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The twelve wines of Christmas 2011: part one

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Much like the little elves busy helping Santa at the North Pole, we've spent the better part of the year hard at work tasting of hundreds of wines -- all so that we can serve up this listing of bottles worthy of only one thing: drinking your way through the most wonderful time of the year, also known as "The Holidays." This year's list of our twelve most crave-worthy wines are as different from each other as two snowflakes, but they're all alike in one respect: They're positively, magically delicious -- and worthy of pairing with partridges, French hens or anything else you might be serving up. So gather your friends, your family and last but not least, your true love and and count down the remaining twelve days of Christmas with any (hell, all) of these divinely delicious wines.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Montesel Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG NV($22): You don't need us to tell you that there's nothing quite so festive as the sound of corks a-poppin', do you? We are all about kicking off our holiday wine consumption countdown with this stellar sparkler that reminds us a lot of true Champagne...until we checked the price tag, that is. And although there are certainly cheaper bottles of Prosecco, you'd be smart to cough up the $20-spot for this one; the DOCG on the label is Italy's way of telling you they've given it serious quality props. Snappy, light and extremely quaffable, plan to sip this one while you finish trimming the tree for an instant burst of holiday joy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Zaca Mesa Rousanne 2007 ($20): First, a roussanne primer: This lush, highly perfumed white grape grows mostly in southwestern France's Rhône region, and for just about ever served as a blending grape. When bottled on its own, suddenly there's nothing to distract from the wine's exotic ripeness and stunning floral aromas. If you're a fan of viognier, pinot gris or new world chenin blanc, you are almost certain to become obsessed with this wine. Drink in copious amounts on its own, or poured alongside a cozy fireside supper of lobster bisque. Heaven in a glass.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2010 ($13): Speaking of killer new world chenin blanc, can we pause for a moment to ask exactly what is it about wintertime that seems to scare perfectly sane wine drinkers away from drinking white varieties? Believing that it's not cool to drink white wines in cold weather only makes sense if you're also someone who persists in thinking that you can't pour pinot noir with fish. (You can, and you should.) Aromas of pear and dried apricot were just the beginning; we were dazzled by flavors of crisp Jonagold apple, orange biscotti and whipped cream. We understand if you're rethinking that "white wine is only for summertime" stance right about now.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Giacomo Borgogno Figli Dolcetto d'Alba 2009 ($20): True story: When dining out recently, we ordered a ridiculously yummy-sounding starter of duck neck ravioli. New world pinot noir was the recommended pairing, but something about this wine called to us -- and we're definitely glad we answered. The fresh-picked cherry and cranberry nose hinted at the acid we craved to offset the duck's richness, but the ripe-to-bursting mouthfuls of Craisins, cola and grated nutmeg made for the gift that kept on giving. Elegant enough to end up on the table of your poshest holiday meal, but straightforward enough to swirl after a particularly trying trip to the mall.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Nabuko Monastrell-Syrah 2009 ($19): We cannot tell a lie: It was the label that initially lured us into trying this one. While we normally can't condone such random acts of wine buying, in this case, judging a book by its cover turned out to be a really good idea. While it's certainly no big secret that there are scores of scrumptious Spanish wines to be scooped for not much coin, it's rare to find one this well balanced and flat-out gorgeous. In fact, it we can't wait to decant this for our Christmas dinner party menu of Moroccan-style braised lamb shanks. Can you say "happy ending?"

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Velenosi Lacrima di Morro 2009 ($20): In a word, "wow." Don't be surprised if you discover yourself muttering that over and over -- before you've taken a single sip. That's because you will stop short at the fragrance (and by fragrance, we are talking meadows of intoxicatingly aromatic lavender and Asiatic lily.) And just when you've stopped swooning over that gorgeous scent, your taste buds get treated to a veritable bushel basket of blueberries, followed by a giant forkful of mincemeat pie. If ever there was a short list of wines we'd want receive as a gift every year for the rest of our lives, this is it.

Check back next week for our remaining six wines of Christmas.

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