Chances are you will be buying a bottle of red wine this holiday season, whether it's for a dinner party or as a gift. Here are some tips and tricks for picking a great bottle that won't break the bank.
Don't Know? Go Pinot!
Pinot Noir appeals to almost everyone, whether or not you like red wines, big wines or soft wines. Pinots are especially great around the holidays because they pair well with basically any meat -- from turkey to ham.
Pinot Noirs from Oregon are very popular right now, but they are also a little bit more expensive. For a cheaper alternative that has the same flavor profile, look to New Zealand.
If you want to literally piss your money away, consider investing in a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), a Pinot Noir from Burgundy. The average prices for a bottle is over $12,000. Ask yourself: For Christmas, do I want a car or do I want a bottle of DRC?
Obviously you don't need to spend thousands of dollars to get a fantastic bottle of wine. In fact, now might be a good time to get something great on the cheap.
You're starting to see producers acknowledge the economy of the world and putting out better wines at lower prices. For instance, it's possible to find a really fun bottle of Bordeaux, which in the past may have cost $100, now selling for $20-30.
Time To Splurge
It is the holidays, though, so this is a perfect time to drop a bit more cash on a bottle of wine than you would normally spend.
The best wine for your buck will come from the Rhône region in southern France, and southern France's most famous red wine is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A bottle of Châteauneuf starts at $30-40 and then goes up as high as you want to go. Even if you buy the lowest end of Châteauneuf, you're getting a really good bottle of wine.
If there was ever a guarantee of quality, the Rhône provides it.
But I've gotten ahead of myself. My first rule of wine buying is to always defer to the sommelier or the wine clerk at the store. We will know what's in stock, what's a great deal and what would work best for your particular situation.
Brad Dunn is the sommelier and beverage director at The Uptown Cafe in Bloomington, Indiana. Read his suggestions for refreshing summer wines here.