, Newburyport, MA


December 19, 2012

Plenty of good, inexpensive wines choices for gifts

Ah, the holidays, when those who find it difficult enough to choose wine for themselves confront the ostensibly more daunting task of buying for others.

To which I say “humbug.” Not about the buying part, but the daunting part.

Selecting beverages for others — a host or holiday gift or the juice for one’s own party — should be viewed more as an opportunity than an obligation. Here’s how, in each scenario:

Entertaining: The plethora of wine choices and the endlessly sputtering economy are not part of the problem but part of the solution. More good wine than ever is lining store shelves, and the recession has made many swell options more affordable than ever as wineries often reduced prices and merchants moved into almost perpetual “sale” mode.

(Caveat: Just because a wine has a friendly price doesn’t mean it’s good, so tread carefully; better yet, stick with what you know.)

Your guests’ preferences will differ, of course, but there’s a dandy solution: Buy blends, since the different grapes can provide connective tissue for a range of palates. And there’s no need to spend even $15 a bottle.

Outstanding white options:

Chenin blanc-viognier offerings from Pine Ridge and Pepi, Hedges CMS, Banfi Centine from Italy and Samora Tejo from Portugal. And don’t forget the sweet side, with a Barefoot Moscato or a box of Big House White.

Tasty red blends abound: Clif Family “The Climber,” Marietta Old Vine, La Vieille Ferme from France, Famiglia Meschini Malbec-Syrah from Argentina or almost anything from Portugal (Udaca Irreverente or Dow Vale do Bomfim, for starters).

If your winemonger doesn’t have one of these, ask for something similar — in quality and price.

Host gift: First, when taking a wine to a party (dinner or otherwise), do not expect that your bottle will be served, so don’t grab something that you’re counting on trying yourself.

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