At this time of year, many wine sellers create elaborate promotional displays, hold special tastings and suggest gift wines galore. As you head out to buy your holiday wines, you may find yourself thinking along the lines of, "I'm shopping on a budget. How do I know which wines will offer the best value and still pair well with my holiday menu choices?"
To help answer this all-important question, IntoWine.com consulted with a panel of wine experts from around the U. S. and asked them to recommend best-value red and white wines for this holiday season.
Gary Vaynerchuk, Director of Operations, Wine Library, Springfield, New Jersey, and star of Wine Library TV, looks to France and Argentina for his recommendations. "Red and white wines from the South of France are absolute steals and can make great party wines now that it's holiday season," Vaynerchuk says, adding, "The Paradou wines are some of my favorites, with an insanely delicious Viognier for $11 and a smooth and easy drinking Grenache for $11 as well. This winery is one of those undiscovered gems in the South of France from a region that doesn't get much love, but makes some killer value wines!"
Vaynerchuk continues, "South American reds are really lighting up the scene, especially Malbecs from Argentina. The $13 Maipe Malbec Reserva is a Malbec with character, with delicious dark fruit notes, some mocha latte, and a super smooth finish."
Todd Brentnall, CSW, Wine Manager, Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, Maryland, has several best-value suggestions for your holiday table.
"For all of our Earth-friendly buyers, [I recommend] Château Gaillard Touraine Blanc 2009. Organic, biodynamic and sustainably-farmed Sauvignon Blanc from France, light and crisp with excellent minerality. Lemon curd and stone notes follow through on the crisp acidity. $12.99," he says. Brentnall also suggests Airlie Estate Pinot Gris 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon. "Strong floral notes, lychee and peach notes bring a long citrus finish, perfect for Turkey Day. $15.99," Brentnall says.
For red wine recommendations, Brentnall, too, turns to France and Argentina as well as to Tuscany. First, he suggests Carlos Basso "Dos Fincas" Cabernet/Malbec 2009, Valle de Uco, Argentina. Brentnall says, "From a long-standing Italian family that moved to Argentina in the early 20th century, this wine has dark black berry and cherry flavors; it's rich ripe and round, and excellent value. $10.99."
For Old-World value, Brentnall recommends Domaine de la Solitude Côtes du Rhône 2009, Rhone Valley, France. From one of the most historic houses in Rhône (albeit not very well known)," says Brentnall, "this great Côtes du Rhône over-delivers with a delicate yet intense red berry fruit, spice and a slightly spicy finish. $14.99."
Brentnall also recommends Villa di Zano Maremma Toscana 2008 IGT Toscana, Italy (Sangiovese - Syrah). From the new "IT" region in Tuscany just outside Montalcino," he says, "this wine has a rich floral nose with flavors of tobacco, earth and cedar and a dominant ripe cherry note. Think of Chianti with more flash and power. $13.99."
Erik Kelley, Sommelier at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California, prefers French wines for the holiday table. He suggests Deux Montille Soeur et Frère Saint-Aubin "Sur Gamay" Premier Cru 2007, describing it as "…a chardonnay produced by Alix and Etienne de Montille, the son and daughter of famed Burgundy winemaker Hubert de Montille. Classic Burgundy, riper fruit with streaks of acid to balance the wine. Lots of roasted apple and oatmeal complementing the mineral flavors. This wine is wonderful paired with pork dishes that are prepared with fruits, as well as braised rabbits or fish that are oily. This wine retails for $45 per bottle."
Kelley also recommends Domaine Le Soula "Trigone" Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Gauby et Associés 2008. "One hundred percent syrah, produced in a very classic style," Kelley says. "The domaine is overseen by Gérard Gauby, a very famous producer of wines in the Languedoc. Lots of ripe cherries, tobacco, and clay in the nose. Perfect with roasted red meats with rich sauces. Expect to pay about $18 for a bottle of Le Soula 'Trigone.' "