Be original Make your own Christmas basket
Dec. 13, 2000
Breathes there a man or woman who has not been given a basket of some kind as a Christmas gift? Baskets with teensy tiny wedges of cheese, most of which you will never open. Baskets with sausages, deliberately bland so while you don't love them you don't hate them either. Of course one taste and you're not likely to eat them either.
There will be crackers. There are always crackers. You have to have something on which to put the cheese you don't want and the sausage you can't eat.
The crowning glory of the basket is always wine or something that passes itself off as wine. Sparkling cider. Non-alcoholic Champagne. At best, some low end wine you would walk right on by in your favorite package store and will probably pour down the sink, if you elect to open it when considering what to do with the basket's contents.
Granted, pre-made baskets are the easy way out. They certainly have their place. But if the friend is special or the customer important, why not make your own? And, if you choose to take that advice, the crackers, cheese and sausage are your choice. My field of expertise is not cheese and sausage.
We'll assume you are not certain about the wine tastes of the recipients. If that is true, do not experiment with some relatively unheard of white wines. Go the safe route with a Chardonnay or a Champagne.
I like Fume Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. I like the Rieslings from Alsace. But I would not give a bottle to someone who has merely told me, "I like white wines."
There are many good Chardonnays in all price ranges, some good, some exceptionally good, some marvelous. Depending on what you wish to spend it is hard to go wrong with Lindeman's Bin 65 or Rosemount from Australia, California's Geyser Peak, La Crema, Edna Valley or Murphy Goode. There are a number of others but this is a fair sample from which to choose.
We also recommend the Greg Norman Chardonnay from Australia, a bargain at about $16, the wines from the Macon Villages areas of France with the name of the village following the Macon area designation (we particularly like the Macon-Lugny) which are also in that price classification. The true white Burgundies are very pricey, but oh so good.
If your friend likes sweet wines, please do not give a bottle of Blush wines or white Zinfandels. You can do much better with a good German wine. Be certain, however it is a Spatlese or an Auslese since both have been picked later in the harvest and are sweeter. Also, do not think you are buying quality when you buy German wines in the $10 class, give or take. Blue Nun is drinkable but it is not at the same level of better wines from Germany. As for the German wines with the Black Cat on the bottle, let me put it this way. You won't find any in my wine cellar.
It is impossible to go wrong with a decent Champagne. As guests at our recent Champagne tasting know, good American sparkling wine can be had for under $20 per bottle. Our tasters as a group liked the Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington State very much and it is priced at under $13. My personal favorite is Roederer's Anderson Valley from California, rated a 90 on the 100 point scale and priced at about $20. The taster's choice, however, was the Moet &Chandon White Star priced in the vicinity of $40. It has a pronounced yeasty flavor which our audience loved. It is also the fastest selling imported Champagne in the Meridian area so it may be hard to find.
Remember the Italian and Spanish copies of champagne are not the real thing, merely sparkling wines produced in a somewhat similar manner. They are several steps behind the better wines. And if you're tempted to buy and give American sparkling wines priced under $10, forget it. You give wines to make friends, not enemies.
For something really different you might select a dessert wine from France. Look for Sauternes or wines from the Barsac area. One wine publication describes them as "France's best sweet wine, strong (14 percent alcohol) luscious and golden." Who am I to argue? They won't be cheap but they will be memorable.
After all, isn't that one of the prime reasons why you give wine so they think of you and your gift? Darn right. Or in hopes they will offer to share?
Note: Next week, recommendations on red wine as gifts.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.