Stocking-Stuffer Wine 

Affordable bottles to warm the soul

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Wine drinkers like me are always thrilled to see enticing bottles of vino parked under the tree or stuffed into stockings on Christmas Day. I am eager to uncork whatever is there, and while I wouldn’t say no to a $345 bottle of Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Champagne, I’m also more than happy to discover the joys of a good, everyday wine that someone bought for under 10 bucks. It’s not about how much you spend, it’s about the enjoyment of discovery that even an inexpensive, but well-made wine can bring. Here, then, are a handful of wines that would be welcome holiday gifts for your favorite oenophile.

California Rabbit Hopping Red 2009 ($9.95) comes from Boisset Family Estates, which also owns wineries such as DeLoach, Raymond, Charles de Fere, Bouchard Ainé & Fils, Louis Bouillot and others. So, the pedigree is solid. And so is this inexpensive red wine—a snappy, bright-tasting blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet and Barbera, with a peppery nose and flavors of cassis, cocoa and blackberries. There is no oak to clutter up the works, and it comes in an eco-friendly, lightweight glass bottle. It’s great to sip with mild cheeses, pizza and barbecue, and is even more seductive when it’s on sale for $6.95, which happens frequently. So, watch for it.

Fairly new to the Utah wine stores is Villa des Anges Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($8.99). It comes from the Languedoc region of Southern France, and I consider it to be a sensational wine bargain. Dark ruby in color, this is a soft and fruity, easy-drinking Cabernet Sauvignon, with lots of cassis, licorice and anise flavors, together with tobacco, black cherries, currants, hints of bell pepper and some spice notes. The wine is fairly intense and concentrated, yet very quaffable, with tannins that are well-balanced by the wine’s fruit and acidity. It’s delicious when paired with red meats and robust cheeses or cassoulet.

I recently opened a bottle of 2008 Casal Novo Godello Valdeorras ($12.41), from Spain, and was gobsmacked. This is a stunning white wine for the cost. It’s no wonder Wine Spectator gave the 2007 vintage a 92-point rating. Made from a grape called Godello, which isn’t too well-known here, the wine has the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc and minerality of Chablis. It’s floral and herbaceous, with hints of lemon, melon and peach. I thoroughly enjoyed Valdeorras with a plate of freshly shucked raw oysters.

Thomas Morey, son of famed French winemaker Bernard, has delivered a very pleasing entry-level white Burgundy with his 2008 Thomas Morey Bourgogne Blanc ($19.43). This medium-bodied Chardonnay is quite elegant for the price, with good acidity, hints of lime and mineral bass notes. It would be a good partner for holiday turkeys or roasted chicken.

For a luscious Italian treat, I recommend Marco Felluga Collio Molamatta 2008 ($23.99), a blend of hand-picked Tocai Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Ribolla Gialla, wherein the Pinot Bianco is fermented in oak and the rest in stainless steel. The result is an elegant wine with a tropical-fruit bouquet, hints of vanilla and a food-friendly minerality owing to the sandstone-and-loam rock terrain of the DOC Collio appellation. It’s seamless, and I’d team this wine up with a piping-hot bowl of minestrone or maybe a pizza bianco.

Sporting nothing more than an authentic Liberty dime (for which Mercury Head is slang) on the bottle, giving the gift of Orin Swift’s Mercury Head Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($75) would make you a very special Santa, indeed. Voluptuous doesn’t even begin to describe this wine. Simply put, it is sex in a bottle. 

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