Okay, it’s close enough to the holiday season to start a series of wine “gift-giving” blogs! So let’s begin with gifts for the wine lover on your list.

A couple of rules to start. First, the wines have to be available to purchase (no Screaming Eagle Cabernets that no one can get even if they can afford them). And, second, nothing over $50. I will do a “value wine blog” next week, but for now, let’s see what you can get for $50 or less.

First, a couple of reds, and I go to what are probably the two most famous wine countries in the world — France and Italy!

My favourite French wines come from the Cotes du Rhone, and if you are looking for a gift, any wine lover would be thrilled to get a bottle of the 2010 Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail by Domaine Brusset. Made from Grenache, this is a fabulous wine! It has the characteristic ‘garrigue’ on the nose (french herbs like rosemary, lavender and sage), super ripe black cherry fruit (without being sweet or jammy) and big body. It will develop for a decade or more, but can be drunk now if opened/decanted for an hour or so before drinking. Brusset is one of the best Gigondas producers and 2010 a spectacular vintage. At $49.96 in B.C., it’s not cheap, but it is worth the price.

My recommendation from Italy is another classic – Barbaresco. The 2007 by Produttorri del Barbaresco is a perennial winner, and one I have been cellaring/drinking since the 1986 vintage. Look for a medium red colour, earthy dried cherries on the nose, and more earthy, herbal, dried cherries on the finish, along with some tannin. I like to start drinking my Barbarescos at about 8 yrs old, which is when they begin to soften up, and they will keep developing for 10 – 15 years. Price – $42.95.

So what about whites, then? Well, for gifts, you can’t go wrong with Chardonnay, and I have two completely different versions to recommend. The first is once again from France; Burgundy, in fact, and specifically Chablis. This is one for the ‘ABC’ crowd (‘Anything But Chardonnay), as Chablis is made in stainless steel and uses little or no oak. And what a beauty – the 2011 Montmains Premier Cru by Brocard. Look for really crisp, dry flavours, including minerals and a flintiness (a good thing). Drink it now or, a rarity among whites, cellar it for 5 – 8 years. $39.99

The other Chardonnay is from California and Ferrari-Carano. The ’10 has true ‘Cali style’, with vanilla/butter overtones and lush, ripe citrus fruit. I love this style of wine, and while it isn’t for aging, it is sumptuous for drinking now. $32.95

How about a sparkler and sweet wine to round out the shopping list?

For the former, it is hard to find real Champagne for <$50. But if you are looking for that toasty, yeasty, bone dry style, I recommend a BC winery — Blue Mountain! Known more for their fabulous Reserve Pinot Noir, they also make what may be the best champagne-style sparklers in BC. The non-vintage ones (Brut and Rose) are only $25! And if you are lucky, you might find some of their vintage wines, which are around $40. The only downside is you have to buy from the winery or at private stores.

Finally, sweet, which means Port. Usually the words 'Vintage Port' and 'under $50' don't appear in the same sentence…but there are half bottles of Dow's 1990 Quinta do Bomfim available for $34.95! At 22 years old, this wine is fully mature, offering classic chocolate berries and raisons. Drink it now, or keep it for 5 more years (make sure to decant, as it has lots of sediment).

So there you go — my Holiday Wine Gift List for the wine lover. None are cheap, but, relatively speaking, they offer great value and will be much appreciated by anyone who knows anything about wine.

Next week, the Holiday Gift List for the frugal. Good wines that won't break the bank!


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