Wines for Christmas Presents

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We’ve all taken a bottle of wine along to present to a hostess. Was it carefully chosen, or something you liked? Did it go with the dinner? The idea isn’t bad, but let’s give the matter some more thought. There is no reason not to give wine for Christmas presents. Unlike another sweater, you can be sure that a well chosen wine present isn’t going to languish in a drawer. It will be drunk, with good thoughts about the donor if you’ve given the matter some consideration. It is of course a jungle out there, in wine retail land. Good wines have climbed in price, some outrageously. And with wine systems proliferating around scores and charts, something is often lost, and that something is individual preference and taste. So let’s try and suggest some wines for Christmas giving, at prices ranging from $25 to $500. There won’t be a scorecard in sight. Just some knowledge of good wines, and a wish to share them. Starting with the classic situation of a present for the hostess, try something unusual. Instead of a bottle of wine, which probably won’t be served then anyway, why not try something different? I’d suggest a bottle of Domecq Amontillado Sherry ($14), with some premium salted nuts (copy of Poe’s stories strictly optional). Or, thinking towards the end of the meal, bring a bottle of Cockburn “Special Reserve” Port ($14) with a pound of Stilton cheese, a great dessert treat. Wines by the case or half case say that you value the recipient. I keep hinting for a mixed case of Georges Duboeuf Domaines Beaujolais ($110). Just pick out the wines with your retailer. A dozen fine summer wines will be greatly appreciated when it’s barbecue season again. Or, you might pick a case of 1996 Chablis (a magnificent year) from Long-Depaquit ($180), or, for the shellfish lover, a case of 1998 Marquis de Goulaine Muscadet sur lie ($100), the same price at my wine retailer’s that you would spend for a case of good red Chateau Michel de Montaigne from the St. Emilion region. Two other white wines, more expensive, would be a tribute to your fine taste. A case of 1998 Chateau Carbonnieux white ($300) features the classic Bordeaux semillon and sauvignon blanc blend. Top of this scale, and worth it, would be a case of 1998 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Folatieres” ($500), a first growth produced by the Chateau de Puligny Montrachet. Since 1998 is a fine year for both Burgundy white and red wines, think also of a good Chateauneuf du Pape from that year. I would recommend a case of “La Bernardine” by Chapoutier ($325). Your gift recipient will enjoy this wine for years, as it matures, accompanying Christmas dinners for years to come. One traditional way to cushion yourself from wine price shock is to buy the wine as a future. Many wine retailers now offer this service. You buy the wine in advance, having read what is offered about the new vintage and the wine regions, and you take delivery a year or so later. By that time, if the vintage has lived up to its promise, it will probably cost much more than you paid for it. Also, by giving a futures certificate, you give present pleasure and future anticipation, while saving the strain of lifting the case of wine yourself! Here are some suggestions for futures purchases, from retailers that I know. High on my list would be a case of 24 half bottles of 1999 Chateau Suduiraut sauternes ($379). The producer claims it is the finest he has made in this decade, and a half bottle is often the best size for this sweet dessert wine. I have also noticed three half-case futures worth your consideration. The 1998 Pavillon Blanc de Chateau Margaux ($245), the 1999 Laville Haut Brion ($384), and the 1998 Clos du Marquis ($160), the second wine of Chateau Leoville Las Cases of St. Julien, are all high quality, and surely will sell for much more than those prices when they arrive. Why not mix your own case of red Burgundy or red Bordeaux? It’s quite a challenge to come up with good wines in today’s inflated market, but it can be done. Here are my suggestions. The Bordeaux costs $420 and the Burgundy $480, and each contains wines from the major celebrated regions of the appellation. Your own retailer will not have every wine, of course. But that shouldn’t stop you from consulting him or her, saying that you want to buy a case of nice wine from a certain region, and specify your budget. The result will surely please the recipient as a thoughtful gift. Here are some suggestions for a mixed case of red Bordeaux: 1996 Poujeaux from Moulis en Medoc ($24); 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte from the Graves ($33); 1996 Rauzan Segla from Margaux ($45 – this wine was said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite); 1996 Clos du Marquis from St. Julien ($35); 1995 Chateau Gloria from St. Julien ($26); 1996 Beausejour Becot from St. Emilion ($40); 1996 Clos Fourtet from St. Emilion ($40); 1995 Haut Marbuzet from St. Estephe ($30); 1996 Lynch Bages from Pauillac ($48); 1998 Petite Eglise from Pomerol ($23); 1995 Haut Bailly from the Graves ($36); and a 1996 Sociando Mallet from the Medoc ($40). My mixed case of red Burgundy might include the following: 1998 Gevrey-Chambertin “”Estournelles St. Jacques” Louis Jadot ($47); 1995 Nuits St. Georges “Les Pruliers” Henri Gouges ($35); 1995 Nuits St. Georges “Les St. Georges” Henri Gouges ($40); 1998 Nuits St. Georges “Vielles Vignes” Bertrand Ambrose ($32); 1998 Nuits St. Georges “Rue des Chaux” Bertrand Ambrose ($40); 1998 Chambolle-Musigny “1er Cru” Jean Jacques Confuron ($47); 1996 Echezaux Rene Engel ($48); 1996 Corton “Clos du Roi” Prince de Merode ($40); 1996 Vosne-Romanee “Les Suchots” Dominique Laurent ($45); 1998 Vougeot “Les Cras” Bertrand Ambrose ($45); 1998 Morey St. Denis Lecheneaut ($35); and a 1997 Santenay “Clos de Malte” by Louis Jadot ($26). Merry Christmas to all! If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love our ongoing discussion of French Food and Wine! Copyright (c) 2000 Paris New Media, L.L.C.

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