Uncorked: Good wines come in small packages
Nov 27, 2013 | 2610 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thanksgiving Day has been gobbled up by Christmas shopping. Most retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a head start on the holiday shopping stampede that used to commence on Black Friday.

While contemplating tomorrow’s Thanksgiving repast and planning shopping strategies, take comfort in knowing there are still 27 shopping days remaining until Christmas. If you’re not into mob scenes and frenzied crowds competing for the Godzilla of flat screen TVs, consider giving special wine gifts.

The acquisition of a gift of wine is free of mob psychology and fraught with substantially less excitement though if camping out in your lawn chair waiting to be the first customer is your style, then your local wine merchant would likely oblige.

America consumes more wine by volume than any other country, though per capita consumption remains relatively low in comparison to other nations. A 2010 Gallup poll of America’s alcoholic beverage consumption habits confirms some 67 percent of U.S. adults drink alcoholic beverages on occasion and 40 percent of those prefer wine.

I offer these boring statistics to substantiate that most Americans do have an occasional glass of wine, or the occasion to offer someone a glass. Wine is a good gift choice for most adults, but selecting a wine that appeals to all tastes can be challenging.

Sometimes the best wine gifts come in small bottles, especially for those living alone or whose wine preferences are unknown. A small bottle of sweet dessert wine like port, sherry, ice wine or Sauternes should appeal to most.

Bottlings of these wines often come in smaller formats called splits containing .375 ml, half the amount found in a standard size bottle. Some are bottled in even smaller formats, containing half the amount of a split or .1875 ml. This tiny format is called a piccolo, Italian for small.

Splits or piccolos are not necessarily inexpensive. They are often smaller bottlings of expensive wines usually served in small amounts as an aperitif, with dessert or at the close of a meal. Some are fortified and thus higher in alcohol than other wines, hence a little dab will do you.

These wines, once opened, have more longevity than regular table wines. They hold up over the course of several days or weeks if stored in the refrigerator after opening.

They make excellent hostess gifts and are a good item to include in gift baskets. Size in this case really doesn’t matter. Consider one of these small jewels:

Grahams Six Grapes Reserve Porto. $13.25 for the .375 ml split or $7.50 for the .1875 piccolo at Tyson Fine Wines & Things in Golden Springs. Rich, cherry blackberry, jammy wine. So good it makes you want to pour it over pancakes. At 20 percent alcohol by volume, or 40 proof, serve small pours along with candied walnuts, bleu cheese and fruit.

1985 PX Grand Reserva Bodegas Tora Al bala. $37 for a split at Tyson’s. Not your grandmother’s cream sherry, this 1985 fortified blend aged in barrels until bottled in 2012. The color and consistency of molasses but oh so much better — rich dried golden raisin, roasted almond and vanillin flavors blend into a smooth syrupy goodness. Best served after a meal with fruit and nuts or creamy desserts like rice pudding laced with nutmeg.

2010 Chateau L’Ermitage Sauternes. $27.50 for a split at Tyson’s. From grapes affected by botrytis, the Noble Rot that shrivels grapes into raisin-like form. Extracting juice from dried grapes is labor intensive, hence Sauternes is expensive. Splits from more famous producers like Chateau d Yquem may well exceed $200 or more depending on the vintage. Well-made, delicious honeyed wine. Not fortified. Works well with appetizers as well as fruit desserts and cheese plates.

Heinz Eifel Eiswein 2012. $18 range for a split both at Tyson’s and The Wine Cellar on Quintard. From Germany. Light, sweet wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine before harvesting. Low alcohol, versatile wine for an aperitif or dessert.

Jackson Triggs Vidal. $24.99 for a piccolo at Publix. Canadian ice wine made from the hybrid vidal grape. Rich, delicious and unctuous small bottle wrapped up in an attractive package.

Email Pat Kettles at pkettles@annistonstar.com
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