Holiday wine buying tips

Diana Williams has the story.
November 25, 2013 3:02:10 PM PST
Holiday celebrations and sipping wine often go hand-in-hand, but where do you start when you're shopping for a good bottle? Are you gifting it or drinking it? What are you eating with it? How much do you want to spend? If the choices seem overwhelming, the wine experts at Consumer Reports can help!

In blind taste tests of 40 cabernet sauvignons and sauvignon blancs, Consumer Reports experts found terrific choices at several price points. The top-rated cabernet is this Louis Martini, from Napa Valley. But for 25 dollars a bottle, you might want to save it as a special gift.

"The good news is that about half the wines we like cost around 15-dollars or less," Sue Perry of Consumer Reports said.

That includes this Consumer Reports Best Buy, an 11-dollar bottle of cabernet from "14 Hands" - which goes nicely with an herb-roasted chicken.

Want a white instead? Even the top-rated sauvignon blancs are pretty reasonably priced.

This Spy Valley took the top spot for 15 dollars. Tasters called it delicious, with tropical fruit notes - and it's food-friendly, particularly with sushi. Spend even less, 12-dollars a bottle -- for this Villa Maria Private Bin sauvignon blanc. It's full-flavored and complex, and works really well with grilled shrimp.

"If you're hosting for the holidays, as a general rule, cabernets go really well with heartier foods like roast turkey with stuffing and gravy. But on the other hand, if you're serving mostly fish on your menu, you might want to consider one of the sauvignon blancs," Perry said.

So you've got several good choices that will complete any holiday meal.

If you're shopping for a good sauvignon blanc or looking to order a glass in a restaurant and don't see one that you recognize, it's usually a good bet to choose one from Marlborough County, in New Zealand. The region boasts more than 140 wineries and turns out some delicious sauvignon blanc wines.

This report is based on an article in the December 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, pages 12-13. And the December issue of ShopSmart magazine, pages 44-45.