Ten of the best (and highly giftable) wines of 2012

Categories: Booze

1. Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé NV ($18): Bubbly is as integral a part of celebrating the holidays as snow, Bing Crosby and decking the halls. The fact that these are cotton candy-pink bubbles -- made in the exact same style as spendy Champagne -- and that a bottle of said bubbles can be scored for less than $20 is what makes this wine a no-brainer for gifting. As delicious the tenth time we sipped it this year as it was on the first, this soft, creamy blend of pinot auxerrois and pinot blanc will deliver plenty of good cheer.

2. Pascal Doquet Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV ($35): As much as we savor saving cash by drinking sparkling wine over actual Champagne, there is a time and a place when we feel it's entirely appropriate to splurge for the real thing (New Year's Eve comes to mind). Unless, as with this gorgeous Pascal Doquet, the real thing is still a crazy-good bargain, priced well below most of the name-brand sparklers you've heard of. Made of 100 percent chardonnay, prepare yourself for tightly-clustered bubbles and mouthfuls of toasted brioche and crisp apple flavors.

3. Meinklang Prosa Frizzante Pinot Noir 2010 ($16): Three words: Biodynamic. Austrian. Pinot. This wine shot straight to the top of our 'indie favorite' list this summer, when we first sampled its dark berried, almost savory pinot noir fruit. That's because Austrian pinot noir isn't like the others -- there's a decidedly deeper, more intellectual quality that makes it perfect to pour alongside heartier dishes than you might normally; we're talking roast chicken or rack of lamb here. Oh yeah -- one other thing. The wine is made in a frizzante style, which means there will be the slightest smattering of bubbles that race across your palate, lending a burst of freshness to every sip.

4. Weingut Knoll Loibner Federspiel Riesling 2009 ($24): The summer of 2012 is officially going down in our books as the Summer of Riesling, for this was the year when this oft-misunderstood grape seemed to finally catch on amongst long-persistent doubters. And we couldn't be happier, because these are some of our favorite (not to mention, the most food-friendly) wines of all time. This particular Austrian -- yep, another one -- bottling scored major points with us for its bracing, mineral-driven citrus flavor profile that was anything but sweet. Why wait for next month to start with resolutions? Start your love affair with Riesling right this minute.

5. Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2010 ($24): Some people feel that when there's snow on the ground, red wine should be in the glass. Not us. In fact, we've found ourselves craving well-rounded whites more than ever of late -- so when we stumbled upon this one recently while dining out, we knew we'd found a winner. There's no easy way to describe this incredibly unique, complex wine; when it first hit the glass, a whiff of straight-up funk assaulted our olfactory senses. Not a bad funk, mind you; this was more of a nutty, yeasty aroma, not unlike what you'd typically encounter when enjoying a Belgian ale, for example. But ten minutes later, the wine evolved into an intriguing flavor mash-up of dried apricots, amaretto, wildflower honey and tangy acidity that enticed us mightily.

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