- posted 14 years ago
No one wears ties anymore. Pashmina is so 2000. Now, let's see--that leaves wine as the one perfect holiday gift remaining. Wine always fits. You can never have enough of it. Wine comes in a flavor or style to please anyone on your list. And if you give a really nice bottle, the recipient may be so grateful that you'll get to share it. To give wine as a gift you should pick something different, something special. The weekday Merlot or Pinot Grigio isn't going to cut it for the holidays. Try one of these approaches when you want to deliver the maximum in holiday cheer. Bubbly is best Whether it's true Champagne from the Champagne region of France or a sparkling wine from elsewhere, nothing says celebration like a wine with bubbles. For the holidays select a vintage Champagne or another prestige cuvee if you can afford it. Most bubbly is non-vintage, meaning that it's blended from base wines made in different vintages before it goes through the second fermentation that adds the natural carbonation. Vintage sparkling wines, however, are more rare and made from grapes grown only in the year indicated on the bottle. The term prestige cuvee refer to the top-quality sparkling wine of a particular brand, often priced over $100 a bottle. Veuve Cliquot, for example, makes an excellent nonvintage Champagne but its prestige cuvee, La Grande Dame, is vintage dated and even better in quality. Accidentally delicious Many inexpensive dinner wines are somewhat sweet, but you haven't tasted how good a sweet wine can be until you've tried one of the great dessert wines of the world that are made through a natural accident. There's a type of mold called Botrytis that sometimes infects vineyards and produces a paradoxically wonderful result. The mold shrivels the grapes, eliminating much of their water content, so that when they are picked and pressed the juice is naturally very sweet and concentrated in flavor. In Germany a wine made this way is called trockenbeerenauslese, in Bordeaux it's a Sauternes or Barsac. Fine Botrytis dessert wines are also made in California, Australia and elsewhere. They may be labeled as "botrytis affected," "select late harvest" or "dried berry selection." Size matters In wine terms, the bigger the bottle, the more there is to go around, the better it will age and the more "ah!" power it will carry. If you give a friend or loved one a magnum bottle (1.5 liters) of a wine that is already good, like a fine Bordeaux or topnotch California Chardonnay, you will have more than doubled their pleasure. Bottles even bigger than magnums carry even more good will: Magnum: holds two regular bottles, or 1.5 liters Double magnum: holds four regular bottles, or 3 liters. Jeroboam: holds six regular bottles, or 4.5 liters. Something old Give a bottle of something slightly old as a special treat. Very few people have a place to store their wines safely until they gain the mellow texture and more intricate flavors of maturity. So a gift of an older Cabernet, Bordeaux or Tuscan shows extra thought and care. Even two to three years can make a difference if the wine has been stored in a consistently cool place. It's even better if you are one of the lucky ones with a wine cellar and can pull a gift from your own racks. This is another great reason to buy wine by the case. Recommended: California Cabernet Sauvignon from 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995. Bordeaux from 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995. Brunello di Montalcino or Super Tuscan reds from 1985, 1988, 1990, 1995.