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As a holiday gift, there are few things as versatile as vino. From sparkling to chardonnay, cabernet to carménère, there are labels and liquids to suit all palates, across all price points. And unlike that latest electronic gadget that’ll go obsolete by next Christmas, this is a gift that ages well—fittingly, like a fine wine. So if the person you’re buying it for already has that some bottle, it’s never an issue. Simply send it to the cellar (or the back of the pantry.)
The only thing you need to worry about it is making sure you’re seeking out something worth sipping. With a little help from the experts, here’s a list to insure seasonal success. You might even want to consider keeping a bottle or two for yourself. You’ve earned it. After all, holiday shopping can be stressful.
Falanghina Feudi Di San Gregorio, DUBL
“The first drink that always comes to mind when talking about the holidays is champagne, of course,” explains Gino Nardella, master sommelier at The Stafford London. “My recommendation is that Christmas is the time to be a little daring and try something new. This is an amazing alternative for those that find champagne too complex and prosecco not quite challenging enough. It’s the perfect pre-dinner or celebration drink.” This one hails from the Campania region surrounding Naples. It holds fresh fruit aromas and delivers a lively burst on the tongue thanks to a relatively high level of carbonation.
To buy: wine.com, $17
1996 Broadbent Colheita
Josh Wibbenmeyer looks to keep things sweet this time of year. He points people towards madeira—the famed fortified wine from the eponymous islands off the coast of Portugal. “The Broadbent Colheita is perfect for gift giving as this wine doesn’t require a cellar to be kept at its best,” says the wine director at Redbird in downtown Los Angeles. “A richly nutty dessert wine, this is a perfect pairing for any number of holiday desserts. Pecan pie and that fruit cake nobody wants to touch come to mind.”
To buy: toastwines.com, $55
Garofili Piancarda Rosso Conero 2015
Berlin Goss doesn’t need bubbles to keep things festive. The beverage director at mfk. in Chicago prefers this still red when it times to spread season’s greetings. “With the cooler months coming up this red gets you ready for winter weather,” he observes. “It’s dry, but well balanced, with berry notes that are smooth on the palate. It pairs well with roasted meats, aged cheeses, or with a hearty red pasta sauce.” It’s also an exceptional bargain at the price.
To buy: wine.com, $19
Hubert Meyer Cremant d'Alsace Rose—$20
“I think a nice bottle of sparkling rose says, ‘Happy Holidays’ better than any other wine,” according to David Gary, sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Property. “And this is one of my favorite sparklers.” Inside the bottle is a crisp and elegant liquid holding hints of strawberry and freshly baked croissants. Made according to the traditional method of champagne, the only thing separating it from the more famous French region to the north is the price tag.
To buy: winehouse.com, $19
Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2016
“I love giving wine as a gift for the holidays because larger, sit-down meals dictate that more food is on the table, which gives you more flexibility with pairing wine,” notes Ronald Buyukliev, lead sommelier at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas. “One of my current favorites is this medium-bodied, crisp, and really aromatic white that pairs well with everything, from grilled seafood to poultry to salads. I think it’s more fun having a unique wine that has a story to go along with your gift, and a more esoteric white wine from Greece definitely checks all those boxes.”
To buy: wine.com, $28
Foillard Cotes du Py Morgon
“There are so many different red wines I like in the holiday season, but if I had to recommend just one, I would say Cru Beaujolais,” says Karen Van Guilder Little, sommelier and general manager of Josephine in Nashville. “[It] is made like a fine Pinot Noir and it’s meant to be aged. My personal favorite Cru is Morgon. Morgon tends to have a ripe fruit flavor and the earthy weight of a good Burgundy. Foillard Cotes du Py Morgon is a wonderful wine if you can find it. You can pair this wine with turkey, ham, beef or really almost any main course you like. It’s very versatile.”
To buy: vinsrare.com, $34
2015 Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva
"Montecucco wines, coming from the heart of Tuscany, are an excellent option if you're looking for a bold, classic Sangiovese to keep yourself warm in winter,” says Jacopo Vagaggini, owner and winemaker at Amantis Winery in central Italy. These hearty reds offer structure—and plenty of black cherry and plum notes to stand up to the sorts of roasted game and matured cheeses that populate holiday platters.
To buy: tannico.co, $25
Turley Wine Cellars Tegan Passalaqua
Andrew Pattison also enjoys getting a bit more esoteric during the gift-giving season. “My holiday go-to is a cinsault, which is a light-skinned red grape that hails from France's Rhone Valley where it primarily acts as a blending grape in red blends like Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” notes the beverage director and sommelier of Sushi Note in Sherman Oaks, California. “On its own it produces a light-bodied red wine that bursts with bright tart red fruit flavors, a bouquet of purple flowers, and sweet spice character, making it a perfect gift since it pairs with berry, spice and everything nice.”
Pax North Coast Syrah
“The best style of wine to gift for the holidays is by far hearty, naturally produced wines,” says John Robinson, assistant food & beverage manager at The Hive in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Natural wines lean less fruity and more earthy and spicy, and their production methods leave more of that funky terroir in the final product. My personal selection would be Pax’s North Coast Syrah. This wine is made with a lot of care and love, and those attributes will surely shine through when given as a gift to a loved one.”
To buy: wine.com, $40
Remo Farina Amarone della Valpolicella 2015
Italian wine connoisseurs have long held Amarone in high esteem. As a result, bottles from the vaunted region in the northeastern corner of the country typically command a steep premium. “It’s hard to find a great one that won’t break the bank,” admits Amy Racine, wine director of The Times Square EDITION. “Remo Farina, Amarone della Valpolicella delivers. It's an excellent gift because it's associated with luxury and high-end styles that most won't splurge on for themselves. It's also a great wine gift that keeps on giving. You can drink it right away or lay down for a few years if you want the guest to remember your thoughtfulness a few years from now. It's spicy and dark in dried berry and smoky flavors. Everything from mushrooms to pastas to roast are killer with this wine.”
To buy: calvertwoodley.com $39
Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
While you may be more familiar with Brunello and Chianti when it comes to Tuscan wine, Vino Nobile remains a dependable alternative, long appreciated by those in the know—and those who appreciate a good value. “The Vino Nobile is a timeless wine,” in the words of Max de Zarobe, a winemaker for Avignonesi, who also heads the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. When he’s not sipping on his own juice, de Zarobe recommends the highly acclaimed 2013 Reserve from Carpineto to fit against rich holiday fare. “Don't wait for an occasion, pour it in your glass, taste it, and you'll be transported to the mesmerizing scenery of Tuscany. Nothing pairs better than that with the holidays.”
To buy: wtfinewine.com, $25
1987 Marco De Bartoli Marsala Superiore Riserva
Unjustly dismissed as mere cooking wine, marsala is a Sicilian specialty that demonstrates exceptional elegance when presented properly. In fact, when its rich body and subtle spices are rendered just right, it becomes a holiday in a bottle. “De Bartoli is a historic producer in the region that makes very high-quality marsala meant for sipping,” notes Joe Campanale, owner and wine director of Fausto in Brooklyn. “It's nutty, caramel characteristics are perfect for the season and pair nicely with a range of cheeses, desserts and fatty delicious proteins like foie gras. It also has a much better value than a well-aged port and is an awesome thing to sip in front of a roaring fire. If you want to splurge on something super special, De Bartoli makes a series of single vintage Marsalas that go as far as back as ’87.”
To buy: flatiron-wines.com, $100