Everyday: Whenever someone has asked for a good under-$10 red for parties, I have recommended a blend from southern France, usually La Vieille Ferme. It has a worthy successor in the 2012 Laudon Chusclan Reserve de la Saurine Rouge ($9), a dark and sturdy beauty. This mix of 60 percent grenache and 40 percent carignan starts hearty and finishes the same way, with gobs of red and blue fruit and just-right grip in between. It’s got enough minerality and acidity to play well with most party foods, but also would be swell with anything from roast chicken to pepperoni-and-sausage pizza. The earthy, ungodly voice of Mahalia Jackson taking on holiday tunes provides a super soundtrack.
Occasion: I love that I can still have “a-ha” moments when enjoying our favorite beverage, most recently with the stunning 2012 Domaine Vacheron “Les Romains” Sancerre ($60). This might be the most uplifting, energetic white I’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping, so much so that it was immensely difficult to avoid quaffing or even guzzling. Bright citrus fruit, bits of spice and beyond-racy acidity coalesce to give this Loire white uncommon purity, and the finish is sensuous and near-endless. At dinner the other night, it sang with a lentil-prosciutto amalgam, a slightly spiced shrimp dish and pork roasted three ways. In keeping with the seasonal bent, pair this with the resplendent Christmas album by the vastly under-recognized Nashville thrush Suzy Bogguss.