Whether it's the last-minute "what are we bringing" as we rush to the holiday party, or the classic "what'd we get them last year," choose wine. It's not only a safe bet, it is typically universally appreciated. This article should help you stock your cabinet with wine worth gifting.
Affordability and availability are critical therefore we selected seven reds that all come with good reviews, are priced below $30, and readily found in the supermarket. This is our first wine tasting as a group but not our first tasting — to find out more about our process and judging criteria, check out the bourbon tasting blog.
Just like our bourbon tasting, this was a blind test. The wines were cloaked in brown paper sacks (classy) and served individually. The reviews below are based on goodness – if you want more technical insight like does it taste of toasted oak and dark cherries near fields of grain blown by a spring breeze, there's an app for that: Vivino. It showcases professional and amateur reviews as well as food pairing suggestions.
Wines for the season of giving:
Durigutti (Malbec from Argentina) ($17) Malbecs are quite possibly the best value in wine – full of flavor – good flavor - and typically very reasonably priced. Durigutti was immediately the crowd favorite. Everything about this wine was excellent – the aroma (aka, the nose), the flavor, the consistency, the aftertaste. This wine leads our Appearance, Aroma/Bouquet, and Drinkability categories, it also scored third for best value. Total Points: 245
Coppola Diamond Claret (Cabernet Sauvignon) ($16) It's hard to beat a good Cab, and this one is second only by two points. Personally, I've found all the Coppola labels, like his movies, to be enjoyable and the Claret was my favorite Coppola experience so far. It performed well in every category including Aroma/Bouquet, won for best Taste and Finish, and Drinkability. It was second for best value, and the bottle looks pretty darn fancy. Total Points: 243
Chateau Smith (Cabernet Sauvignon) ($18) Wines from the Pacific Northwest like this Washington example, are engaging… often bold and decent choices when faced with a wall of wine at the store. There are several labels from Charles Smith that my wife and I like to grab on occasion so throwing this one into the mix was a quest for personal validation. It did okay (not that this was a contest). Another wine I like is Charles Smith's collaboration with Charles Beiler called Charles & Charles – not one to gift, but indeed, one to try. It scored second by one point for Aroma. Total Points: 212
Blazon (Cabernet Sauvignon) ($11) For a blind tasting, it's always a good idea to throw a "value" entry into the mix to see how it stands up to more expensive rivals and Blazon held its own admirably. I'm going to get technical for one second: this wine's bouquet is black cherries. Very fruit-forward aroma. When we revealed the prices and names, everyone was surprised to see where Blazon stacked up. Best value of the bunch. Total Points: 208
Eberle (Cabernet Sauvignon) ($23) Moving up in cost and down in points, interesting huh?! I like Eberle as do critics but in a blind test, there were simply better performing wines. This wine received a lot of head nodding. In other words, no one was repulsed by it. Its Finish/Aftertaste brought this wine's score down. It has a lingering alcohol or harshness that I'm sure goes away after the first (or third) glass. Total Points: 207
Shatter (Grenache) ($26) Our most expensive wine of the evening, this French Grenache was also the most sophisticated. The score killer for Shatter was the nose/aroma and initial taste. It smells like a wet and moldy attic, and then after swirling in the glass to aerate for a few minutes, it calms down and smells normal. Just like the flavor. At first, "hmm, not so sure about this" and then, "wow, this is good." This Grenache is one of those culinary experiences that leaves you wanting another sip because, well, you earned it. Therefore, not a good crowd pleaser gifting wine – they'll think you're a prankster when they pour the first glass unless you include instructions like, "Decant before judging me." Total Points: 192
Meiomi (Pinot Noir) ($20) Worst value and worst performer from our tasting which is unfortunate because Pinots' reputation for flavor is sketchy. When you find a good one, stick with it. Just kidding, try others but be forewarned, you will come across some real disappointments like Meiomi. Most of us in the tasting like Pinot Noir so please don't think we're haters – this one just misses the mark. Very alcohol-y in fact, one taster said this is like drinking grape juice and vodka. I agree. Total Points: 134
All in, this was another fun event, and I highly recommend hosting your own tasting events. We've planned a Rye Whiskey tasting soon and will host more wine tastings since there are so many opportunities for fun themes like French Wines, California vs. Washington, Pinot Noir Redemption, etc.
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