Wine List

Wine List

During the holiday season, the last of the last-minute purchases is too often the wine—when the bottles that can make or break the merrymaking are relegated to the “oh, just pick some up on the way” priority level. This year, I wanted to do better, so I took a walk and consulted a few local shopkeeps about their favorite affordable holiday picks, either for bringing to the party or nestling under the tree.

At nip-sized East Rock shop Enoteca Cassanova (map), manager Tom Bowery recommended the 2018 Collina San Ponzio Barolo ($34.99) as a gift worth giving—and buying. The price point, reflective of the erratic 2018 growing season, is incredible for a barolo, a variety he says rarely dips below $45 a bottle. While 2018 vintages may have some inconsistencies, this particular bottling receives high marks from Bowery as well as Wine Enthusiast, whose reviewer noted “aromas of rose petal, chopped herb and tilled soil” and, on the palate, “crushed raspberry, star anise and tobacco alongside taut, refined tannins and bright acidity.” When asked for a party-friendly wine, Bowery immediately grabbed a bottle of Segura Viudas Cava($11.99)—dry, bubbly and both wallet- and mimosa-friendly.

About a dozen blocks south, Ajit and Rita Patel of OddBins (map) were thinking dinner, not brunch. They recommended Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99), an approachable medium-bodied red that would pair well with classic holiday fare. But Ajit was even more excited about his white wine pick, Kloster Neustift Pinot Grigio ($26.99), “an excellent drier-style Pinot Grigio with notes of apple,” perhaps a lovely step up for the daily Pinot Grigio drinker in your life.

Lastly, not far from where I started, I visited The Wine Thief on Whitney (map), where I met with location manager (and owner Karl Ronne’s heir) Tyler Ronne. (Disclosure: I work from time to time at The Wine Thief in Madison.) He walked me around the store, handing me bottle after bottle while asking questions about my price target and the tastes of the people I was shopping for. I asked him to assume I didn’t know anything about the latter, and in the end, he narrowed it down to four picks. For gifts, Ronne recommended Outward Valdiguié($35) and Occhipinti SP68 Rosso ($32), both organic. “The Valdiguié is a light-bodied red with a blast of watermelon fruit,” he said. (Fair warning: Valdiguié is an uncommon varietal, so this bottling is in limited supply.) The Occhipinti Rosso, meanwhile, offers a blend of Frappato for softness and elegance and Nero D’avola for structure. (Fans of Stanley Tucci’s series Searching for Italy may already be acquainted with this beautiful red.)

As expected, Ronne’s party picks were a little easier on the wallet. He chose the entry-level but full-bodied Le Meurger Morgon ($24). “It’s going to be 100% Gamay. Gamay is lighter with bright fruits, but when it’s produced in Morgon, you start to get these darker more complex notes on it. It becomes a rich and more serious wine.” His second pick was a less serious-looking oversized bottle of Braunewell Scheurebe ($21). This off-dry white wine just wants to be popped and shared. It has bright melon and white flower notes, medium acidity and pairs well with large gatherings of good friends.

And for those on the wagon, I personally suggest Mionetto non-alcoholic prosecco ($15), a bubbly white whose alcohol has been removed, leaving behind a little more refinement than the average sparkling cider. This, too, is available at The Wine Thief.

If you wait—again?—until the last minute to do your wine-shopping this year, you may not be able to find these bottles. But at least you’ll have some good ideas about where to start looking.

Written and photographed by Anna Konya. Image features selections at The Wine Thief (left and right) and Enoteca Cassanova (center).

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