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Value Wines for Holiday Entertaining

A question we get asked a lot this time of year: What’s the best wine to bring to a holiday party? Looking back on a year of wine and forward to a new one, here are some unique, wallet-friendly wines we recommend that will broaden palates and keep the conversation friendly and flowing. All are $20 or less.

The Black Chook NV The Chook Sparkling Shiraz (South Australia); $20, 89 points.  Nothing says party like bubbles. And nothing says holidays like fruitcake. This wine is a plummy, chocolaty take on the season and the iconic dessert, yet remains surprisingly refreshing on the long, dusty finish. It works with charcuterie and cheeses, hearty main dishes and on its own, particularly after dinner. Joe Czerwinski, Managing Editor

Broadside 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $18, 87 points. This warm red has broad appeal, excellent for family gatherings. It’s a Cabernet that wraps around you like a cozy cashmere throw, so you’re comfortable enough to swap embarrassing childhood stories and sneak an early cookie or two. When it comes time to sit down for dinner, the Broadside’s fresh acidity cuts through heavy holiday fare and provides enjoyment throughout the evening. —Fiona Adams, Tasting Coordinator

Dark Lady of the LabyrinthDoolhof 2013 Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage (Wellington); $14. This Pinotage will make you think someone took the smoke monster from television’s Lost and put it in a wine bottle to hand to Smoky Bear to drink while he watches the 1991 thriller “Backdraft” inside a wood oven-heated cabin in the mountains. Though not subtle in its wintery qualities, if your idea of a holiday wine is something that transports you away from a pre-recorded yule log on Netflix to a proper campfire in the woods, this bottle is for you. Dylan Garret, Assistant Digital Editor

Weninger 2012 Balf Kékfrankos (Sopron); $17, 87 points. I love Blaufränkisch from Austrian producer Weninger for its nuanced tannins and spice in a lighter-bodied wine, but bottles run around $70. Luckily, Weninger also produces, in Hungary, a Kékfrankos (the Hungarian name for Blaufränkisch) for a lot less. —Carrie Dykes, Tasting Coordinator

UnlitroAmpeleia 2014 Unlitro (Costa Toscana); $20. I have a five-word commandment for you: take me to your liter. Especially around the holidays, you want to bring a bigger bottle to the festivities. Unlitro is an easy-drinking Italian red blend that’s a delight when served with a slight chill. —Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor

Château Rives-Blanques 2015 Odyssée Chardonnay (Limoux); $18, 90 points. Since many people turn to red wines for holiday festivities, I try to think outside-the-box by selecting a white wine. The Limoux region of Languedoc in southern France is a prime spot for Chardonnay, usually available at wallet-friendly prices, a bonus during this wonderful (and expensive) time of year. A producer to know is Château Rives-Blanques; their 2015 Odyssée Chardonnay has people turning from red to white, and pairs especially well with a Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. Lauren Buzzeo, Senior Editor and Tasting Director

Esporão AssobioQuinta dos Murças 2014 Assobio Red (Douro); $13, 86 points. Because of what I do for a living, the wine I bring to holiday parties is usually heavily scrutinized. (Because, what else are friends for?) With that in mind, one of my go-to reds is Quinta dos Murças Assobio from Portugal. It’s juicy, spicy and tart, and goes with just about everything. It’s also great to drink by itself. For a white, I like the Vitiano Bianco from Italy, by winemaking brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella. It’s a ripe, slightly tropical but fresh Vermentino and Verdicchio blend that is definitely not your auntie’s Pinot Grigio. —Lana Bortolot, Senior Editor

Jax 2014 Y3 Taureau (Napa Valley); $20. This impressively drinkable red blend “hi-Jax” my heart. The Y3 Taureau’s dark purple fruit complements almost any holiday meal, so it is a safe bet to put on most tables. Think outside the (expensive) Napa box this holiday season. Bonus: Get into the colors of the season by pairing the red-labeled Taurau with a bottle of the green-labeled 2014 Y3 Chardonnay for a festively tasty gift. —Angela Kahn, Tasting Coordinator