Try gifting wine and other potent potables for the holidays

December 16, 2023

I erred in advising the good deals would disappear as Christmas and New Year’s holidays came closer. Recently, email has been flooded with favorable offers, so I’ve thought of adding some sites to my spam list. Lo and behold, an article labeled The World’s Ten Best Gins, by Natalie Sellers appeared. Although I am not a fan of gin, I thought some readers might be; see the full article at These may be available at other Delaware shops, as well as those listed. These ratings were from a well-regarded 10-person panel. No. 1 at 95 points, $42, is Martin Millers Westbourne Strength Gin, England, find at Frootbat, Lewes and Total, Wilmington. No. 2 is Tangueray No. Ten Gin, Scotland, 94 pts., $36; Frootbat in Lewes has 1.75 L bottles at $63. No. 3 is Black Forest Distillers Monkey 47 Schwartzwald Dry Gin, Germany, 94 pts., $57 at Kreston's. Great gifts for those who seem to have everything and enjoy gin. Factoid, gin became popular in Great Britain as the low countries introduced Jenever as a medicinal aqua vita from distillates of grapes and grains.

On a similar track but with top-line scotch, the Scottish offerings include Bowmore Black Bowmore Trilogy 42 Year Old, 97 pts., $39,074; and 96-pt. Highland Park 25 YO, $868; while the Japanese have The Yamazaki 18, $1,146. However, the Taiwanese have completely stolen the high-end show the past two years with Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask, 95 pts., $135; joined this year by Kavalan Solist Moscatel Sherry Cask, 95 pts., $166, in the top 10. In reviewing for today's musings, I came across this quote: “Bowmore is from the famously highly flavored region of Islay, the only place on earth where the water tastes like whiskey.” Another interesting note was that five years ago, the top critic scores were 91 points, and the writer equated that to the bracket creep in wine scores, which I've mentioned in past columns. See a fascinating article with a complete list of the top 10 at

I was asked by a regular to list bottle sizes. Here are those you can buy with a bit of research. A split is 187.5 ml or 1/4 of a standard bottle; half-bottle is 375 ml; standard bottle, 750 ml; magnum, 1.5L or two standards; Jeroboam, 3L or four standards; Rehoboam, 4.5L or six standards. In my opinion, the eight-bottle Methuselah and 12-bottle Salmanazar should only be attempted after careful instruction. The Balthazar, Nebuchadnezzar and 36-bottle Paramount are difficult to locate, and require a cradle and tools. Regarding Nebuchadnezzar, one must first learn how to spell and pronounce it; people of the book have a leg up.

Still flogging the sparklers. Do not cheat yourselves by underestimating your usage. Buy volume to cover the upcoming holidays and Valentine’s Day. Careful shoppers are often rewarded when buying 6-pak or case purchases. Ya gotta ask! Most sparklers store well. Any dark place will work for short-term storage. For those who do not plan ahead, to paraphrase, “Pay me now and pay me later.” Frank Family was bought by Treasury Wine Estates, the huge Australian wine giant, in 2021, and it appears their bubbly trove is being sold off. The 2016 Blanc de Blanc is being offered at $55, 92 McD points. Pale lemon-yellow, tiny mousse, it opens to peach, apricot, citrus, toast and toasted almond aromas. On the palate, apple and lemon with a redux of toast and nut back notes. Finishes with minerals and lees after-notes. The Franks are retaining Winston Hill in Rutherford and Lewis Vineyard in Carneros. Todd Graff, winemaker and GM, is staying on with Treasury. As a longtime fan of Graff’s work, this is a story I’ll be watching.

Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé NV, 93 McD, is on sale at several shops for under $83. Pale rose-colored with tiny prolific mouse, citrus, red currant and raspberry nose, bright mineral acidity, dry and clean, it finishes long with hints of yeast and lemon. Unlike some Brut Rosé, this will stand up to ham or turkey entrées after performing well with canapés, especially shellfish and charcuterie boards. Don’t allow its price to chase you away. The extra $30 will be worthwhile. Be careful, it may be addictive. Newsflash! The 94 McD Byron Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2018 just popped up on sale at Gary's, $23. My style: toast, oak, smoked apple, peach, limestone minerality and light butterscotch bouquet. Chalky-fresh acidity supports Asian pear, finishes with hint of spearmint. A true bargain price.

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