Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
As Christmas approaches, we’re now at the start of the mad scramble that those among us who are disorganized endure every year. Sure, people we know - elderly mall-going aunts, hyper-organized mothers, friends with way too much time on their hands - have already finished their gift shopping, but those people are annoying. And, they probably got you a sweater anyway.
So, for the lackadaisical, type-B, fun people of the world, how about a few wine gift suggestions? After all, we may be a disorganized bunch, but we do know how to improve a party.
For the dinner party host
The perfect choice here is good-quality sparkling wine. First, the recipients won’t feel obliged to serve it with dinner. Second, they can easily regift it if they want. Third, if the person does drink it, they’ll be psyched. American sparkling wine producers tend to use the same grape varieties and winemaking techniques as those used in Champagne, but even though the quality is nearly (or equally) as high, prices are a good notch lower. One of the best is the clean, crisp Roederer Estate Brut NV ($22); another is the green-apple-accented Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut NV ($25).
For the boss you need to impress
Here’s where the real Champagne comes in. Basic brut, non-vintage Champagnes will run you $30 to $50, depending on the house and where you’re buying it. Everyone recognizes the top producers’ names, which is key when giving a gift meant to impress; plus, the stuff is just festive by nature (and by dint of long-term, very smart marketing on the part of the champenoise). A couple of great options: Moet & Chandon Imperial NV ($39) is appealingly toasty, with a nice white peach character. For a bit more of a splurge (or for a Bond-fanatic boss), look for the Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut NV ($55), a richer and more complex wine, which, of course, is Mr. Bond’s favorite form of fizz.
For a budding wine geek (whether friend or significant other)
Choose something with a little age on it. One of the most fascinating aspects of wine, particularly when one is first becoming obsessed with it, is the remarkable transformation that good wine undergoes over time. It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune to find a wine with some age on it, as some regions hold back their best wines until they’re ready to drink - for instance, Rioja, with its gran reservas. These are required by law to be aged two years in barrel and then a further three in bottle (and many bodegas hold them back even longer). A couple of fine examples to seek out are the 2004 Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva ($25), which has silky cherry and vanilla flavors; even older (and still in the market) is the 2001 Bodegas Ontañon Rioja Gran Reserva ($35), which is settling into an evocative, tobacco-and-dried fruit zone.
For a Secret Santa gift (under $15)
There’s almost always a budget on Secret Santa gifts, and that’s a fine thing. Otherwise you’d draw someone with direct control over whether you’re going to get promoted next year, and would suddenly feel obliged to shell out a wad of twenties for who knows what. For the under-$15 limit, though, wine is a great choice (provided the recipient isn’t a teetotaler or pregnant). Some of the best values come from southern Italy, such as the juicy, luscious 2010 Cusumano Nero D’Avola ($13) from Sicily, or the plummy 2010 Castello Monaci Primitivo Salento Pilùna ($12) from Puglia. (In general, these two grape varieties - Nero D’Avola and Primitivo - are reliable go-to wines for folks who like affordable, rich reds.)
For the hipster in your life
PBR. A six-pack. I mean, of course. You could put a nice bow on top too - but nah, that wouldn’t reveal your knowing sense of ironic cool.
More from Food & Wine:
America’s Best Bars
Best New Places to Drink Wine
Holiday Wine Guide
Gifts for Wine Lovers
Ultimate Christmas Recipes
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My friends got me addicted to drinking wine. Now I refused to take anything as a gift except a good wine lol. One of my friends bought me a wine caddy last year. I thought it was so cute so I had to buy more. I got my wine caddies from http://www.worldtohome.com/professional-metal-wine-caddys.aspx
Amazing issues here. I am very glad to see your article. Thank you so much and I'm having a look forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?
Tea Party Patriots prefer to drink Everclear. Then they head back to the trailer park to boink their cousins.
Really? You're going to unnecessarily bring politics into a food article? How boring your life must be if you consider that a good and helpful use of your time.
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