One of the Best Is Just $10
Many of us who drink wine or serve it to guests start to get anxious around the beginning of December. That’s because the holidays, with all of the food and guests and wine confusion, are coming and we don’t know what to buy.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to navigate wine for the holidays, enjoy what you drink, match the food you eat, throw in a hostess gift or two and not spend much money at all. It’s a matter of perspective—trust your palate, don’t get caught up in the hype, be willing to try something different, and remember that wine should be fun.
These six wines—most of which aren’t made with the usual grapes—should help you do just that. They cost around $10 a bottle and deliver not just value but pleasure, a fine holiday gift in itself.
Make It Sparkle
Casteller Cava Rosé ($12). This Spanish sparkling wine, or cava, is one-third the price of low-priced Champagne and delivers even more value. It has what sparkling-wine geeks call yeastiness, which is a good thing, plus a burst of strawberry fruit at the front and a surprisingly long mineral finish. That’s not common in a bubbly at this price. And the bubbles? Long, lingering and lovely, which also is a surprise in a $12 bottle. Drink this chilled for a holiday toast or with any holiday brunch. Eggs Benedict, anyone?
Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11). Italian sparkling wine, or Prosecco, has become one of the best-selling wines in the world over the past few years. That’s because producers have improved the quality so that Prosecco doesn’t taste like flat 7-Up anymore. In addition, even the driest Proseccos (called brut) have a touch of sweetness that US consumers seem to like. The Valdo has more depth and character than less expensive Prosecco, a touch of yeast and some sweet lemon fruit. Drink this chilled, and not just for toasting, but with a weeknight takeout dinner when you’re tired of holiday cooking and doing all those dishes.
Red, White and Rosé
Red: Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge ($13). This French red, made with the syrah grape from southern France, combines traditional and modern winemaking to deliver one of the best wine values in the world. It tastes of the Rhône region in France, with dark red currant fruit, earthiness and even a touch of licorice. It is a complex wine that demonstrates what a top-notch producer can do with inexpensive wine. Drink this one with prime rib at Christmas dinner…or use it as a holiday gift for someone who appreciates red wine and who might enjoy something different from the usual cabernet sauvignon or merlot. And anytime you’re hungry for a hot bowl of stew or soup after clearing that snow and ice off the front porch, drink a glass and appreciate all that it offers.
White: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier ($12). One way to find great cheap wine is to buy the inexpensive stuff made by wineries such as California’s Pine Ridge that are famous for their more expensive bottles. This blend, made with two white grapes, proves the rule. It’s dry, with a little citrusy sauvignon blanc character, plus steely chenin minerality and a dollop of white fruit (peach) from the viognier grape. This is a lighter alternative to chardonnay. Its lower alcohol and lack of oak aging make for a more crisp and brighter wine to drink with all of that food.
Rosé: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha ($10). This is a Spanish rosé made with a red grape called garnacha, but it gets its style from Provence, a region in southern France where winemakers emphasize subtlety and freshness instead of deep and rich, dark red fruit. There is fruit (some tart berries), but this wine is about minerality and crispness. And at $10 a bottle—as opposed to $18 for comparable wines—that’s a savings of $48 on six bottles.
Time for Dessert
Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port ($17). Think fireplace, a few inches of snow in the forecast and a deep dark night, and you will know the perfect time to have this Portuguese dessert wine. It’s a ruby port, which means that it’s a little sweeter than a tawny port, and it doesn’t have as much oak aging. Look for balance, something often lacking in less expensive dessert wines, with plum fruit and some acidity to back it up, but without that over-the-top sweet jamminess that is the mark of poorly made port. Dessert wines typically are more expensive than dinner wines, but since one or two smallish glasses at one sitting will suffice, the bottle goes further than it does for table wine.