Wine & spirits: Only the best
Whether it's for your partner in life or a partner in business, a great bottle of wine makes a terrific gift at this time of year. If price is no object, choose one of the most famous names in the wine world -- all are exceptional, often rich in texture with concentrated flavours, and will age well.
One of the best and best-known wines of France is Château Mouton Rothschild ($395). Each vintage features original art personally selected by the Baronness Philippine of Bordeaux. Although it can be drunk immediately with great enjoyment, a decade in the cellar is recommended. Several vintages are available in some provinces.
A favourite of many wine connoisseurs is anything produced from the Pinot Noir grape. Here again, the best hail from France. Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton 2006 ($105) is grown on the highest hillside in Burgundy and shares vineyard space with the region's best white, Bouchard Père & Fils Corton-Charlemagne 2006 ($169). Both are the epitome of power and elegance.
Just next door, in Italy, the hottest, most in-demand wine is grown around Montalcino, a tiny hilltop village in Tuscany. Banfi Brunello di Montalcino ($69) is full bodied, with notes of cherry and spice, and what seems like an endless finish.
In the New World of wine, California's Napa Valley is home to many big names, including theclassic Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004 ($140). It's produced in limited quantities, using grapes from the To Kalon Vineyard, which was developed over many years by the late Mondavi family patriarch. Dense, with a ripe bouquet of licorice and plum, it's a winner.
Whereas the traditional model for winemaking is to refl ect a wine's terroir (the place where the grapes are grown), the Australian standard is to focus on judicious blending from a variety of regions. Aussies are recognized for their outstanding shiraz; one of the most remarkable is Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz ($100), with its profound depth of flavour and bouquet.
Port makes a great gift. Vintage ports are bottled early and benefit greatly from long aging; they often reach their best only after several decades. Maturing nicely, Warre's 1985 Vintage Port ($105) is ready now, but can be held for a while. A younger vintage like Quinta do Vesuvio 1994 ($137) needs more time, but makes a choice gift for someone with a wine collection.
For those who fall into the camp of "ready to drink" wine lover, tawny port provides immediate gratification. It's even better when served with nuts and Stilton cheese. Older tawnies develop exceptional complexity. Dow's 20-Year-Old ($56) and Fonseca 40-Year-Old ($105/ 375 mL) are perfect examples of their class and age. Whatever the bottle, if it's a memorable one, you can bet that your chances of being invited to share it will be excellent.
... Or opt for the less expensive route
If you're planning a party for tens or hundreds of thirsty holiday visitors, a delicious, inexpensive red wine may be just the ticket. FuZion, which sells for less than $8, is a soft, luscious blend of shiraz and Malbec from Argentina. While it should keep the gang in the red, you'll stay in the black!
(PRICES VARY IN LOCAL MARKETS. ALL PRICES ARE FOR 750 ML BOTTLES, EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED.)