The holidays present a real challenge to oenophiles who wish to give their guests the best experience possible within a limited budget, but wines needn't be pricey to impress, as long as one is willing to think outside the box.
The Blanco Nieva Verdejo 2013 (just under $15) would be a sophisticated and unexpected choice. The product of a small, family-owned vineyard located Segovia, Spain, this wine is pure Verdejo — pale in color and light-bodied, dry with long, acidic finish, the wine features a pleasing hit of mineral to balance its citrus-driven fruit. As it opens, you may detect the tang of Granny Smith apples and a hint of nettle in the finish.
I’d be comfortable serving this with a variety of holiday appetizers; despite the light body it could certainly stand up to all forms of seafood, from smoked salmon to oysters and even spicier alternatives, such as Old Bay or garlic shrimp, and it would also cut nicely through creamy and cheesy hors d’oeuvres.
Here’s another unexpected choice for your holiday table: instead of the more predictable pinot noir or Beaujolais, consider a medium-bodied Italian red, such as this Chianti Riserva Nipozzano 2010 (just under $20) from Marchesi de Frescobaldi. The wine is round on the palate, smooth, and well-balanced, with plenty of tannins to offset the red fruit, plum, and cherry. The nose is pleasantly spicy with clove, cacao, and more of that bright fruit. It would pair well with turkey, roasted meats, and if your table includes a pasta dish or two, all the better.
This wine also comes with an irresistible story to liven your table: the Frescobaldi family, nobles from Tuscany, has been producing wine since the 1300s, allegedly bartering it for paintings with none other than Michelangelo. The family also supplied the legendary gourmand, Henry VIII. And while the Riserva Nipozzano 2010 is one of the more modest offerings from this legendary vintner, it shows considerable care in the making.