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November 9, 2015

Wines for the Holiday Party


Although the holiday feasting season is upon us now through the end of the year, it is important to remember not every gathering of friends and family is a formal occasion. 'Tis also the season of spontaneous conviviality. The good host always wants to serve tasty wine but is ever mindful there are budget considerations when a crowd gathers for a holiday happy hour.

When the need arises for some very good budget wine, the following five brands are tried and true, consistently producing delicious wines at modest prices.

Banfi Centine — This is the entry-level brand produced by the notable Tuscan winery Castello Banfi. Best known for its exceptional Brunello di Montalcino, Banfi also makes the inexpensive Centine wines that come in three flavors: rosso, bianco and rose. You have probably figured out the rosso is sangiovese-based, the bianco pinot grigio-based and the rose is primarily juice from sangiovese. These wines are reliably delicious and priced around $10 a bottle, a little more or less depending upon where you live.

Barefoot Cellars — These are probably the finest $7 wines in the world. What's remarkable about Barefoot is the consistency despite high production levels (in the millions of cases a year). All of the wines are multi-vintage blends, which allows winemaker Jen Wall and her team to tweak the wines to hit a predictable taste and level of quality. The straight-up cabernet sauvignon and merlot are quite good, the riesling is always aces and they even make a quaffable prosecco.

Cupcake — This brand is from The Wine Group portfolio and specializes in wines from around the globe: a delicious sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, excellent prosecco and pinot grigio from Italy and so on. The wines are all priced well below $20 a bottle and they always deliver. Perfect for a thirsty crowd.

Jacob's Creek — This Australian winery has a long history of exceptional shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and riesling in the $12-$15 range. The wines are well-balanced and flavorful, with nary a dud in the brand's broad portfolio. What really sets them up nicely as a party wine, though, is their easy drinkability. No rough edges to be found here!

Sterling Vintner's Collection — Sterling is a powerhouse Napa Valley winery with plenty of expensive offerings, but its Vintner's Collection value line is hardly a black mark on the brand and may include some of the finest $15 wines on the planet, including a delicious pinot noir that beats all comers at the price. The chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are winners, too.

Posted by Robert Whitley at 2:03 PM