Inevitably there is one person on your Christmas list who a.) you’ve procrastinated buying for because they are ridiculously picky; b.) you completely forgot you needed to get something for; c.) got you something, and now you have to reciprocate. Never fear: unless they’re a teetotaler (which should have you questioning why you’re friends with them in the first place), wine is the best gift to give. For $15 you can get someone a solid bottle that will taste delicious if it’s opened with the Christmas goose this week. If you have a little more to spend, you can get a bottle for $25-$30 that will have you looking like a wine connoisseur. Better still, if you play your cards right, the person can age the wine for 3 to 5 years, and hopefully they’ll wait to open it until you come over to their house for dinner! It’s like a present for you and for them.
But what to buy? There are amazing deals on wine right now, and if you are looking for something in the $25-$30 range, you can get bottles that are good today and will be lights-out in about 3 to 5 years. Wines that are sure to impress and age gracefully come from many places, but Europe’s got a treasure trove for age-able goodness, and it’s my pick for the best place to look. So for $25-$30…
France • For a big, complex, age-able red try a Bordeaux, specifically from the Medoc, Graves, or Pommerol. 2005 was a historically amazing vintage and 2006 was pretty great, too, so look for those years on the bottle. • Premier Cru from Burgundy will be amazing in a few years. Go for a red (Pinot Noir) with earthy, velvety flavors, or a white (Chardonnay) that has solid acidity yet creamy, tropical fruit, and butterscotch flavors as it gets older. • The Northern Rhône makes delicious Syrah that tastes like dark fruit, herbs, and meat (no joke)—look for Crozes-Hermitage, which is affordable and terrific.
Italy • Italy makes some darn fine wine. The best stuff is red and it’s expensive. Forgo the Barolo for its little, softer sister, Barbaresco—a delicious choice that will stretch your buck.
Spain • Or try Spain and go for a Rioja Reserva, which has been aged for 3 years by the time you get it, but can stand another 3 to 5 more in the bottle. This baby will be full of spice, leather, and complex earthy flavors when you pair it with tapas.
California • Napa Cabernet can be unreliable for long-term aging, but to drink in the next few years you can get great wines right now at bargain prices. Take advantage of the bad economy and get a steal from Napa’s Stags Leap District.
Dessert Wines • Finally, if your friend or family member likes sweet wines, go for a 10-year old Tawny Port from Portugal, or an Eiswein from Germany or Canada.
Think about who you have in mind and take care of that shopping now! Happy Holidays.
Elizabeth Schneider is a Certified Specialist of Wine, Sommelier, and wine educator in Atlanta who teaches about wine in a normal, relatable way. For more of her musings please visit her blog Wine for Normal People http://winefornormalpeople.blogspot.com/ or her Twitter @Vine75.
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