If you're both a wine lover and a person of modest means, like so many of us, you may well drink at least a little (and maybe occasionally a lot) of wine each day, and you probably don't pay all that much per glass or bottle. There are just too many other things to spend money on, and while wine is important, so are all those other things, like coffee, food, entertainment. The rent.
But what if you were to suddenly receive an unexpected influx of simoleons? What if a gift of long green showed up out of nowhere when you least expected it? What if you'd had a little too much of your paycheck withheld last year or racked up an unusual amount of deductible expenses and the good old United States Treasury — you know, the guys you usually write a check to this time of year — actually send you a check? What would you do with that manna from heaven?
Well, sure, you could do the mature thing and sock it away. Or pay down your Visa bill. Or even donate it to some worthy cause. But doesn't at least a little part of you just want to celebrate? And because you're a wine lover and a person of modest means, doesn't that suggest that maybe this might be a good excuse to buy one (or more) of those really pricey bottles you're always noticing on wine lists or wine shop shelves but usually can't come close to affording?
We think that's a great idea, and have come up with a list of 10 wines — white and red; still, sparkling, and sweet — that are beyond the everyday reach of all but the one percent, but that we think would be a very good use of your windfall. These aren't necessarily the most expensive wines in their categories, just some definitely costly ones that are worth the money if you have it to throw around. (Prices are approximate and will vary from place to place.)
Bollinger R.D. 2002 ($325).
Bollinger is a champagne brand for people who think of champagne as real wine, not just some fizzy frivolity. The R.D. stands for récemment dégorgé, or "recently disgorged," meaning that the wine sat in the bottle with its lees (dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation) for eight years before they were removed, thus developing the toasty, yeasty aromas the wine is known for. This is a meaty, earthy wine with a keen acid edge, perfectly balanced and capable of standing up to just about any dish, but also glorious to drink by itself.
Von Winning Förster Kirchenstück Riesling Großes Gewächs 2013 ($150).
There are many more expensive German rieslings out there, and certainly more famous ones, but this is one that will dramatically illustrate why riesling — though not all that popular in the United States these days — is one of the greatest white-wine grapes, easily the equal in complexity and finesse to chardonnay. "Großes Gewächs" — which means something similar to the French term "premier cru," or "first-growth" — is a description applied to Germany's best dry wines. Rieslings from the Pfalz region, like this one, tend to be richer and riper than their counterparts from other parts of Germany, and Von Winning's has a forthright, opulent, juicy character that's truly memorable.