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Best wine selections at best prices for the holidays

Holiday celebrations and sipping wine often go hand in hand, but where to start when you're shopping for a good bottle?
November 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Holiday celebrations and sipping wine often go hand in hand, but where do you start when you're shopping for a good bottle? If the choices seem overwhelming, the wine experts at Consumer Reports can help.

Looking for some great wine to give as a gift during the holidays? Or maybe you're trying to pick the perfect pour to pair with your own holiday meal.

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 a bottle, you might want to save it as a special gift.

"The good news is that about half the wines we like cost about $15 or less," said Consumer Reports ShopSmart Deputy Editor Sue Perry.

That includes Consumer Reports "best buy" cabernet from 14 Hands Winery ($11), which goes nicely with an herb-roasted chicken.

Want a white instead? Even the top-rated sauvignon blancs are pretty reasonably priced. Spy Valley Wines took the top spot for $15. Tasters called it delicious, with tropical fruit notes, and it's food-friendly, particularly with sushi.

Spend even less, at $12 per bottle, for a 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," said Perry. "But on the other hand, if you're serving mostly fish on your menu, you might want to consider one of the sauvignon blancs."

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 the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The area boasts more than 140 wineries and turns out some delicious sauvignon blanc wines.

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