At a restaurant, ask them to shock the bottle for 10 minutes—it’s a pro move. Even dropping an ice cube into a straightforward red is absolutely acceptable—I don’t have dilution anxiety. You’re not doing this with a big, rich, tannic wine like a Napa cab or a Bordeaux—these reds will become bitter. You’re looking for reds that are light to medium body and sometimes a little richer without a lot of tannic bitterness.”
Oldman’s picks for chillable reds include these Oregon pinot noirs: Bethel Heights Vineyard, Domaine Drouhin and Cristom Vineyards. From New Zealand, he recommends Mt. Difficulty, Matua and Innocent Bystander.
Photography by: PHOTO BY MATHILDE LANGEVIN/UNSPLASH, MARK OLDMAN, DOUGLAS LOPEZ/UNSPLASH