As more and more Americans enjoy wine, giving wine as a gift has also grown in popularity. As usual there is the feeling that you need to spend a lot if the wine is to be appreciated. This absolutely should not be the case! With a little thought and a sense of adventure you can find a tremendous number of interesting wines which will awaken the curiosity of even the most demanding of palate. And they won’t break the bank.
Here's a guide to affordable, interesting, and adventurous white and sparkling wines for those hard-to-please palates on your gift list.
My first suggestion to you is that this is the time to go to the specialist wine store, rather than the supermarket, as here you can find wonderful wines from smaller producers that don’t cost the earth. Once again, I repeat my mantra, “seek out the lesser known wine regions” (think Southern Italy and Sicily, Portugal, Spain, Greece, South Africa and Argentina).
And ask for advice! Most specialist stores have knowledgeable staff that will be delighted to help you find something interesting and good value.
With this in mind, over the past six months I have been keeping notes of little gems that would make perfect holiday gifts, and for all budgets, from stocking fillers to special gifts. To make it easy, I have broken the wines down into four price categories.
This week I am focusing on sparkling and white wines. Next week it will be reds and dessert and fortified wines.
Whilst Champagne does not come in for less than $25, remember it doesn’t have to be Champagne to be delightful. There is a great array of alternative sparkling wines to choose from.
$15 and under
• 2007 Lini Labrusca Bianco, IGT Emilia Romagna, $15 - White Lambrusco? This is a perfect party sparkler. Made from 100% Lambrusco Salamino (the top clone of the Lambrusco grape variety).
• 2003 Juve y Camps Brut, Reserva Familia, $14 – This is one of my favorite Cavas. From the Penèdes area in Spain. It is a blend of the classic Cava grapes Macabeu, Xarello and Parellada. Great as an apéritif or with lighter first courses
• Prosecco, Frozza NV , $13 - From Italy, Prosecco is such a great holiday choice, and easy on the wallet. Pretty, aromatic and easy drinking.
$15 - $20
• Trevor Jones Sparkling Red NV $18 – Want to try something different? Then how about an Aussie sparkling red? A little off dry, it is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. Serve lightly chilled.
• Yarden Brut - NV, $18.99 – From the Golan Heights winery in Israel, this very elegant traditional method sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is wonderful as a festive treat, to start the party going, or with first courses and fish.
• Roederer Estate NV , Anderson Valley $18 – I always come back to this Californian sparkling wine, as it represents such great value. One of my all time favorites.
• Pol Roger Champagne NV, Brut Reserve $33 – Pol Roger, has always been a classic Champagne. Medium bodied, with fine elegant bubbles. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
• Louis Roederer NV Brut $39 – For over 20 years this Champagne has been one of my top favorites. In fact, it was while studying in Lyon, in the 1980’s that I first encountered Champagne Louis Roederer. A classic blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. A little more full bodied than the Pol Roger. Drink it on its own or continue with it at the table. It can go through first courses to poultry, veal or fish dishes.
• 2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine $35 – For me the Davies family and Schramsberg are synonymous with top quality Californian sparkling wine. Made from 100% Pinot Noir (hence the Blanc de Noir – White wine from black grapes – style). More full bodied and riper fruit character than the two Champagnes.
• Charles Heidsieck NV Brut Reserve $40 – As remarkable as ever for a NV Champagne. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Amazing depth and flavor that just lingers, and delights the palate. While, it makes a wonderful apéritif, this Champagne is certainly up for the first and second course.
• Bollinger NV Special Cuvée Brut, $45 – What a treat! Complex, with layers and layers of toasty flavors. A very special occasion Champagne.
• 2007 Apremont, Pierre Boniface $13 - from the little known Apremont region in Savoie (South East France), this wine is really pretty. Made from the local Jacquere grape, it is dry but extremely fruity. A great and unusual crowd pleaser.
• 2006 Grillo "Parlante," Fondo Antico $14 – A dry white from Sicily and made from the indigenous Grillo grape. Fruity enough to drink on its own but more suited to the table, where it can handle roast chicken, veal chop or salad of roasted beets.
• 2007 Arneis, Funtanin, $13 – From Piedmont in Italy, this 100% Arneis wine is dry and light to medium bodied. Great on its own or serve with sautéed shrimp, grilled salmon or mussels.
$15 - $30
• 2007 Albariño, Dona Rosa $18 – From Rias Baixas in Galicia, Spain and made from the Albarino grape. It is such a perfect winter white. Drink it on its own, pair with seafood, or spicy Asian flavors.
• 2007 Taburno Falanghina, Fatt. La Rivolta $21 – From Italy, Falanghina is an ancient indigenous white grape variety that is mostly grown in Campania in the south of Italy. Great acidity, aromas and flavors of citrus and tropical fruits.
• 2006 Sylvaner "Kofererhof", Valle Isarco $18 – made from the Sylvaner grape, that is grown in Alto-Adige in northern Italy. Unoaked it is fresh, crisp, fruity and minerally. This wine works both on its own and pairs well at the table.
• 2006 Louis Michel, Chablis "Montee de Tonnerre" 1erCru $38 – 2006 was a great vintage in Burgundy, and especially in the area of Chablis. Made from Chardonnay, it is packed with crisp fruit, mineral notes and a complex flinty finish.
• 2007 Nikolaihof 2007 Wachau Federspiel Grüner Veltliner Im Weingebirge - $33 – a long name. Biodynamic wine from Nikolaihof. Dry, it is a rich, elegant and complex Grüner Veltliner from the famed Wachau region in Austria.
• 2000 Chateau Musar White, Lebanon $37 – From the most renowned producer in the Lebanon. A blend of the indigenous whites: Obaideh and Merwah - the latter grape is related to the Bordeaux grape Sémillon. A wine to be savored and enjoyed leisurely with food.
• 2005 Condrieu "Les Ravines", Robert Niero $47 - 100% Viognier grapes from the tiny appellation of Condrieu in the Northern Rhone. Dry and complex, with elegant floral notes and a clean minerally finish. Viogneir from Condrieu is much more minerally and less oily, than many of its New World manifestations. While it is drinking now, this wine will certainly improve with more bottle age.
• 2005 Savennières "Clos de la Bergerie", N Joly $50 – Made by ‘Mr Biodynamic’ himself Nicholas Joly. From the small appellation Savennières in the Loire Valley, France. It is 100% Chenin Blanc. Amazing structure. Many of these wines can be austere in youth, needing some years to open up. This wine, is drinking nicely now, but has the potential to improve with age.
2007 Hirsch Kamptal Riesling Gaisberg, $47 - From another renowned region of Austria, Kamptal. This dry Riesling is complex, with layers of fruit and mineral notes. Very long finish. Can be drunk now or will age beautifully.
Stores that carry a great selection of interesting wines include:
• Astor Wines and Spirits (New York)
• K & L Wines (California)
• Chambers Street Wines (New York)
• Harlem Vintage (New York)
• 56 Degree Wines (New Jersey)
• Sherry-Lehmann (New York)
Also, a wonderful resource to help you find a wine is wine searcher, which enables you to find a store in your state that carries a particular wine.
Enjoy the holiday season, enjoy some nice wines and next week I will be giving my holiday gift recommendations for red wines and dessert/fortified style wines.
Until then have a great week!
(Images and shopping links: Wine gift bags at top of post from CB2, $12.50. Wine wrapped in towel for gift giving: James Baigrie for Real Simple. Wine totes: Duo Wine Tote at Fitzsu)