We are writing this review from the airport on Thanksgiving, and a great glass of wine is helping keep everyone calm. So this feature is about some suggestions to give as a gift of wine this holiday season.
Get/Give a Great Bottle of Wine:
One way to add some sparkle to the holidays is with wine. To stick with the formula of pairing food and wines, and giving a great bottle of wine a holiday gift, This wine story focuses on some of the world’s oldest and most classic wine regions, as well as one of its newest.
Bordeaux is one of the oldest and most recognized wine regions in the world. The Romans began production there in the 1st century, and during the late Middle Ages, the British began importing large amounts of wine from the region.
This was the origin of the caret style that became the rage in England. Over the years, Bordeaux has been classified into numerous regions, one of which Saint-Émilion, was established in 1955, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Association de Grands Crus Classes de Saint-Emilion:
The Association de Grands Crus Classes de Saint-Emilion hosted a tasting of 2016 (and some 2017) vintage wines in New York City in November, 2019.
The walk-around tasting featured wines from 49 chateaus that represent about 85 percent of the grand crus classified vineyards in the region.
Holiday Gift Idea, Wines to Drink Now:
The late vintage wines from Bordeaux are not generally ready to drink now. Bordeaux grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon) tend to be high in tannin and mellow with age.
Then, they become a truly great bottle of wine!
However, a late vintage Bordeaux wine makes an excellent gift, particularly for those who are oenophiles (wine enthusiasts).
Chateau La Tour Figeac Saint-Émilion (2106: $50): This wine was dark red in color with a nose featuring plum and light spices. The wine was still very closed and tannic, with some peppery notes on the finish.
This is a great bottle of wine and a good value for a grand cru Saint-Émilion. It will require at least 5 years until it opens. The 2015 was much friendlier, with a lot of fruit upfront.
A bottle retails for about $50 as well.
Chateau Jean Faure Saint-Émilion (2106: $63): Dark red in color with a peppery nose and a lot of spice on the palate. This wine is 50 percent Cabernet Franc and it really shows this varietal.
This is a fantastic wine to give during the holidays and to use with a holiday meal. However, it will become much more complex with age.
The 2014 ($40 in Europe) had a lot of spice and peppery notes on the finish.
Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne Saint-Émilion (2106: $45): Dark red in color with a cherry, peppery nose, the wine has a nice structure. Fruit forward with a lot of oak this wine can also be used this holiday season.
The 2015 ($40) was extremely smooth with nice spice upfront and great oak notes on the nose.
Holiday Gift Idea, Wines From Nizza:
A New Wine Region in Europe:
The wines from Saint-Émilion are heavier, and will generally require more time to mature. However, the wines that we sampled from one of the newest recognized regions in Europe, the Nizza DOCG in the Piedmont area of Italy, were much more approachable and ready to drink now.
Nizza is in the heart of the Barbera producing region of Italy, and these wines are naturally high in acidity, and have bright cherry and plum notes.
The highest quality grapes from the Nizza region were ready to drink without significant aging. These wines are also readily available.
They are interesting bottles to bring for holiday meals, or to serve for guests.
The experts all recommend regional pairings for Barbera, like rabbit or blue cheese. However these wines can also be great with pizza, red sauce pasta, pot roast and prime rib.
Event: Guided Tasting at Del Posto:
This guided tasting, sponsored by Consorzio Barbera D’Asti, was held at the Del Posto restaurant in New York City, and led by one of our favorite experts, Gregory Del Piaz formerly of Snooth.com.
What We sampled:
We sampled a total of 17 wines over the course of roughly an hour and a half (nine from the 2016 vintage, and eight 2011 wines).
With so many great wines to choose from, we suggest the following for their quality, value, and approachability:
Holiday Gift Idea, Wines to Drink Now:
Tentuta Olim Bauda Nizza DOCG (2016: $45): This organic wine from a 60-year-old family estate. It’s readily available in the US. This great bottle of wine was our pick of the tasting.
Fermented in giant 25 HL barrels, the wine was dark red in color with purple hues, with a light nose featuring red fruits, violets and cocoa.
It is fruit-forward with plum upfront then cherry and cocoa on the very long finish.
The 2011 ($42) had some orange tints in the color, with more marine and violet notes on the nose. It was balanced with a lot of bright fruit, cherry, blueberry and cocoa on the palate.
Cascina Lana, La Giulla, Nizza DOCG (2016: $18): Was the big value wine of the seminar tasting.
Produced from 55-year-old vines, the wine has a fruity nose of plum and blueberry. This was a powerful wine with a lot of structure upfront and a maraschino cherry finish.
The winery’s 2011, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza (2011: $14) is less readily available but a super value.
Purple and red in color, with an intensely fruity nose with a lot of cocoa, the wine was super smooth, bright, and had a lot of cocoa on the finish.
This is a great bottle of wine for a holiday gift idea for your host/hostess or to have with a holiday meal.
Costamiole Nizza DOCG Riserva (2016: $50) from the Prunotto winery was our choice to add to our own cellar.
Garnet red in color with ruby undertones, the wine had a vanilla nose upfront that blew off to notes of cherry, plum, violets, cinnamon and leather.
The nose was reflected on the palate, with very soft tannins, cherry, cocoa, and cinnamon notes.
The wine is excellent this young, and again would be great for a dinner pairing wine during the holidays, though its price point suggests that this may be a better holiday gift wine.
Generala, Nizza DOCG Reserva (2016: $30) comes from the Bersano winery which was founded in the early part of the 1900s.
This wine was a bit lighter than its brethren, with velvety tannins and a good structure. Cherry, red fruits and cocoa dominated the palate.
The 2011 Generala was a fairly large production vintage meaning that it is a great value at retail ($30). Its nose has some laundry room notes, but these quickly blow off to cherry and cocoa.
This great bottle of wine is very smooth and balanced. The cocoa notes dominate over the fruits.
However, the wine itself is extremely well made and elegant with an intense finish bringing back the fruity notes.
The Bottom Line on These Wines:
When looking for Barbera, or for that matter any rich, fruit-forward Italian wine, keep an eye out for Nizza.
This region truly provides a special expression of Barbera – a much more approachable style than some other areas of Piedemonte.
For more information on Saint-Émilion Grand Cru wines click here:
Get more information on the Nizza DOCG visit Click Here:
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