Planning a dinner party? Are you having good friends stop by for a glass of wine before a show? Is it your night to host appetizers and drinks before going to a restaurant with your wine loving gourmet group? It’s time to discover a few special wines that are more than ho-hum, perhaps those that have a touch of elegance, yet fit your budget, be it meager or generous.
But first, what do we mean by “elegant”? One dictionary describes the word “elegant” as “pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance or manner, as in she looks elegant in black; gracefully refined and dignified, as in an elegant young gentleman, or literary style; graceful in form or movement, as in an elegant wave of the hand; appropriate to refined taste, as in a man devoted to elegant pursuits”.
Another definition, finally, refers to wine: ”excellent, fine, superior, as in an absolutely elegant wine”. OK, but those words are ambiguous and were not what I was searching for.
Fortunately, my colleague, Madeline Puckette, from the popular site Wine Folly, has a smart, wine-centric description: “When a wine writer says elegant he means that the wine is NOT big, NOT fruity, NOT opulent and NOT bold. Off-vintages are often referred to as elegant vintages as they have higher acid and tend to have more ‘green’ characteristics. Elegant wines may taste like crap when they first release but they also tend to age better. Elegant is that retired ballerina who puts the fat-n-sassy retired cheerleaders to shame.” Thanks, Madeline! I love it!
You may have your own definition, but here’s mine (and sorry if I’m waxing a bit poetic)…
“An elegant wine has mesmerizing flavor and balance with just the right amount of fruit, acidity, tannic structure (if it’s a red wine), and alcohol to complement any dish – it’s not big and bold or wimpy and weak. An elegant wine prompts me to sit back and say “ahhhh”, then anticipate another sip. An elegant wine is deliciously affordable or is so incredible that I don’t feel the least bit of guilt that it’s over the budget. An elegant wine evokes an emotion, whether I’m sharing it with good friends and family as a celebratory drink or I’m having a weeknight pour while reading a book on the porch. An elegant wine is all of these things in my glass.”
Following are a few elegant wines, five of which were sent as samples, that I’ve tasted and loved. I hope you choose one or two that fit your budget and enjoy a touch of elegance in your glass.
Classic Choices under $20
Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie 2014 (sample)– Of course I had to begin with a wine from the Loire Valley! This has been a delightful favorite that I’ve purchased a few times since my first sip. Light aromas of pear, honeydew, and brioche were mesmerizing and I couldn’t help but think of my trip to the Loire Valley when I was in college. Zesty acidity and breezy salinity with flavors of ripe, juicy melon, lime, and stone fruit helped create an incredibly refreshing wine that anyone will enjoy poolside, at the beach or (wait for it…) by a crackling fire with a cheese platter by your side. Cost is $15.
Chic Favorites under $50
Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014 (sample) – I’ve written about wines from Stoller Family Estates before and I have no intention of stopping…as long as I discover wines as lovely as this. Clean and refreshing, this Chardonnay was just beautiful on the nose and palate. Just-right acidity and oak paired with notes of apricot, pears, and stone fruit led to a long and satisfying finish. If you’re a member of the “Anything But Chardonnay” club, this keeper may change your mine…and palate. Cost is $35.
Beautiful Selections under $100
La Victoire Brut Rosé Champagne (NV) – This stunning beauty was my first pour at Buena Vista Winery’s tasting room during a recent trip to Sonoma. Amazing. Predominantly Pinot Noir blended with Chardonnay, both from (mostly) Grand Cru vineyards in Bouzy, Ambonnay, and Louvois, I consider this a classic. Aromas and flavors of ripe and juicy red fruits, brioche, and a long, memorable finish inspired me to ask for another pour. And yes, it’s from Champagne so it’s called…Champagne. Cost is $85.
I’d love to read your description of an elegant wine and taste those you’ve enjoyed. Please leave your comments below.
Cheers! ~ Cindy