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Guide to Holiday Wine

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 145 December 2005

People tend to shop for wine the way they do household supplies, with either a shopping cart or a basket. We usually take the latter approach, buying just a bottle at a time, as needed, but that can seem inefficient, especially during the hubbub of the holidays. Buying wine is much more pleasurable than stocking up on, say, paper towels, and most wine stores offer a 5 percent to 15 percent discount when you buy six or 12 bottles. Purchasing multiple bottles at once saves time, too.

With one trip, you get it all -- something delicious to drink with the feast, a wine to offer friends when they drop in, a gift for the party hostess, and a special bottle for the boss. It might sound indulgent to spend a couple hundred dollars on a case or two, but good wine won't go to waste.

Our Holiday Wine Picks
Big-Event Reds
The 2003 Ridge Zinfandels, designated Three Valleys ($20), or better yet, Paso Robles ($26), Pagani Ranch ($35), and York Creek ($28) deliver swelling dark-berry flavor spiced with cinnamon and black pepper. Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Bossona Riserva (1999, $39) is a hearty Tuscan red with tones of violet and roselike flavor.

Big-Event Whites
White Bordeaux is somewhat esoteric, but Chateau Smith-Haut -- Lafitte's smooth Sauvignon Blanc -- dominant version (2000, $48) is a credit to the soils of southwest France, evoking white peaches and lime. The flinty, mineral quality of Domaine Weinbach's Schlossberg Riesling (2003, $35) underlines the green-apple and pineapple flavors that emerge from these wines.

Dinner Reds
We like Masi Campofiorin (2001, $15), an apricot-scented Italian blend; its complex, chocolate-like bitterness endears it to hearty meats. Georges Duboeuf bottles a smooth Morgon (the Jean Descombes 2003, $13), an upscale, food-worthy Beaujolais with cherry and leather tones.

Dinner Whites
Crisp Erath Pinot Blanc from Oregon's Willamette Valley (2004, $13) is fermented in steel, emphasizing the grape's fruity apple-and-citrus nuances -- an ideal match with shellfish. Clos du Val's Chardonnay (2002, $21) balances acids and oak, and gets more pear character out of the grape.

Table Reds
We like the California Cabernet Sauvignon from Smoking Loon (2003, $8) and earthy Goats Do Roam (2002, $9), a South African, Rhone-style red. Osborne Solaz (2003, $7) gets a gutsy dose of fruit and spice from Shiraz and Tempranillo grapes. It's great with everything from burgers to roast duck.

Table Whites
The Chardonnay from Chilean Los Vascos (2004, $10) is the kind of full-bodied white with lemony notes that has the fortitude for pate. The Argentine Santa Julia Torrontes (2004, $8) is quite dry, with some orange blossom high notes -- perfect with roasted root vegetables. M. Chapoutier's golden Cotes du Rhone Belleruche Blanc (2002, $11) has a lovely almond-and-mineral quality.