Everyday: As with many regions and varieties, you generally get what you pair for in Chianti. That makes the 2012 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico ($17) quite the revelation. Let’s go to the checklist: lovely aromatics (yes), rockin’ acidity (yes!), spicy, just-ripe-enough cherry flavors (hell to the yes!) and a persistent, food-friendly finish (yowsa!). The grapes for this wine were grown at nearly 2,000 feet, which helps explain the tanginess. And the vintners beautifully straddle the Old and New Worlds in style while ensuring that the result is completely Chianti-esque. Go for the usual grows-together pairing of anything with tomatoes, from salads to pizza to pasta, perhaps with Marcella Hazan’s insanely simple and delicious tomato sauce. And speaking of spicy and saucy, John Prine is spot on as a soundtrack.
Occasion: OK, the holidays are behind us. Must be time for … Champagne. One of the very best I’ve had recently — OK, ever — is the 2009 Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or Champagne ($78). There’s crazy-good harmony in this sparkler, with super-tasty fruit, racy acidity and dry but lively texture. And oh, that finish, minutes long and ever-refreshing and refined. Damn, I almost forgot about the aromatics: fresh, bold, complex. This is a dazzler, and worth buying more than one bottle for cellaring. Like all the great Champagnes, it’s stupendously versatile at the table, from salty to savory to sweet; try it with Ina Garten’s fab strawberries with balsamic vinegar. And the incredible, indelible harmonies of Richard and Linda Thompson.