Last week, we offered some suggestions on what to buy for the wine enthusiasts in your family. Alas, most of the gift ideas were relatively expensive and no doubt many of you said, “He ain't worth it.”
Okay, so here’s your chance to buy something equally magnanimous, but with far less money. Maybe he's worth it this time.
Thanks to the growing popularity of wine and higher quality imports, there are many wines on the market that don’t cost an arm and a leg. But you shouldn’t be grabbing any wine from the bargain basket or any wine that has no special appeal or uniqueness. Who wants another bottle of Two-Buck Chuck?
Instead, what about introducing your lucky friends to wines they have never tried -- godello, gruner veltliner, albarino, charbono – or a wine from an uncommon region – Romania, Croatia, Portugal?
Here are some relatively inexpensive wines that would put some thought into this year’s gift. If you can't find them in your local store, internet services such as wine.com will ship single bottles.
Mezzacorona Vigneti Cliffhanger Vineyards Red Blend 2015 ($14). This is a fantastic value from the Trentino region of Italy. A blend of 70 percent teroldego and 30 percent lagrein grapes grown on the steep slopes of the Dolomite Mountains, it is a full-throttle, yummy alternative to the same old red blend. Rich and ripe with cherry and blueberry flavors, a dash of spice and vanilla. It's a killer for this price.
Aia Vecchia Sor Ugo Bolgheri Superiore DOC 2014 ($35). We love this approachable wine year after year. A blend of cabernet sauvignon (50 percent), merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot, it is a soft and lively wine with juicy black cherries, licorice and cassis notes.
Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella 2013 ($33). This blend from the Veneto is comprised of corvina veronese, rondinella and corvinone grapes. Made in the traditional process of refermenting the wine passed over the grape skins left over from the vinification of Tommasi's Amarone, it is a medium-bodied wine with cedar, almond and violet aromas, and tasty red berry flavors.
Poggio a Tufo Rompicollo 2013 ($18). If you want to introduce your friend to super-tuscan wines, it doesn’t come any better than this. The indigenous sangiovese grapes are blended with 40 percent cabernet sauvignon to provide a ripe red berry flavor.
Chateau Paul Mas Coteaux du Languedoc Clos des Mures 2015 ($20). This is one of the great buys from the Languedoc region of southern France. And, it’s the reason we urge people to look here for wines that overdeliver. This blend of syrah (83 percent), grenache, and mourvedre is a prime example of what can come from a talented winemaker. Jean-Claude Mas has crafted a dense, delicious, and full-bodied wine when others are often satisfied with something much simpler. Expect cassis, violet, and spicy aromas, and dark berry, minerally flavors. Soft mouthfeel makes it drinkable now.
M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2016 ($15). This genius from the Rhone Valley has a smashing hit with this wine from the Roussillon region of southern France. Chapoutier bought the property in 1999. It's a scrappy estate close to the Spanish border where the ground seems unsuitable to vineyards. Leave it to Chapoutier to find the spirit to farm this terrain and make a great wine. The white is very unique – a blend of grenache blanc, grenache gris, vermentino and macabeo – with melon, honeysuckle, fresh grapefruit and citrus notes cloaked in crisp acidity.
Mascota Vineyards Unanime Gran Vino Tinto 2013 ($25). This is a ridiculously good wine for the price. From Argentina, it is a blend of 60 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent malbec and 15 percent cabernet franc. Dense with blackberry and plum fruit flavors, a dash of licorice and chocolate. It would be a great wine with which to start a cellar.
Vietti Dolcetto d'Alba Tre Vigne 2015 ($20). The dolcetto d'Alba grapes that go into this warm and approachable Italian wine aim to please any palate. It has a broad array of blueberry and raspberry notes.
Alpha Estate Xinomavro Hedgehog Single Vineyard Amyndeon 2014 ($26). From the Amyndeon area of Macedonia in Greece, this 100 percent xinomavro wine offers an intriguing nose and flavors of anise, black pepper, and herbal notes as well as cherry fruit. A delicious red wine that would pair well with bold beef and pork dishes.
Caroso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP Riserva 2010 ($32). This is one of the best Montepulciano d’Abruzzos we have experienced. Deep rich, very ripe berry fruit on a bigger scale than most of its genre. Still tasting fresh and lively despite 7 years of age, this is an exciting wine that is worth trying.
Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2015 ($15). We've been enjoying this mourvedre for more than a decade and it never ceases to please. Using grapes from Cline's oldest and most historic vineyard, the producer crafts a unique, delicious wine from low-yielding, 100-year-old vines. Black cherry and plum flavors are accented by mint and chocolate. Soft tannins make it approachable now. Highly recommended.
Alois Lageder Lagrein Alto Adige DOC 2014 ($25). Lagrein is an Italian grape variety found in the Alto Adige region that can be traced back to 1300. We loved its generous flavors of ripe plums and spices with a warm mouthfeel and a savory finish.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels "The Gimblett" 2014 ($30). This is an intriguing and fun wine from New Zealand. Known more for its sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs, New Zealand grows other grape varieties that you don't often see. This is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec grown in Hawkes Bay. Floral aromas, ripe blackberry flavor with a dash of rosemary.