For me, it’s pretty easy to pick out a bottle, as I spend my entire year tasting wines, thinking up recipes, cooking for guests and pairing wines with their meals. All of these things provide me with the feedback I need to know what my clients like. What’s more, this year has been full of new experiences for me. My work with Morrell Wine Company has opened my eyes to new regions and wines I had never thought to try, and I’m happy to be sharing many of them with you now.
When the time came to create this list, I wanted to make sure that I could touch on a gift for every kind of wine lover. You can find something here for the beginner, the adventurer, the enthusiast, The Francophile, the hedonist and the collector. I also wanted to focus on value versus relative value. I love bargains on great wines, but I also love wines that drink great but cost less than what I’d expect to pay.
The fact is, wine lovers want wine as gifts, (I know I do) but giving wine as a gift can be a minefield full of letdowns. So I hope to take a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. Each of the wines below are available now, and this list can help you find that great bottle in time for the Holidays.
And so, on to the wines:
The Beginner (Just getting started and brimming with anticipation)
Chianti Classico has come a long way, and it’s an easy bridge wine for the beginner because of its name recognition. However, there’s a big difference between the pizza pallor wine of yesteryear and this recommendation. The 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico ($23) is a fantastic wine for the money. This is a Chianti which will thrill the newbie and enthusiast alike.
A great Chablis is a captivating and detailed wine, which is perfect with a variety of foods. However, good Chablis can cost a pretty penny. Imagine how happy I was when I stumbled upon this. The 2013 Domaine Costal Chablis Les Truffières ($33) is a fantastic wine at an unbelievable price. If you told me it cost twice as much, I’d still recommend it.
There’s no better way to please the enthusiasts than with a wine steeped in details, and Riesling is a great grape to get lost in. The 2011 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel ($89) was one of my highest-scoring wines of the year and an amazing relative value. This Austrian beauty set me off on a hunt to understand this region better.
There’s nothing like reading one of the back labels on a Ridge Zinfandel. This winery has been a favorite of mine for years now, with some of the best Zins coming out of California. Don’t look for over-the-top here; these are about elegance and details. They also do great in the cellar. Show someone what Zinfandel is truly capable of with the 2012 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Geyserville ($40).
If obscurity is their thing, then the 2010 G.D. Vajra Langhe Freisa Kyè ($44) will do the trick. This little-known cousin of Nebbiolo makes wild, alpine-styled wines. However, G.D. Vajra has taken it to another level entirely. Not to mention, with the critical acclaim this wine has been receiving, it won’t be long before its tiny production disappears.
If you know someone who loves crisp, acid-driven white wine with a mineral kick, then you must consider the 2011 F.X. Pichler Gruner Veltliner Durnsteiner Liebenberg Smaragd ($65). Gruner Veltliner is gaining in popularity, yet still remains relatively obscure. It’s amazing how good these are and how few people know about them. This is certainly a wine to meditate to as it opens up in the glass.
At $74, this must be one of the best values in vintage Champagne. Next to some pretty stiff competition, the 2006 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne ($74) wowed me at a recent tasting.
In many ways, this was the year that I truly fell in love with Champagne, and one of the eye-opening experiences for me was the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($129). In the 2004 vintage, this champagne is to die for. Drink it now for sheer enjoyment, or watch it age for decades in the cellar.
When you consider the competition, the 2007 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella TB ($125) is a top-shelf wine at an amazing price. This Amarone is in the league with Quintarelli and Dal Forno yet costs a fraction of the price. Amarone makes for an amazing gift, and is also a prefect wine for celebrations.
This wine may not be for the faint of heart, but it certainly fits the category of liquid pleasure. While I didn’t score it 97 points, like the Wine Advocate, you have to give credit where it’s due. If ripe and racy Syrah is your thing, then the 2010 Jonata La Sangre de Jonata Syrah ($129) will fit the bill.
Talk about relative value, and a wine you could cellar for decades. The 2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Rioja ($52) is the perfect gift for the collector, enthusiast and adventurer alike. Rioja remains a category which doesn’t receive half the respect it deserves, and you benefit from it by not having to pay a premium. These can be opened now with a long decant, or you can put them away for the long haul.
While everyone is looking to 2010 Barolo, I can’t help but look back at 2008. The 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia is selling for almost $250 (in the rare occasions that it pops up), yet the 2008 (another classic vintage) sells for much less. If you are looking for the perfect gift for that collector in your life, this is your wine: 2008 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia ($175).
It’s very easy to spend a lot of money to please the Burgundy lover, but this one won’t break the bank. Michel Magnien has a portfolio of high-end Grand cru Burgundy, but you don’t need to go to the top for a great experience. The 2011 Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots ($69) really impressed me recently, as my notes included the statement “utterly gorgeous!”
Great Bordeaux is never cheap, but if you’re willing to do a little homework, you can find some wonderful gems at very good prices. The 2009 Château Pape Clément ($175) is a perfect example. At a recent Cabernet tasting, this was the wine that stopped everyone in their tracks. At $175, this may not be a wine you open often, but for the true collector of Bordeaux, this is a great wine for the money. It’s something I’d love to find under the Christmas tree.
One of the best values in Italian wine right now are the entry-level Barolo of the top producers. You simply can’t go wrong here. The 2010 Vietti Barolo Castiglione ($49) is a classic in the making. All the critics agree, and this wine has my seal of approval as well. If you could only buy one Barolo from the 2010 vintage, this should be it.
I’m certainly not the first person to sing praises about this wine, and I won’t be the last. The 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Del Sorbo ($89) is one of the up-and-coming stars in Tuscany. While so many Italophiles were looking to Brunello for great Sangiovese, they missed the fact that some of the best that Tuscany had to offer was right in Chianti Classico. This wine has been getting better and better with every vintage, and in 2010, it’s simply stunning. It also happens to be a great relative value.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I understand that it can be intimidating to buy a bottle of wine for someone who spends most of their free time obsessing over it. However, the perfect gift may be right under your nose. Zalto glasses have gained tremendous popularity over the last couple of years, and I myself have joined its following of devotees. Zalto is one of the most elegant glasses you will ever hold in your hand. Each one seems as light as a feather, yet the real attraction is how perfectly they allow the bouquet of each wine sing true. If you’re really unsure, go for the Zalto Universal Glass ($60). However, if you know your gift recipient well, the Bordeaux ($62), Burgundy ($64) or White wine ($58) glasses may be the best way to go.
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido