The gift of wines

If you’ve got vino lovers in your life, your holiday shopping is about to get easy as wine. What is their birth year or their child’s, the year their IPO popped or any other important year in their life? Get him or her a bottle from that cherished year.

120116-wine_taylor-chateauPort and Sauternes Madeira | Lou Phillips

A gift favorite of mine that you can create is a personal mini cellar; a half case of interesting selections for budding oenophiles consisting of diverse wines he or she can enjoy and learn from. Better yet, think of your own theme that relates to your giftees. More good news is that you can create a memorable and meaningful gift at any price point.

Try Lou Phillip’s picks for the best holiday wines for less than $10

Let’s look at these ideas one at a time. An easy place to start is with their favorite wine. Let’s say you have a Cabernet fan. Maybe introduce him or her to an unfamiliar region that makes exceptional Cabernet. Washington is a great option and you can get something such as an Airfield Estates Winery version for about $20 or a single vineyard such as an Andrew Will Winery Ciel du Cheval for about $60. A hot tip is that Washington had exceptional vintages in 2007 and 2012 and both are readily available.

1908 Madeira | Lou Phillips

Next up is the special vintage. There is something available from almost any vintage in the past 50 years that will have a good chance of drinking well. The key is to know which regions had an exceptional performance in the year in question. This requires either accurate or specific knowledge. For example, in 1990 Napa had an average year and one would probably have to by an expensive bottle to have a chance of a special bottle. On the other hand, Tuscany and Bordeaux had spectacular vintages in 1990 and even a bottle from a merely good producer will likely rock the Casbah.

The mini cellar is another great way to go. Utilize your own wine knowledge or your local wine-shop guru for a varied selection at whatever budget works for you.


The real Dr. J (Dr. Shane Johnson) with his birth year Petrus. | Lou Phillips

Finally, wines such as Sauternes, Port, Sherry and Madeira can last for decades if properly stored. In the Sauternes area of Bordeaux, they use the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have been blessed with noble rot that creates intense, complex, sweet wines. Ports come in several different production styles. Look for “vintage” or “aged tawny” when selecting older bottles. Sherries and Madeiras are made in an oxidized style and also undergo heating processes that make them nearly bulletproof. Both produce dry and sweet versions that make them even more flexible.

Please feel free to contact me for suggestions.

By the way, I hope you tried the less-than-$10 holidays wines from the last edition. If you did, I’d love some feedback.