Last-minute gift ideas for your wine-loving friends

December 22, 2017

Shopping time is short. With New Year's Eve fast approaching, locate some bubbly for last-minute presents. I'm dividing by price/quality to help you decide just how naughty or nice your pals have been. For those with several giftees, many shops will discount case buys. Nothing says festive like magnums of champagne. A magnum contains the equivalent of two 750 ml bottles. There are six magnums/case. Usually, one pays a premium for large-bottle format. When at home, for large groups, use 750 mls. If you're celebrating a biggie and wishing to impress, search out a Jeroboam, equivalent to four bottles, or a Methuselah, eight. Other large formats are: Salamanzar, Balthazar and Nebuchadnezzar. Astute readers may notice Rehoboam (6) was skipped. According to CIVC, the authority, they are no longer being used in Champagne. I also did not name five very large bottle sizes, usually only sold at auction. Keep in mind that pouring from large, unwieldly bottles is not for the faint of heart.

Lanson Cuvee Alain Ducasse Champagne NV Magnum goes for $75; it has good bede, toast and honey nose, citrus palate. Another around $75 is Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV Magnum; look for lovely bede, flowers, pears and spice aromas. Pol Roger Brut NV Magnum is golden straw yellow, fine bede, floral, fruity nose, finishes with brioche, $117. My fav, Veuve Clicquot yellow label NV Magnum, is $125. Brut with apple and butter with crisp acidity to clean up the canapes. Here are some 750s you should be able to locate: Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava – fresh, fruity style, $10; Korbel Brut NV $14, 88 points, earth and bread dough aromas, green apple and lemon flavors, dry and crisp; Gloria Ferrer NV Brut, 90 points, $20, creamy, rich, bread dough, lime, green apple, this Cali sparkler is owned by Freixenet; Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé NV, $28, 90 McD points, pretty in pink, yeasty from lees with red fruit and hints of brioche flavors. Reminder notes: Brut means dry to barely off-dry. Oddly, in wine parlance, those that are a tad sweeter are labeled extra dry. All quoted prices are the most you should pay.

Going upscale, along with the Clicquot, Ducasse and Pol Roger, take a look at some of California's best. Roederer Anderson Valley L'Hermitage Brut 2006, 93 points, $45 is a best buy. If you can't find this vintage, choose Roederer Anderson Valley NV brut under $25, good buy. Look for floral, raspberry and apple pie aromas with lemon and anise flavors. J Vineyards Brut Russian River Valley 2008, crisp with lemon, almond and mineral notes, 91 McD under $50. Frank Family Blanc de Blanc 2008, $45, 91 McD. Look for lemon, honeysuckle and yeasty aromas, a creamy mouthfeel and fine mousse. Finally, to delight some, Trump Winery SP Blanc de Noir 2008 is made of 100 percent Pinot Noir. It offers rich flavors of honey, toffee and caramel, and a creamy mouthfeel. Easier to find is the Blanc de Blanc 2010, aged four years on lees. Produced in Carter Mountain, Monticello AVA in Virginia from 100 percent Chardonnay using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise. Green apple, brioche and pear aromas, on the palate crisp acidity with citrus notes. Tough to rate. It either brings huge smiles or nasty epithets depending on the panel.

Rosso di Montalcino isn't "baby Brunello di Montalcino" any more than Mouton Cadet is baby Chateau Mouton. Since Il Poggione Rosso is rated No. 46 on WS top 100 I gave it a look. It's 100 percent Sangiovese, sourced from new vines, aged 12 months in barriques, basically Chianti with a catchy name. Of course Brunello 92 points runs about $75 compared to less than $20 for the Rosso, 87 points. Il Poggione is one of the most consistent producers in the region. The Brunello comes in 91-92 most years, last time under 90 was an 88 in 2002. These will age comfortably 12 years. The Rosso consistently rates 88 McD, garnering a low 86 only in 2000. 2013 and '14 were the best recent vintages at 89 points. The 2015 came in with high praise. It lost some of its luster when the vintage hit the market, sliding from 89-90 to 87. Either make great last-minute gifts for the Red winos on your list. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.