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Wine of the Week

Guest-Pleasing Ideas, From Bubbles to Whisky

By Wes Marshall, Fri., Dec. 7, 2012

For your guests who appreciate adult beverages, a generous pour of a luxurious drink is always in order. Whether it's for a gathering of your best friends at a holiday meal or an intimate splurge with your lover, here are a few possibilities guaranteed to bring joy during this holiday season.

Bubbles: Luckily, sparkling wines come in every price range, but all of them require careful choices. The main reason you hear folks say Champagne gives them a headache is because they had too much of a lousy product at a wedding reception. Good wines in moderation don't produce headaches. Here are a few brands you can trust at all price points. Spain's Segura Viudas makes several versions, starting at $10 for its fragrant Rosé, up to $25 for its finest Cava, Reserva Heredad. Moët & Chandon is a worldwide brand with consistent winners. Domaine Chandon is the California version, and it starts at under $20, while the classic Champagne, Dom Pérignon, often costs over $200. In between are Chandon's sparkling wines and Champagnes at every price range. Another consistently recommendable brand is Sonoma's J Vineyards, priced between $25 and $50.

Whisky: A few stalwarts still prefer blended Scotch whiskies, and I have to admit a soft spot for Dewar's 18 Year Old ($65). Once a whisky gets over the $35 range, most connoisseurs prefer single malts. That sounds simple enough, but there are over 100 such distilleries in Scotland, all making multiple whiskies. People just learning about the complex world of whisky should start with subtle styles from brands that are readily available. My favorites of this type are Glenmorangie Lasanta ($43), the Balvenie DoubleWood ($50), and Glenfiddich Malt Master's Edition ($80). Scotch whisky snobs generally take it as a matter of pride that their preferred brand is so packed with smoky peat aromas that we proletarians won't "get it." The truth is, anyone can enjoy these old-style whiskies in the proper environment. For me, that means after dinner on a cold night with a glass of Ardbeg 10 Year Old ($45) or Laphroaig 10 Year Old ($40).

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