Expensive wine 12-15-2021

This being the month of lavish giving and celebration, expensive wine may be on your agenda. Here are some things to look for, and a cautionary note, too.

Some wines sell for thousands and thousands of dollars. Such “investment” wines will never be popped for your holiday pizza party. But they share characteristics with expensive wine you might buy for holiday consumption. What are common themes?

• They are made using a small group of familiar wine grapes. Pinot noir. cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Bordeux blend, chardonnay, riesling, nebbiolo.

• “Perfect ripeness” balances acidity and alcohol. The riper the grape, the less the acidity and the higher the alcohol. Top-tier wines are not alcohol bombs. Prized chardonnays are almost never over 14% ABV. High-end pinot noir usually is 13.5% ABV or less and has acidity as tart as 3.3 pH. Prized cabs are mid-14% ABV or less with pH levels around 3.6—tart for a big red.

• They age in expensive oak barrels, often for lengthy periods. Screaming Eagle spends almost two years in 65% new French oak. Château Petrus ages for up to 20 months in 50% new or once-used French oak.

• Terroir is vital. Almost all are site-specific, usually featuring grapes from a single, identified vineyard.

• Vintage is vital. Top-tier makers do not sell every vintage they make. When a vintage does not meet exacting standards, the wine is sold for less under a different label.

Possessing a high-end bottle of wine can be a treat for your ego. It almost certainly will be a good wine. If you are not an experienced wine drinker, however, you may discover you enjoy your favorites more. And you could buy a case of that wine with what you paid for this one bottle. Something to consider in the season of lavish celebration.

Tasting notes:

• Daou Vineyards Soul of a Lion Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles Adelaida District 2018: Gorgeous, spectacular, elegant wine. $125-150  Link to my review

• Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga The Montelena Estate 2014: Velvety texture. Parade of well-behaved dark fruits. $140-165  Link to my review

• Inwood Estates Chateau Marie LaRose Texas Red Wine 2017: Excellent left-bank-Bordeaux style from Texas pioneer winemaker. $150-195  Link to my review

Last round: What does December have that no other month has? The letter D. Have a Merry Christmas wine time.