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Wine 101: What To Serve, What To Give

'Tis the season for dinner parties, and whether you are hosting or attending, wine is always an issue. What do you serve, what do you give your hostess?

Wine guru Gary Vaynerchuk has answers to those questions. His book, "Wines 101" is a virtual guide to everything wine. It debunks myths and takes the intimidation out of choosing wine.

Check out his suggestions for a splurge, a regularly-priced wine and a bargain for gifting and serving.


Chateau Haut Brisson La Reserve 2005
Vintage Bordeaux

Vaynerchuk says 2005 was a great year for Bordeaux, and it isn't terribly expensive. This wine has a deep purple color, and exhibits hints of black currant and cherry. It's full-bodied with superb purity, good acidity, and ripe tannin. It should unfold gracefully over the next 5 to 6 years, and keep for 15 years or more.

Domaine Hetszolo Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2001
Hungarian Dessert Wine

With the holidays, the sweets are out and the dessert table is laden and ready to go. It's a time for hot chocolate, sweet eggnog and of course, dessert wines. The Tokaji wines from Hungary, in particular, are extremely underrated and underpriced.

Vaynerchuk says: "A magnificent old gold color. To the nose, elegant, subtle and complex aromas with a hint of fruit (apricot, plum, peach, orange) or of honey, hazelnuts ... The taste is sumptuous and unmatched. Its complexity and its rarity confirm the mysterious and engaging character of this true 'king of wines, wine of the kings' (Louis XIV)."

Ranga Ranga Marlborough 2008
Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are very food friendly, pairing with just about anything. They are also well-priced options to bring to someone's home.

Vaynerchuk says: "Finally a throwback to when these wines were clean and crisp and lightly grassy and great pineapple and all that for under $10. I would love people to go out and try this wine because it becomes a great 'go to' white wine for that school night or the game."


Legras St. Vincent 1996

Champagne is amazing with food, and is always a great gift for a hostess. Too many people say it's only for toasts. Vaynerchuk wants to make a distinction between growing houses and big Champagne houses that mass produce their champagne. Often, the smaller and more distinct houses have the best flavors.

Vaynerchuk says: "Bracing, minerally nose hints at Cointreau, tequila, lime and orange," he says. " Extremely dry and penetrating, with an airy lightness of touch. Pristine flavors of citrus skin and powdered stone. This has superb cut and brisk acids without being at all angular. Long and gripping on the finish."

A great pairing for this champagne? Lobster.

Other Splurges:
White: Bzikot Puligny Montrachet 2005 | $50
Red: Rostaing Cote Rotie 2004 | $58

Cristophe Buisson Bourgogne Rouge 2006
Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir drinkers can find good values in red Burgundy, even though Burgundy is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world. According to Vaynerchuk, this is a Pinot Noir the way that Pinot Noir should be.

Vaynerchuk says: "A stunning Bourgogne from Christophe Buisson, this medium to full bodied Pinot Noir exhibits bright cherry and scorched earth tones with plenty of complexity and more structure than you might expect. Outstanding!"

A great pairing for the Pinot Noir? Try duck, or ham or turkey.

Other Moderates
Sparkling: J Brut Cuvee | $24
White: Corchet Sancerre Croix Du Roy 2006 | $23

Poesia Torrontés 2007
Argentine Torrontés

The Torrontés grape that thrives in Argentina is an extremely floral wine that pairs especially well with seafood or any exotic or spicy dish. It's also a great bargain at $10 and many people say it improves as it breathes.

A great pairing for the Pinot Noir? Try duck, or ham or turkey.

Vaynerchuk says: "Amazing aromatics that almost make you think you are drinking a dessert wine and then you get into a great acidic and balanced white wine that challenges many of the top $13 wines in the market! I am in love with this wine and would love to pair it with shrimp or shell fish!"

Other Bargains
Sparkling: One + One=Three Cava Brut | $11
Red: Villa Carafa Aglianco Sannio 2004 | $15

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