There is a LOT of entertaining happening around this time of the year. Which means random people in your home who need wine, and lots of unforeseen occasions when the gift of wine is handy to have around the house -- like when you forget that co-worker or neighbor who brought you cookies or a gift certificate or a tacky potholder that require reciprocation.
The easy thing to do is buy a case of something -- California Chardonnay, Bordeaux -- whatever. Walk into the wine store, tell the person what you want in a confident, authoritative voice and you're done.
Good idea? Not so fast. While the thought of having 12 bottles at your disposal is a good one, the twelve-of-a-kind idea doesn't fly with me.
I know it's a pain to pick out individual wines. And I'm not suggesting you get 12 different bottles. But I think you owe it to yourself, your family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, and anyone else you drink with, to spice it up with more than one type of wine. Whether it be 1/2 white and 1/2 red or 3 bottles of 4 different types, you need variety to suit the different taste of people coming over or gift recipients. You've gotta have some range.
I'm not going to talk about the standard bearers that most people buy: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc -- you already know about those. Instead I'll offer some ideas of how to mix things up so you can get crowd pleasers that are a little different from what everyone else is serving.
No need to labor the point further, here are some ideas to get a case of wine like no one else's:
6 of one, half a dozen of another:
If you're going halvsies on a case, do a red and a white that have broad appeal.
- Mendocino, California Zinfandel: Lower in alcohol than a lot of Zins, it's always a hit
- Côtes-du-Rhône: With a hit parade of vintages lately, you can't go wrong here
- Argentinean Malbec: The price is right and the quality amazing
- Cru Beajolais (not Nouveau but from one of the 10 quality producing areas -- Fleurie, Morgon, Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Moulin-a-Vent, Chenás, Juliénas): Bright, fruity, higher in acid and lower in tannin, you'd be surprised what Beaujolais really tastes like.
- Albariño from Spain: Fruity, but still acidic, this is like a friendlier version of Sauvignon Blanc
- Bordeaux Blanc: Great quality for the price, this blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Muscadelle is smooth, great with lighter food, and universally liked.
- Pinot Gris from Alsace, France or Willamette Valley of Oregon: A fruity, creamy, spicy deliciousness that's easy to love.
- Now you can add a heavier red like a Syrah from the northern Rhône Valley, a Monastrell from Southern Spain (often named by place: Jumilla or Yecla), or an Italian red like Aglianico from Southern Italy, Amarone, or Brunello di Montalcino.
- You can rarely go wrong with a spicy Riserva Rioja, but just make sure it's of good quality because there is a huge range.
- You could think about some more esoteric medium-bodied (very food friendly) wines like Chinon, a Cabernet Franc based wine from the Loire, or a regular Cabernet Franc from Sonoma County in California, a Nero d'Avola from Sicily, or even a Bläufrankish or Lemberger (same grape) from Austria or Germany, respectively.
- A different kind of Chardonnay, like a Chablis, or a New Zealand version may take people by surprise with its high acid, minerally flavor. Not for everyone but an interesting wine for those who love acidic wines.
- The whites of the Campania region of Italy are rich, honeyed, and outrageously good -- Fiano d'Avellino, Greco di Tufo, and Falanghina (the lightest of the three).