wine glasses

There’s little need to get overly rigid with wine-food match-ups during the holidays.

I generally recommend wines here that are produced in sufficient quantity — 20,000 cases and up — so you can find them at grocery or wine specialty stores somewhere in the Triad. I also try to pick wines under $20, with most in the $10-$15 range. I think that’s the comfort range for most consumers wanting to learn more about the world’s wines.

Here are some I’ve tried that I liked — and you might like, too.

  • 2017 Rilento Nerello Mascalese ($8): A light-bodied red from Sicily that feels like a Pinot Noir at two or three times the price. Nerello Mascalese is not one of those Italian grapes that comes immediately to mind, so I’ll tell you I found it at Total Wine.
  • 2015 Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir ($19): Speaking of Pinot Noir, whenever I tire of the jam-jar-in-your-face-fruit-bombs that California offers at this price point, I look to New Zealand. This Pinot from the Marlborough growing region displays the soft raspberry and cherry signature profile, but there’s an earthiness and minerality here that makes it a refreshing change.
  • 2017 Kono Sauvignon Blanc ($14): New Zealand’s Marlborough region is known for something else: world-class crispy whites bursting with grapefruit, pear and melon flavors. This is sleek and racy and defines Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.
  • 2014 Bodegas Faustino Rioja Crianza ($13): In Spain’s Rioja region, crianza means this is the youngest and lightest of the Tempranillo-based wines. Even so, you can find crianzas four or five years past harvest that are redolent of dried cherry, cedar, and raspberry with zippy acidity.
  • 2016 Concha Y Toro Carmenere Casillero del Diablo Reserve ($11): From Chile’s biggest wine producer and major exporter into the U.S., Carmenere is the signature red grape of Chile, brought there from France and long mistaken for Merlot. Plum, black raspberry and a hint of red bell pepper.
  • 2017 Indaba Chenin Blanc ($11): Chenin Blanc was once the signature grape of South Africa, but sadly, it has been overshadowed by the usual suspects such as Chardonnay. Still, if you want to find a refreshing white with hints of marzipan, honeysuckle and pear, this rendering from the Western Cape region won’t disappoint.
  • 2016 La Vielle Ferme White ($11): Ubiquitous French brand in the U.S. offering great value even if this is a blend of pedestrian white grapes from the south of France — Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Bourbouilenc and highly-regarded Vermentino from Italy. Citrus, apple and honeysuckle.
  • 2016 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills H3 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15): Always impressed with the price-quality ratio of wines from this Washington producer. Not a tannic monster, this Cab has polished berry fruit profile with hints of currant, plum and black cherry.

For those who shop at Costco, a shout-out to the rotating Kirkland Signature series there that sources juice from across the world. I’ve enjoyed Rioja, Cotes du Rhone, New Zealand, and various California varietals — all in the $9-$13 range — and they’ve never disappointed.

A shout-out also to two new Greensboro restaurants that have joined Wine Spectator magazine’s Awards of Excellence for wine menus: Osteria Italian Restaurant, 1310 Westover Terrace; and 1618 Midtown, 1724-105 Battleground Ave.

I’ve sampled their lists in the past, and both are long overdue for this recognition.

Also recognized among new winners: The Celtic Fringe, 234 S.W. Market St. in Reidsville.

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Ed Williams is the marketing director at Alamance Community College. Email wine news to williamsonwine@gmail.com.

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