Gift-Worthy Wines That Seem More Expensive Than They Are

gift wine

There are few things in this world more satisfying than finding yourself in the wonderful circumstance of discovering wine that is inexpensive, but perceived expensive. This happy valley includes a broad swathe of bubbly, especially the various non-Champagne sparklers in the Crémant category, which manages the trifecta of looking expensive, tasting delicious, and calming the wallet. See my suggestions for the best of this serendipity and just how to spot them.

Roederer Estate Brut, Gruet Brut from new Mexico (but owned by French expatriates), and Segura Viudas Aria Brut (with its silvery metal crest) are three key picks in the sparkling category.

Other wines that drink and dress above their price include Muscadet, the oyster-worshipping white from France’s Loire Valley, which often carries an old-fashioned, aristocratic-looking label.

Beaujolais cru is another winner in both respects, its packaging prominently displaying a Beaujolais cru village – such as the chichi-sounding Morgon and Brouilly – rather than emphasizing the overall region of Beaujolais, which often gets confused with much-maligned Beaujolais-Nouveau.

Moderately priced Bordeaux such as Chateau Talbot, Château Greysac, and Château Gloria also offer cachet for less, with elegant labels featuring noble chateaus and coats of arms.

Another dependable deal, Rioja from Spain, can have impressively gothic labels and sometimes a wrapping of gold fishnet mesh, which was historically a feature to prevent counterfeiting but now adds a dose of gilded glamour.

Another way to lend illustriousness to your bottle is to deliver it in a wooden box, available at finer wine merchants and homeware stores; a gift wine encased this way is like adding a beautiful frame to otherwise humble artwork.

Finally, consider personally labeling gift bottles with a tag that suggests food pairings or a cheeky “drink-by” date; a little bit of handwritten effort glows brightly in the digital era.

For more about wine and ways to find my best inexpensive suggestions, check out my book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire. Take advantage of the Gift Like A Billionaire Giveaway while supplies last!

Fail-Safe Ebullience for the Holidays

With Christmas well-nigh and New Year’s celebrations arriving soon thereafter, I am constantly being hit up to recommend a delicious, interesting red to give as a gift or take to cocktail parties.

cocktail parties wine

The answer is easy: secure a bottle of the Shooting Star Blue Franc 2004, a wine I first encountered six months ago at New York’s well-edited Appellation Wines & Spirits and have since included in several wine seminars.

Like the Governator, this wine is an Austrian in West Coaster’s clothes, being that it is from an Austrian grape (Blaufränkisch) grown in Washington State (where the same grape is known as Lemberger, not to be confused with the stinky, rind-washed cheese, Limberger).

Here is why the Shooting Star Blue Franc hits on all cylinders:

* Gustatory scrumptiousness: its vibrant mix of red-berry fruit, combined with a soft, silky texture, will please any party

* Cocktail-party intrigue: not the usual Cabernet, this red stands out for its unusual grape of origin

* Gentle on the money-clip: clocking in at a reasonable $14

* Captivating label: an old, blue-hued 100-franc note (a “Blue Franc”) making it look like a wine at least twice its price

* Relatively available: in addition to Appellation Wines (, it can be ordered at New York’s Astor Wines, Michigan’s Bello Vino Marketplace, and California’s Solano Cellars, among other merchants.

Spooky Sips: Wines for Halloween

Wondering what to serve at (or bring to) your Halloween party?  Consider these spooky treats:halloween

  • Alexander Valley Sin Zin (California)
  • Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin “Beastly Old Vines”(California)
  • Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volant (“Flying Saucer”) (California)
  • Cockfighter’s Ghost (Australia) Chardonnay or Shiraz   (Australia)
  • Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo “Cellar of the Devil,” various types (Chile)
  • d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz (Australia)
  • Devil’s Lair Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)
  • Egervin Egri Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) (Hungary)
  • Leitz Dragonstone Riesling (Germany)
  • Trevor Jones Wild Witch Shiraz (Australia)
  • Vampire Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir (Romania)

devil4Producer: Devil’s Lair (Australia)
Wine: Chardonnay Margaret River
Vintage: 2003
Cost: $25
Track it down:

This Aussie triumph manages to do what many Chardonnays can’t: straddle a razor’s edge between richness and zest, between oakiness and refreshment. Creamy aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and almonds mingle with essences of pears and lemons.  Its taste, combined with the wine’s bloodcurdling, fossilized Tasmanian Devil label drawing, will chase away the demons of undistinguished Chardonnay.