Christmas Uncorked: WAC’s Holiday Wine Roundup
Whether you’re hosting Christmas dinner, or attending a holiday party this year, deciding which wines to serve or bring as a gift can add stress to an already dizzying list of seasonal tasks. With a sophisticated wine culture in full swing today in NYC, many of us feel the pressure to have been “born with” an encyclopedic knowledge of wine, and a fine-tuned palate to match. Well, this year, let me be the bearer of good news: The pressure is off! There’s no reason to place such high expectations upon yourself, unless you are ready to take up wine enjoyment as a hobby. Rely instead upon the experts….you know, that passionate, geeky bunch who stand at the ready in your favorite wine shop, just dying to turn you onto the wines that make them tick.
Deborah and I consider ourselves honorary members of the aforementioned geek squad, and we have our own holiday wine picks to reveal this year. In collaboration with our strategic partner Suburban Wines & Spirits in Westchester, we’re excited to connect you with the following Christmas wine selections, custom-chosen for 3 different holiday scenarios, in 3 different budgets. Additionally, we’ve recommended a lovely Hanukkah wine, and something unusual for the adventurous. Link to your favorites by December 20th, and Suburban will ship them right to your doorstep in time for the holidays.
Enjoy your festivities, and check back after Christmas for our New Year’s Eve sparkling wine picks!
When the Budget Dictates:
Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner T26 ’13 ($16)
Austria’s Wachau region, situated along the Danube River, is the sweet spot for cultivation of that country’s proud, noble white grape….Gruner Veltliner. T26 is one of the best-valued offerings from the region, full of zesty, smoky, peppery minerality mingling with its core of pink and white fruits. Serve this to your guests, and be prepared for a flood of compliments.
Castillian wines like this one, made from the Tempranillo grape, are among the most savory and food-friendly on the planet. Acknowledging that wine is subjective, I challenge anyone to find a more sophisticated red in its price range. Aromatics of shitake, tarragon, spearmint and red fruits, a broad, structured and dense palate, and a body that’s full without seeming sweet. All the makings of world-class holiday wine for less than a Jackson.
When Wine Geeks Will Be Present:
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Spatlese Goldtropfchen ’12 ($27)
What kind of wine do people who sell wine drink? Fine estate Riesling from Germany’s Mosel is one undisputed answer. Pour this Spatlese for your guests and you’ll know straight away who’s in the know. Then, enjoy some yourself. Yellow and red fruits, quince, and liquid mineral enliven the aromatics. Rippling acidity and spicy, luscious flavors will heighten your appetite. The residual sweetness is surprisingly muted for a late-harvested wine, and the overall complexity is profound.
La Kiuva Rosso Vallee d’Aosta Superieur ‘11 ($27)
A cooperative of dozens of growers (mostly organic) in a tiny section of Italy’s mountainous Vallee d’Aosta province contribute their fruit to the production of this special red each vintage. 75% Nebbiolo and 25% a blend of ultra-local varieties, this will make the wine geeks in the room purr. Sensually aromatic with violets, black pepper and wild grass; Elegant, pure and herbaceous in the mouth. This is Suburban Wines’ owner Lance’s wine of the year 2014, and he has generously discounted the price to $20 during the month of December. Get some while it’s around, as production is miniscule.
Expensive, and Worth It:
Aurelein Chatagnier Condrieu “AC” ’11 ($54)
The tiny wine appellation of Condrieu in France’s Northern Rhone amounts to only one large hill. Chatagnier is considered to be one of the hot young winemakers of the region, and the proof is in this bottling. 100% Viognier, his Condrieu has classic aromas of almond oil and orange blossom, with a palate that takes you in a different direction…creamy and fleshy with a sense of oak woven through that white fruit. This will prove to be a sensory treat, and avoids being from a predictable category.
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti La Bogliona ’96 ($59)
You’ve read correctly. The 1996 vintage is the current release of this classically-styled Piemontese red. It’s brought to us by an importer who negotiates with European growers to release cellar selections that have reached full maturity. In the glass, this Barbera is soft and elegant, with secondary flavor characteristics that can only emerge with age. Truffle, licorice, and leather notes are knit together by dried cherry fruit in this thinking person’s wine. Pair with mild, savory holiday fare to get the full experience.
For the Kosher Household:
Jerusalem Winery Ugav Merlot ’12 ($14)
The Judean Hills of Israel have become a serious viticultural zone for kosher and non-kosher wines alike. Made mostly of French varieties, the kosher examples have far better structure and stabilized fruit profiles than the kosher wines of the past. This Merlot will add a special flavor element to your Hanukkah gathering.
Trabanco Poma Aurea Sparkling Cider ’11 ($16)
Hard Ciders are coming on strong, and they’re not just from France anymore. Poma Aurea is fermented in Spain from wild-grown apples, and explodes with a rush of Champagne-like bubbles. Clean, refreshing and understated, it finishes dry, and sports only half the alcohol content of a grape wine.