Richard Jennings' Wine Gift Guide

Top wine gifts as recommended by Richard Jennings


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I list Champagne first because it is the most holiday oriented of wines and is enjoyed by almost all wine lovers. And for going to holiday parties, it always seems like the right gift—one that everyone can enjoy that very evening if the host so chooses.

I taste a lot of Champagnes, at least a few hundred a year, and regularly follow the major houses and top growers in both their non-vintage and vintage offerings. Year after year, I am struck by the consistency, excellent quality and relative value from the houses of Charles Heidsieck and Pol Roger. These are my two favorite houses at all price levels.

Since 1985, Charles Heidsieck has been owned by the Rémy-Cointreau Group, which also owns Krug. The house possesses 30 hectares in Ambonnay, Bouzy and Oger. Their regular Brut is generally good, and the Rosé Reserve is a very reliable rosé. The sweet spot, though, in terms of quality and value is the Brut Reserve, which can be found most places for under $45.

In the under $100 category, there’s a lot to choose from even though that’s a fraction of what many of the top vintage Champagnes from the greatest houses sell for, i.e., $300 and up. My pick this year is Pol Roger’s 2000 Extra Cuvée de Réserve Brut, which happens to be drinking very well now. This house was founded in 1849. They currently own 85 hectares of vineyards, which supply 45% of the needed fruit, and they purchase the rest from Pinot villages.

Under $50

NV Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Reserve - Light yellow color; yeasty, baked apple, tart pear nose; tasty, poised as always, baked apple, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Under $100

2000 Pol Roger Champagne Extra Cuvée de Réserve Brut - Light lemon yellow color with abundant mousse; very leesy, yeasty, lemon rind, mineral nose; tasty, rich, yeasty, mineral, lemon rind, tart lemon palate; long finish 95 points

Mentioned in this article


  • Did Richard Jennings ever live in Roswell New Mexico?

    Dec 06, 2012 at 1:51 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 125,284

    Hi John. No, I never had the pleasure of living in Roswell.

    Dec 06, 2012 at 1:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Russ Beebe
    1100415 1

    An outstanding lineup, Richard - most especially in the way you presented it as gifts you would enjoy receiving yourself. A very practical (and delicious) viewpoint!

    Dec 06, 2012 at 3:55 PM

  • Snooth User: PFBG
    454785 1

    The picture shows a Rosso not a Brunello. Altough you can have very good Rossos, they don't compare to the simplest Brunello. Don't you agree?

    Dec 06, 2012 at 5:55 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 125,284

    Russ, thank you for the kind words. I always try to select gifts for people that I would be happy to receive myself, and that philosophy has served me well.

    I totally agree that it would be the very rare Rosso that would hold a candle to most Brunellos, but there are also some lousy Brunellos out there, so we'd have to make rare exceptions. Good catch though.

    Dec 06, 2012 at 6:26 PM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,082

    I have always gave the RAMOS PINTO 20 yr. tawny for gifts. Is the Taylor Fladgate just as good?

    Dec 09, 2012 at 8:52 AM

  • How about a muscat?

    Dec 09, 2012 at 11:34 PM

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