Uncorked: Guidelines for last-minute gifts
by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star
Dec 22, 2010 | 2103 views |  1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two shopping days until Christmas. For those leaving holiday shopping to the very last minute, wine makes an excellent gift, provided the person on the receiving end actually likes wine.

Chances are your giftee at least tolerates the stuff, because some 767 million gallons of wine were consumed in the United States in 2009, according to wine industry consulting firm Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

If selecting wine for a casual acquaintance, be mindful of further statistical information provided by the Nielsen folks, collected from data via supermarket scanners: 47 percent of wine purchased in 2009 was red. Of that, the predominant red varietal was cabernet sauvignon, followed by merlot. White wine made up 40 percent of wine purchases. Chardonnay remains the hands-on favorite, with no other white varietals even coming close.

As for what to spend for that special someone, consider this from Adam Strum of Wine Enthusiast magazine: In the United States., the wine market sweet spot slipped in 2009 to the $9-$12 per bottle range. The $50-$100 per bottle range has been dubbed the “dead zone” by the industry.

The take-away message here is: If gifting wine, buy a cabernet or a merlot in the red category, or a chardonnay in the white category. There are good bottles to be had in the $9-$12 range, but if your budget allows, there are better choices in the $20-$30 range.

Avoid buying exotic varietals like grüner veltliner. Though a perfectly acceptable white varietal, grüner veltliner does not roll off the lips of the average consumer with ease. Avoid bottles with cutesy names or labels, because they do not always contain the best wine.

Finally, don’t buy anything too cheap or too expensive. Too cheap is Andre, $5.95 at your local Winn Dixie. Too expensive is the $220 bottle of Joseph Phelps evaluated in last week’s column.

Consider these instead:

Felino Vina Cobos 2008 Chardonnay. $19.50 at Tyson Art and Frame. From famed winemaker Paul Hobbs of Sonoma, whose chardonnays start at $50. This is from Hobbs’ Argentine operation. Citrus fruit-driven, lively chardonnay. Aged in a combination of oak and stainless steel. This wine falls in the middle of the buttery to lean chardonnay scale. This is my house chardonnay.

2009 Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. $9.75 at Tyson Art and Frame. Fruit for this wine is sourced from various areas in the California growing area, and wine is made in Napa. Surprisingly good cabernet for the price. Dark color, concentrated fruit, full-bodied pleasant wine.

Innisfree 2006 Napa Cabernet. $24 from Tyson Art and Frame in Golden Springs. From Joseph Phelps Vineyards, the $220 Insignia producer. Producers like Phelps have huge vineyard holdings and sometimes cannot use all wine produced in their traditional blends. Excellent approachable red. Dark fruit flavors and aromas. Good structure with a smooth lingering finish. Behaves like a more expensive cabernet, and probably would be more expensive were it not for the economy.

Chateau Montelena 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. $47.50 at the Wine Cellar on Quintard in Anniston. As a gift for someone who truly loves wine, this is a slightly pricier bottling from famed Chateau Montelena, whose chardonnay won the famous 1976 Paris Tasting. Chateau Montelena played a prominent role in the movie “Bottle Shock,” chronicling fictionalized events leading up the Paris tasting. A good red wine with an interesting history.
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Uncorked: Guidelines for last-minute gifts by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star

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