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.