The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2018 — because no one wants to give the wine equivalent of a fruitcake
How to avoid giving tacky wine gift bags — “for the wine lover on your lists” — or overpriced, celebrity-endorsed wine accessories (because if an A lister likes it, we should buy it)? The Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday wine gift guide 2018, of course. Because why waste money on bad gifts when you can use it for quality wine?
Keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10). Both have passed the WC’s lengthy, real-life testing process — which means I use them over and over and over. And over.
• Kevin Zraly’s new edition of the “Windows on the World” wine course (Sterling Epicure, $18) is probably the best one-volume wine book available. That means it’s worth buying, whether for beginning wine drinker or cranky wine critic. Plus, Zraly’s memoir is scheduled to be published in the next year or so, chronicling his 40 years in the wine business.
• Chateau La Tour Carnet ($38) is a red Bordeaux that offers quality but doesn’t cost a fortune, given the prices of red Bordeaux. This French blend, more cabernet sauvignon than merlot, combines modern winemaking with traditional Bordeaux style and terroir. Older vintages like the 2010, which may be more expensive, will especially show that combination. This is the red wine for someone who thinks cabernet begins and ends in the Napa Valley.
• The L’Conti Blanquette ($15) is sparkling wine from the Limoux region of France, and tastes nothing like any other French sparkling wine. It’s probably closer to Spanish cava, with lemon and green apple fruit. Plus, you can tell people you tasted a wine made with the mauzac grape. Highly recommended.
• Those who know Italian wine find refosco, a red from northern Italy, to be an acquired taste. I’ve acquired it, and you’ll find quality refosco from $10 to $20. The Tenuta Luisa ($20) is dark but also bright; a little savory but also a little spicy. It’s more interesting than the less expensive versions, and surprisingly available.
• My new weakness is white wine from Spain’s Basque region made with the hondarrabi zuri grape, most costing around $20. The labels include the phrase “Getariako Txakolina,” which is the name of the region. I haven’t had one yet that wasn’t well-made — almost herbal, with citrus and stone fruit, a little fizz, and some minerality — but not sweet. This is about as far from chardonnay as you can get.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
• Day Owl Rose 2017 ($13, sample, 12%): Intriguing California pink made with the barbera grape, not common in California or in rose. It’s still a bit young and a little heavier than I like (thanks to the barbera), but it’s a solid effort. Look for very aromatic cherry fruit and a sort of stony finish.
• Etxeberria Bengoetxe 2015 ($20, purchased, 12%): This Spanish white from the Getariako Txakolina appellation in the Basque region is about as geeky as wine gets. The grape, hondarribi zuri, is past obscure, while the wine will sometimes have a little natural carbonation. Or not, as the case may be. It’s lemony and soft, but not sweet, and almost savory. Highly recommended, especially for summer.
• Domaine Bousquet Sparkling Brut Rose NV ($13, sample, 12%): Fruity Argentine bubbly (berries?) that isn’t quite Prosecco, but soft and missing a little oomph. Not badly done, but $13 can buy more interesting sparkling.
• Innocent Bystander Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15, sample, 13%): One note New Zealand white, and that note is red grapefruit from beginning to end. This is professionally made wine, which makes me wonder – and at this price – why they didn’t try to add some complexity.