11 inexpensive wines for holiday parties

11 inexpensive wines for holiday parties
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03, 2013 - White wine toast during fiirst course, squash soup, before Prime Rib dinner and red wine at Irene Virbila's residence, Tuesday, December 03, 2013. Column about pairing wine with food. (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times). (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

For even the most reclusive, the holiday season can involve a fearsome round of dinner parties and festivities. And whenever appropriate, you may want to show up with a bottle of wine in hand. Champagne is easy -- and always welcome. But if you want to bring a moderately priced bottle, say under $25, here are some suggestions that any wine lover should appreciate.

2010 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso (Umbria, Italy)

I've always loved this Sangiovese blend, with a touch of Sagrantino and Merlot from the Umbrian hilltop town of Montefalco. And Arnaldo-Caprai has always made one of the best. 2010 is no exception, a full-bodied red with notes of cherries and cassis, a fine perfume and gentle tannins. Great with a roast duck or goose, or a prime rib. From $15 to $25.

2013 Venica Pinot Grigio 'Jesera' Collio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy)


This Pinot Grigio from the Italian border with Slovenia is much more than an easy-drinking summer wine.  "Jesera," from the venerable Venica estate is a serious, even fleshy wine with notes of pear, apricot and quince, and a long lovely finish.  About $18 to $20.

2012 Varner Foxglove Chardonnay (California Central Coast)

Lean and crisp, with bright citrus notes and a fine balance, the unoaked 2012 Varner Foxglove Chardonnay is a natural with food. It's also an outstanding value for the price.  From $11 to $15.

2012 Julien Sunier Régnié (Beaujolais, France)

This Régnié from Dijon native (and avid surfer) Julien Sunier is a revelation. A gentler expression of Gamay, the cru Beaujolais is floral and delicately spicy and yet complex enough that you find something new in every sip. Sunier's Morgon and Fleurie crus, like the Régnié, made from densely planted old vines farmed biodynamically, are also worth seeking out. About $24.

2012 Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy)

Full and deep in flavor, with notes of plum, spice and chocolate, this Barbera from one of Piedmont's oldest wineries shows elegance and balance.  Vivid and food-friendly, the wine is aged in a combination of large oak casks and for the last few months, smaller French oak barrels. About $20.

2013 M.A.N. Family Wines 'Free Run Steen' Chenin Blanc (Agter-Paal, Coastal Region, South Africa)

The new vintage of this crisp, clean Chenin Blanc from South Africa's M.A.N. Family Wines is here. Made from free-run juice of Chenin Blanc, aged on its lees for several months, it has a lovely floral perfume and a bit of that honeyed quality Chenin gets on the finish. From $8 to $13.

2012 Enkidu 'E' Old Vine Field Blend (Sonoma, Calif.)

This old vine field blend is 60% Zinfandel, 24% Carignane, and 8% each Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah, a proportion that reflects the way vines were planted in the three different vineyards that go into this appealing rustic blend. With its flavors of dark berries and wild herbs, "E" recalls village wines of the southern Rhone. From $18 to $22.

2012 Mohua Pinot Noir Central Otago (Central Otago, New Zealand)

This Pinot Noir from New Zealand's Central Otago estate Mohua is delicate and light on its feet,  a bargain at under $20. Its bright berry flavors tempered with herbal notes, the 2012 Mohua Pinot Noir makes for delicious drinking. From $17 to $19.

2013 Alta Maria Vineyards Carbonic Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir (California Central Coast)

Alta Maria Vineyards makes mostly very serious and seriously delicious Pinot Noirs. This one, though, is lighthearted and fun. Made by fermenting whole clusters the way they do it in Beaujolais, the Carbonic Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir delights with its bright fruit and unabashed charm. About $22.

2005 LAN Rioja Gran Reserva (Rioja, Spain)

Hard to believe, but the 2005 is the latest release of the LAN Rioja Gran Reserva. Mostly Tempranillo with just 10% each of Mazuelo and Garnacha, the 2005 still tastes youthful. Such a pretty wine with notes of cherry, spice and earth -- and a pleasant rasp of tannin. About $19.

2012 Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Bila-Haut Blanc (Languedoc-Roussillon, France)

This blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu and Grenache Gris from Roussillon in southern France shows a great deal of class. Made by the respected Rhone house Chapoutier, the Bila-Haut Blanc is bright and refreshing with a touch of grapefruit in the nose and an appealing minerality.  The rouge is pretty good, too. About $13.

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