What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Gift Guide: Tips for wine shopping

Posted December 17, 2014

The wine cellar at Fearrington House

— We are discussing great gift selections for the wine novice as well as the connoisseur. This time, we chatted with Inez Ribustello of On the Square in Tarboro, Aris Ragouzeos of Wake Tech Community College, Max Kast of the Fearrington House wine team, and Paolo Pellizzari of Bacco Selections. We asked about choices that were affordable and accessible to newer wine lovers, as well as helpful hints for shopping for those more experienced.

The Wine Novice

For the beginner, wine can seem baffling and aloof. One can stare at a rack of wines for hours on end, not really knowing which will be the best for a dish or a meal, much less someone else! How do you know which one to pick?

Think about the individual. Do they like chocolate, coffee or a certain kind of cheese? Perhaps fruits like sour apples, pears, or peaches? Are they wild about great bread, smoked meats or vegetarian? Be sure to mention this to a wine associate or store assistant! It will help you find a wine that your friends or family will look forward to using! Truly great vino makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift that will always be remembered. A small note on the neck of the bottle for the recipient with a few pairing suggestions or tips will surely be helpful as well.

(See our previous article as well for wine pairing ideas. Prices here are estimates only and by the bottle unless otherwise listed. If not listed, please see a merchant for more detail.)


O&A: What are some great whites for the wine novice?

Inez had several suggestions for a category depending on the region.

Inez: Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling, Mosel, Germany $11.5; Banyan Gewurztraminer, Monterey, California $13; Domaine Bersan Sauvignon de Saint Bris, France $18; Lidia & Amato "Palu" Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Italy $13; Brooks "Runaway White" Pinot Blanc, Oregon $18

Max: Zestos (Name of wine), Malvar of Madrid, Spain, 2012 – “Malvar is an indigenous grape to the Madrid region of Spain. This comes from an organically farmed vineyard planted in 1974. It is citrusy with herbal notes. It is perfect for those who love Sauvignon Blanc. It is already amazing, but what makes it better is that it just $12 dollars a bottle. You would be hard pressed to find a wine that performs on this level at this price anywhere.”

Paolo suggested a number of grape varietals (wine from one grape) as well. This is interesting, as an early palate might first enjoy a ‘representative’ wine, meaning one that embodies the terroir and character of a specific grape grown in a specific place. Our experts indicated quite a few varietals for us, including several other wines that are easy on the palate regardless of age.

Paolo: Chigi Saracini Vermintino IGT 2013 - This grape is 100 percent Vermentino. It has a smooth, elegant palate sustained by a pleasant acid vein. It goes well served as an “aperitif, or with cold starters, summer dishes and fish.”

Fossa Mala Pinot Grigio Friuli DOC 2013 - This grape variety is 100 percent Pinot Grigio DOC (Denominazione Origen Controllata) grown in clay-silt of Northwest Italy, Fiume Veneto. “The palate is well-rounded and crisp.” Recommended pairings are raw and cooked fish, main courses and white meats.


O&A: What are some good red choices for the wine novice?

Inez: Honoro Vera Organic Monastrell, Jumilla Spain $11 “Organic is a super big word among foodies and winos these days, and this juicy fruit bomb from southeastern Spain is a big ole wine for just a small amount of dough. For those who enjoy Barossa Shiraz or California Zin, the Monastrell (also known as Mourvedre in France or Mataro in Australia) is a fantastic gift.”

Monastrell is the grape, which takes on different characteristics depending on the terroir, as discussed earlier.

Inez: Semaphore 7, Alentejo, Portugal $11 “A blend of indigenous grapes from Alentejo (one of the grapes Aragonez is the same grape as Tempranillo in Rioja), this light-to-medium-bodied red is a delicious bargain with lots of red berry fruit & smoke. I adore Portugal for affordable, yummy reds, and this is one of our favorites. “

The Sempaphore 7 is a great one to try; a novel blend that is easy to drink and to locate.

Inez: Domaine L'Hortus "Le Loup dans la Bergerie," Pic St. Loup, France $11.5 “Something different and delicious to drink at the same time always works around the holidays. For your friends who enjoy wines from the Southern Rhone, this Syrah/Merlot/Grenache blend has body, spice and ripe jammy fruit in one punch. A steal and a half, you can afford to give two bottles if you're really in the holiday spirit.”

Inez also recommended: Bacchus Cabernet Sauvignon, California $15 and Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy $18

Max: Badenhorst, Secateur Red, Swartland, South Africa, 2011 – “This is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Pinotage some from very old vines. It is made by one of the most talented winemakers in South Africa, Adi Badenhorst. I am a huge fan of all of their wines, and this is a great wine for the holidays, because everyone will love it from connoisseur to novice. It is spicy with ripe red and black berry fruit, fuller in body, and way too easy to drink.” $15

Paolo: Villa Chigi Chianti DOCG 2013 - 95 percent Sangiovese grape and others as per regulations, grown at Castelnuovo Berardenga (Siena). “This Sangiovese is bright ruby red with appealing purple hues. It is soft and well-balanced on the palate with recurring fruity undertones. Geranium, pepper and cherry feature on the nose.”

Tenuta Due Corti Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2012 - It is produced in Monforte d’Alba of the Piedmont region. The color is a deep ruby red with intense and “complex aromas of forest berry fruit mingled with plums rose, and peonies, and finally spice and pink peppercorns.” Recommended serving temps are 57-60 degrees Fahrenheit (or 14-16 degrees Celsius).

Here the grape varietal is Dolcetto.


Inez recommends: Muga Rosé Spain $13; Palama Archangelo Rosato, Apulia, Italy $14; Pullus Pinot Grigio, Slovenia $15

O&A: Pullus Pinot Grigio of Štajerska-Slovenia comes from the oldest winery in Slovenia, Ptujska Klet. They have been in operation since 1239. The coloring of the wine comes from extended contact with the ripe grape skins.

Max: Mitelbach, Rosé of Zweigelt, Lower Austria, Austria, 2013 - “This is the same family that makes the Tegernseehof Wines in the Wachau. It is a perfect balance between spicy and fruit, with raspberry and pomegranate showing along with notes of white pepper and clove. It is dry, with refreshing acidity, and always a crowd pleaser. $15


Inez: Dibon Brut Cava, Spain $10; Jagdschloss Sekt Riesling, Rheingau, Germany $19; Alice Prosecco, Veneto, Italy $20.5

An interesting note about Alice Proseccco from the wine maker is that their Prosecco DOCG and extra brut uses only glera or Prosecco grapes. Also, most of their vino spumante is produced using the Charmat method (meaning a large autoclave, like a steel vat is used for fermentation). However, the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG is produced with the classic method, or second fermentation inside the bottle.

Max: Gruet, Brut Rosé New Mexico – “Yep, New Mexico!!!! Gilbert Gruet started his first winery in Bethon in Champagne in the 1950s and in the 1980s decided to take advantage of inexpensive land costs and started his winery in New Mexico making Traditional Method Sparkling wines. This is 100 percent Pinot Noir Rosé with an elegant nose of ripe raspberry, strawberry, orange, and lemon, with a yeasty quality on the nose, and dry bubbly finish. It is one of the best sparkling values out there.” $18 

For The Connoisseur


Inez suggested: Domaine Huet "Clos du Bourg" Vouvray, Loire Valley, France $31; J.J. Prum "Wehlener Sonnenuhr" Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Germany $50; Peter Michael "l'Apres Midi" Sauvignon Blanc, Knights Valley, Ca $56

Paolo: Lahnhof Gewurtztraminer Sudtirol DOC 2013 of Appiano. The flavor is pleasing and comfortable, warm and balanced. Serving temp recommended is 46-48 degrees F or 8-10 degrees C.
Recommended pairings are artichokes and fresh cheeses. $50+

Max: Hanzell Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley, California, 2012 – One of the pioneers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California, Hanzell still makes some of the most elegant wines in the United States. This Chardonnay …is one of the greatest expressions of terroir in the United States. The wine has notes of Lemon Zest, Ripe Yellow Pear, Bees Wax, Chamomile, Almond, and Toast. On the palate it is full-bodied, with medium-plus acidity, and a long mineral-driven finish. I recommend serving this wine at cellar temperature, about 55 degrees (F), and if you are drinking it soon, decanting the wine as you enjoy it. This wine will age gracefully for another 15 years if not more, given the proper storage.” $80


Inez: Bachelot-Monnot Maranges 1er Cru "Fussiere," Burgundy, France $33; Chateau Cantemerle, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France $65; Oddero "Brunate" Barolo, Piedmont, Italy $152; Quilceda Creek Red Wine, Columbia, Washington $77

In addition, Aris Ragouzeos commented on Piemontese wines as well when writing for Cary Magazine, in an article he authored entitled, “The Gift of Great Wine”. He stated that “Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Piedmont Villages of Barolo and Barbaresco make a regal red wine of great complexity, depth, and longevity.” He also recommended Brunello di Montalcino, which is made from a clone of the Sangiovese grape. This particular variety is consistently one of the best in Italy.


Inez: Iron Horse "Rainbow Cuvee," Green Valley of Russian River Valley, CA $56
Jacquesson "Cuvee 736" Brut Champagne, France $76
Chartogne-Taillet "Cuvee les Barres" Extra Brut Champagne, France $105

Max: Ruinart, Blanc de Blancs, Reims, Champagne, MV – This is “one of my favorite negociants in Champagne… It is 100 percent Chardonnay, and is perfect for enjoying now, over the holidays. I recommend skipping the flutes, and enjoying this Champagne in white wine glasses. You will get more of the aromatics of the wine, lemon-verbena, lime-zest, tangerine, crushed sea-shells… it makes you spend a little more time with the wine, and makes you treat it for what it is, amazing wine, not just Champagne.” $42


Inez: Domaine Tempier Bandol, Provence $47; Edoardo Valentini "Cerasuolo" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Italy $85

Max: Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé France, 2013 –“This is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinasult and Carignan, from right off of the Mediterranean coast.” This is the definition of Rosé and it improves with age. “Bright berry fruit, citrus, sage and spice, dry and medium–bodied; it is just a great drinking experience.” $44

Out and About thanks all of our guest experts for their contribution to our two-part holiday wine guide this season! May everyone enjoy a wonderful glass of wine with good friends and family! Cheers!


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