Wine may be the ultimate holiday gift. You can plan ahead and search for just the right bottle, or dash out at the last minute, buy a bottle, and wrap in a cinch with a pretty bow. The giftee can pop the cork immediately or savor the wine later. But where to start? We've got tips and favorite bottles for every budget.
Red, white, or bubbly?
Sparkling wine is always appropriate, especially for a festive occasion. Serious wine drinkers usually appreciate a good red, and whites and dessert wines are perfect for those whose tastes you don't know well.
Under $10: Stick with well-rated name brands and accessible grapes at this price point for the best bang for your buck. Try:
Red: Juicy, smooth Red Diamond Merlot ($10) from Washington State defies the grape's insipid Sideways reputation.
White: A fresh, vibrant Riesling like Pacific Rim Dry Riesling ($9) is fruity and accessible with an easy-to-open screw cap.
Bubbly: Korbel Brut Rosé ($9.99) has delicate strawberry flavors and a delicate pink color.
Under $20: For $15-20 you can venture overseas, where great values abound. My picks:
Red: Tittarelli's "Reserva de Familia" Malbec 2004 from Mendoza, Argentina ($16) is a knockout wine that could be two or three times the price.
White: Show you're in the know: the '06 Burgundy vintage was hard on reds, but made excellent whites. Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Véran 2006 ($17) is a great choice.
Bubbly: Wyndham Estate Sparkling Shiraz NV ($18) is a festive, surprising red sparkling alternative.
Under $50: Look for high-end still wines from value regions like Australia and New Zealand and domestic sparklers made in the méthode traditionelle. My picks:
Red: Wyndham Estate Black Cluster Shiraz 2003 ($35), a balanced, food-friendly Australian Shiraz.
White: Brancott "B" Series Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($26) is a full-bodied, complex wine from New Zealand.
Bubbly: Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2004 from California's Sonoma County ($33) or Iron Horse Russian Cuvee 2004 ($33), a slightly sweeter, richer blend, are classics.
Under $100: When you're spending serious cash on wine, you want to impress. High-end name brands, blow-me-away quality, and large-format bottles will do the trick. My picks:
Red: Jacob's Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2001 ($80) is proof that Australians excel at winemaking from low-end to high. This instantly-recognizable brand's 'Johann' series is a classically decadent blend.
White: At this price, go for an aged Tawny Port instead of a white wine. The Taylor Fladgate 20-year Tawny ($60) is one of the best.
Bubbly: Make a magnum-size impression with Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut Yellow Label NV 1.5 L ($90).
Gretchen Roberts, founder and editor of Vinobite.com, is at the upper end of the Millennial generation, old enough to have a decade of wine-drinking under her belt but young enough to know that wine is about three important things: finding a great bottle at a good value, vicariously exploring the world, and having fun with friends. Roberts writes about wine for Wine Enthusiast, MyRecipes.com, Cooking Light, and Slashfood.com.