We all know that the holidays can be a little stressful, especially when it comes to the question of what gifts to give. While some are a bit easier than others thanks to some hints or blatant reminders (need to get wife iPhone 4S and my son any Wii game with sports action), it's often the little gifts that can cause the most angst. So let me just say you can never go wrong with the gift of wine. You never know, it might even help you get through the holidays...
If you need that perfect gift that is easy on the budget, there are two wines that are joyful, absolutely delicious and great for serving at parties.
- Indaba Chardonnay, South Africa 2010: Ripe red apple flavors are framed by a hint of oak and an easy finish.
- Monte Oton Garnacha Campo de Borja-Spain 2009
I'm often asked what a master sommelier would serve with his holiday meal. This year, I'm taking a Spanish bent. We'll begin with an easy drinking Cava (Spain's affordable answer to Champagne), move to a unique dry white produced in Malaga from the Muscat grape and finish the evening with a Rioja to go with our perennial rib roast:
- Marques de Gelida Cava-Spain: This has more in common with Champagne than your average sparkling. I love serving it immediately when our guests arrive and with appetizers as it puts everyone in a party mood and the price is easy on the budget!
- Botani Muscat, Malaga-Spain: This unique vintage comes from vineyards on the side of slate mountains where every step of the wine-growing process is done by hand. The Botani is spicy and crisp, and is fabulous with appetizers and seafood.
- Muga, Prado Enea, Rioja 2004: A perfectly aged red wine from the Tempranillo grape that marries the power of a big Cabernet with the silkiness of a Pinot Noir. All that with an earthy, terroir finish that is Spain in a glass.
If you need a gift for the favorite gourmet or wine aficionado on your list, one of the wines below can be found at your area wine store and is sure to let them know you care
- Hirsch Gruner Veltliner #1 2010: Every wine-geek loves Gruner Veltliner and what is better than a gift you can call Gru Vee!? Seriously, this is the world's least known great white wine and can be found at a wide range of prices (and complexity).
- Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Valpolicella -Italy 2007: Valpolicella has been going through a rebirth over the last 15 years and tasty, medium-bodied reds now abound. Ask for one that has gone through the Ripasso process, which supercharges the bright fruit flavors and earthy tannins. A plus is that you can find great ones like the Allegrini PtD for around $20.
Whether it's your co-worker, broker, boss or best friend who has been really good to you this year, consider giving him or her a California Cabernet from a string of great vintages: 2007, 2008 & 2009. Some of my favorites are Staglin, Spottswoode, Lewis, Fisher or Shafer.
Finally, I have some recommendations for that extra special someone. When I look back over the last 30 years of tasting wines, my first trip to South Africa and where I tasted De Toren Fusion V stands out as a milestone. I had tasted through over 300 wines in less than 10 days during that trip, but this was the one that I knew was destined for superstardom. It is a blend of the five Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petite Verdot). It is made by Albie Koch with the help of the owner, Emil den Dulk, who are both fanatical about quality (and the fact that great wine is made in the vineyard and not so much in the winery). When I walked into the winery that afternoon with a severe case of palate fatigue, it just took one taste and I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
Now, 12 vintages later, their wines have stood the test of time and have only gotten better. The De Toren Fusion V is the perfect mix of new world smoothness and old world structure -- as if one blended the best of Bordeaux with the best of Napa Valley. It is world class and while it has steadily gone up in price, it is still a bargain (for world class Cabernet) at around $50 a bottle. De Toren also makes a Merlot-based wine called De Toren Z that is just as spectacular as the Fusion V... and it is easier to find!
I hope I've inspired some gift ideas for everyone on your list, or maybe a little gift for yourself. Wishing you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and a fantastic New Year!