The holidays are a special time of year. When else do you think about the cherished people in your life and thoughtfully plan the best presents, only to get frustrated that those people seem to already have everything and conclude there’s nothing you can give that they don’t already have?
So you settle on buying another bottle of that fabulous wine they love because at least you know they’ll like it. And that go-to wine, very often, comes from a classic Old World wine region, like Bordeaux or Barolo or Champagne. Joy to the world, indeed.
But before you resign yourself to gift-giving defeat and go with the norm—no matter how fabulous that bottle might be—consider some out-of-the-box alternatives, wines that encourage friends and loved ones to explore the wonderful vinous options they might be missing. There are a ton of choices, with more selections available today—from more corners of the globe—than ever before, so there’s always something new and delicious just waiting to be discovered.
For those adventerous spirits, we’ve got you covered with this issue’s Buying Guide, offering hundreds of suggestions to explore this holiday season, as a gift for others or even to yourself.
The majority of our reviews this month center around New World wines. Contributing Editor Michael Schachner takes a look at the latest releases from Argentina and Chile, countries that offer tremendous quality and value. If bold, ripe flavors and lush textures are your reference, be sure to check out the Argentine Malbec reviews, while those looking for something lighter should consider Chilean Pinot Noir as a welcome alternative to costly Burgundy.
Our North American Coverage spans four states this issue, ensuring that there’s something for every wine lover, from big California Chardonnays and Washington Syrahs to New York red blends and Virginia Viogniers.
If you’re still craving something from a classic region, don’t miss Managing Editor Joe Czerwinski’s reviews of recent Rhône releases, including stunning selections from Côte Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. Cheers!
93 LTU 2009 Malbec (Uco Valley). Until this four-man group effort produces something that’s less than outstanding, LTU will rank as a go-to producer of excellent full-bodied Malbec. This vintage is ripe on the nose, then saturated yet proportionally balanced on the palate. Plum, wild berry, roasted notes, licorice and herbal flavors finish big and ready. This doesn’t need much time in bottle; drink now through 2016. Quintessential Wines. Editors’ Choice. —Michael Schachner
abv: 14.7% Price: $52
94 Hanzell 2011 de Brye Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Valley). This is an unusual block bottling from the estate vineyard, high above Sonoma Valley. It’s especially rich in pears as well as mango and lime. New French oak is present, in the form of buttered toast. Great for drinking now and will be brilliant with complex shellfish dishes. —Steve Heimoff
abv: 14.5% Price: $78
93 Ancestry Cellars 2011 Reunion Chardonnay (Columbia Valley). Creamy, leesy and instantly appealing, this is an exceptionally rich and complex debut from this start-up. Crisp tropical fruits—most notably papaya and banana—are set amidst notes of toasted walnuts and lightly buttered brioche. The overall balance, length and precision are outstanding. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
abv: 13.1% Price: $25
88 Gramercy Vineyards 2008 Reserve Merlot (North Fork of Long Island). Lush aromas of ripe black cherries, graham crackers and menthol are generous and inviting on this promising Long Island Merlot. It’s luscious and concentrated on the palate, but bracingly taut with acidity and a tart Morello-cherry finish. —Anna Lee Iijima
abv: 13% Price: $49
88 White Hall Vineyards 2012 Viognier (Monticello). Peach and cantaloupe notes fuse with tropical flower and blood orange on this Viognier’s nose. Medium in body, this wine bears refreshing acidity and a persistent orange-flavored finish. —Andrew Hoover
abv: 13% Price: $19