Despite the annual cycle of vintages and stately chateaux that project an air of calm permanence, the world of wine is really a tumultuous place. As in any other industry, fashions and trends drive sales; regions fall in and out of favor; varieties are darlings one moment, duds the next. No wonder consumers find the process of buying wine mystifying, and a bit overwhelming - especially at the holidays.
If you’re eager to fill out some wine lover’s stocking with a special bottle this year, we suggest cutting out the tumult by focusing on guidelines rather than specifics.
First, it should come from a local wineshop where every wine on the shelf is there because someone personally chose it and the staff can speak knowledgeably about it. It should be the product of a passionate and skilled winemaker who is a conscientious curator of regional tradition, respectful of an agricultural patrimony, and dedicated to a personal vision of what his or her wine should be. And it should be frank in expression, moderate in alcohol, shapely in proportion, a good-natured companion at the table, and, above all, delicious.
Never produced in quantities that could begin to serve a mass market, and often from regions few are familiar with, wines of this character aren’t the easiest to find. The plus is that such things typically fly so far under the radar that we can still find and afford them.
Stuff a stocking with a wine with these characteristics and the particular region, grape variety, and vintage won’t matter a figgy pudding.
Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Brut NV
Bright gold hue; good firm, persistent bubble; flavor profile predominantly apple-pear with lovely soft fruit and plenty of mineral interest. It’s 100 percent chenin blanc. This little French beauty is our house bubbly for all but the fanciest occasions. Around $18. At Blanchards Wines & Spirits, West Roxbury, 617-327-1400; Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607.
Sybille Kuntz Gold-Quadrat Trocken Riesling 2009
Lovely, limpid, pale gold; forward aromatics with lightly honeyed lemon drop notes; some tropical fruit aspects and acidity; mouth shows real acid structure with round firm riesling fruit that’s fleshy but also nicely crisp. Sip this gem-quality German with a baked ham. Around $28. At Hi-Rise Bread Co., Cambridge, 617-876-8766; Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040.
Brigaldara Valpolicella 2009
Medium garnet hue; aromas reminiscent of cherries and red licorice with a subtle tobacco note; mouth is nimble and juicy, and, though lightish, fruit has real depth and character set off with some frisky acids. Match this cheery, value-rich little Italian wine with meaty hors d’oeuvres. Around $14. At The Wine and Cheese Cask, Somerville, 617-623-8656; Panzano Market, Southborough, 508-485-8884.
Lopez de Heredia Rioja Crianza “Cubillo’’ 2005
Deep, nearly opaque ruby-black; nose shows some sweet oak and ripe, spice-tinged, softish plummy red fruit; round, plush red fruit and loamy earth supported by nicely firm acids. Some modest bottle-age adds complexity to this Spanish star. Very nice with leg of lamb or succulent chops. Around $28. At Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560; Medfield Wine Shop, Medfield, 508-359-4097.
Closerie des Alisiers Vielles Vignes Marsannay 2009
Deep ruby hue with black glints; extremely attractive rather high-toned aromas of baked cherry and clean, loamy earth; offers appealingly concentrated, brightly juicy and sweet French pinot fruit; spot on balance of fruit and brisk, cleansing finish. Serve with rich meats such as roast duck, boeuf Bourguignon, savory mushroom tart. Around $29. At Lower Falls Wine, Newton, 617-332-3000; Yankee Spirits, Sturbridge, 508-347-2231.
Chateau Musar “Hochar Pere et Fils’’ Bekka Valley 2004
Medium ruby-black hue with some orange tints; complex, outdoorsy, pine forest-like aromas; mouth combines voluptuous light, quite sweet red fruit reminiscent of cranberries with darker savory notes that seem loamy and balsamic; texture silky smooth. From Lebanon. Pour with a beef tenderloin or roast chicken. Around $28. At Andover Liquors, Andover, 978-470-0500; Lower Falls Wine.Stephen Meuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.