* It is the holiday gift-giving season, and the wine shops in Washington are practically filled to the brim with special wines that will provide the wine enthusiast with wonderful gustatory pleasure.
Many wine lovers want immediate gratification, whereas others want to squirrel away their vinous treasures for five or 10 years, so I've tried to select wines that can be drunk young, but will also reward those who have the patience to wait for their more subtle flavors and complex aromas to develop. White Wine Recommendations
Everyone loves the buttery, flavorful chardonnay grape, and while the best examples of this grape variety are found in French white burgundies and California chardonnays, these wines usually cost $10 to $25 or more a bottle.
However, thanks to a strong dollar and several very successful vintages, you can purchase a richly fruity, round chardonnay called macon-villages for under $6 a bottle. The best that I have tasted in the last month include the wonderfully opulent 1983 Macon-Vire' "Le Grand Cheneau"; the stylish, full-bodied and intensely flavored 1983 Macon-Villages "Les Chazelles"; the buttery, pineappley, exotically fruity 1983 Macon-Prisse "Les Clochettes"; the similarly styled 1983 Macon-Ige' "Les Roches"; and the stylish, elegant yet fruity Macon-Lugny "Les Charmes." All of these remarkable chardonnay values will offer sumptuous drinking for the next 12 to 18 months.
Italian wine producers have also realized the surging American interest in chardonnay-based wines. The new white winemaking technology that the Italians have adopted wholeheartedly has resulted in a number of outstanding white wines offering freshness, crispness and lively fruit for very reasonable prices. The best new Italian chardonnay I have tasted is from Alois Lageder, whose 1983 Chardonnay Atesina ($4.99) is a wonderfully lemony, appley, buttery wine that is quite crisp, dry, round and fruity.
For the big spenders, the 1982 French white burgundies are decadently rich, full-flavored, luscious wines that are delightful for drinking over the next several years. One of the greatest producers of white burgundy is Vincent Leflaive. His 1982 Batard Montrachet ($45), Chevalier Montrachet ($45), Puligny Montrachet-Les Pucelles ($29.95) and Bievennue Batard Montrachet ($39.95) are all very expensive, but are quite sensational white burgundies for drinking over the next five to six years.
From California, the 1983 Fetzer "Sundial" ($7.29) is a fascinatingly fruity, lemony, crisp chardonnay that has not had any exposure to oak aging. The 1983 Fetzer "Barrel Select" ($8.49) offers an alternative style of barrel-fermented, toasty, creamy, buttery and spicy chardonnay. Lastly, the 1981 Rutherford Hill "Reserve" ($12.99) is another mouth-filling, fat, rich, buttery, toasty chardonnay.
If these are not enough white wine recommendations for holiday gift giving, then don't forget about the 1983 German wines. This is the first great vintage in almost a decade for the wines made along Germany's Rhine and Mosel rivers, and while the wines are drinkable now, they will age beautifully for up to a decade. Not all of the growers have released their 1983 wines, but of those that have arrived to date, look for the 1983s from such high-quality growers as Bergweiler Prum, Egon Muller, Von Kesselstatt, Wilhelm Gymnasium, J.J. Prum, Studert Prum, Van Volxem, Burklin Wolk, R. Weil, Von Simmern, Schlossgroenesteyn, and the state-owned Staatlichen Weinbaudomanen. Virtually any of these producers' 1983 kabinetts or sweeter spatlese wines are excellent choices for the wine enthusiast who has a fondness for German wines. Red Wine Gift Ideas
There is so much fine red wine on the market, that the consumer has an endless array of top-notch choices to pick from. However, the very first thing that I have done and that you should do as well, for someone special who truly enjoys wine, is to buy a bottle or two of top-notch red bordeaux from the sensationally great 1982 vintage.
Calvert Woodley Liquors and MacArthur Beverages have the best selections from this vintage, which will surely become the greatest vintage in the post-World War II era, and one of the two or three great vintages of this century. The stocks are dwindling rapidly because of incredible worldwide enthusiasm for these wines, but those who have a few bottles of this nectar will no doubt be rewarded with one of the great bordeaux drinking experiences of a lifetime. The great values from this vintage are certainly from the lesser known "petits chateaux," which are wonderfully lusty, opulent, fruity wines, with shocking concentration for their pedigree. Both Calvert Woodley and MacArthur Beverages have extensive selections of these lesser-known wines for under $6 a bottle. Consumers should especially look for the following wines: Thieuley ($3.49), La Terrace ($3.49), Perenne ($3.49), St. Bonnet ($4.49), Pitray ($3.99) and Haut Sociendo ($4.99). All of these wines will provide marvelous drinking over the next five years.
For legendary proportioned wines of majestic richness and aging potential of up to 20 or more years, you should look at the great classified growths of the region of Bordeaux called the Medoc, and the top properties from St. Emilion and Pomerol. The number of astonishing successes that have been produced in this vintage is truly remarkable, and a list of these wines would go on for several pages. Expect to pay between $150 to well over $500 a case for the top first growth like Lafite Rothschild or Mouton Rothschild, but you can be assured of getting a wine that will be spoken of in an historical context 15 or 20 years from now. The Champagnes
Perhaps the most festive wine of all for this time of year is French champagne. It seems synonymous with the good life, and certainly now is the time to stock up, as champagne prices have never been lower. The great bargains are the nonvintage champagnes, which are blends made by the famous houses in this region in northeastern France.
Consistently the best value for the money has been the Laurent Perrier Brut ($12.95), which is toasty, smoky, creamy, and rather full bodied for a champagne. After that, Calvert Woodley has the Bruno Paillard Cremant Blanc de Blancs ($12.95), which is extremely delicate, with the scent of vanillin and butter highly dominant in its bouquet. Other nonvintage champagnes that are among the best on the market include the Billecart Salmon ($15.99), which can be found at Mayflower Wines & Spirits, A&A Liquors and Rex Liquors, and, perhaps the best nonvintage of all, the magnificent, superbly crafted, rich, full, complex Grosset Special Reserve Brut ($29.95). Any of these will make a wonderful gift.
As far as the so-called luxury or prestige cuve'es of champagne that retail in excess of $35 go, most of these champagnes are highly overpriced and play on the public's misperception that the higher price means higher quality. In most cases with the luxury cuve'es it does not. However, there are two that are simply superb, and if you are intent on indulging yourself or a friend with a $50 bottle of champagne, you should certainly look at the 1976 Taittinger Blanc de Blancs ($55), or the 1975 Bollinger R.D. ($50).