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Holiday Wine and Spirits for Every Budget

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- With the holiday gifting season inevitably comes a tide of festively wrapped bottles of wine and spirits traded throughout offices and businesses across the country. Bosses and clients will splurge on showier brands and fancier vintages, while gifts among peers and co-workers will include more obscure bottles likely requiring a Google search. For those who don't know the difference from their Malbec and Margaux, here are some lessons to heed this gifting season.

Serious wine connoisseurs who buy wines at auction find an everyday gifting oasis with Sotheby's Wine, a retail wine merchant launched in May 2009 as part of the famous auction house. Sotheby's Wine has a retail store at the Sotheby's headquarters in New York (72nd St. and York) in addition to its retail Web site (comprehensive and refreshingly well designed compared with other online wine retailers).

Purity Vodka is distilled 34 times in a slow integrated process of small batches resulting in a product so pure no further filtration is necessary.

Jamie Ritchie, CEO of Sotheby's Wine and curator of the experience, offers some essential wine picks and tips for holiday gifting: For those looking to impress the boss, "keep it under $300, and for that you can get a Champagne Krug Vintage Brut 1998 ($250) or Roederer Cristal 2004 ($259) that are perfect for someone who does not know much about wine." For the boss that's a true wine connoisseur, there's the Chateau Pichon Lalande 1996 ($295). "You cannot go wrong with a second-growth Bordeaux," Ritchie says.

As for important client gifts or those looking to expand their own wine cellar for investment, "You really want to buy a case of 12 bottles of wine," Ritchie advises. "Buy a top-level 2010 'future,' which is wine that is still in barrel in Bordeaux and will be bottled and shipped in 2013." One specific recommendations is a case of Chateau Hosanna 2010 ($2,388), which is "one of the impressive Moueix properties and will be outstanding." Ritchie's second recommendation is a case of Chateau Montrose 2010 ($2,676), a second-growth St. Estephe he says will be "fabulous and very long-lived."

Those looking for something that will last longer than a single uncorking can couple their wine gift with a decanter such as the William Yeoward Crystal decanter ($150) impeccably paired with a single bottle of 1989 Petrus ($4,750) or 1996 La Tache ($3,495) for an added splurge. To make it more personal, try engraving with a lasting sentiment or even a corporate logo, available on single bottles and magnum-size vessels. "A great decanter with a personal message will be there forever," Ritchie says. Those still stumped can access the Sotheby's Web site for a wider range of wines and products, complete with information resources for wine and wine-themed gifts available for immediate holiday delivery.

>>How to Shop for Wine

Vodka has been the lifelong passion of Thomas Kuuttanen, a master blender at Purity Vodka who's managed to create one of the world's hottest names in premium spirits. Purity is born in the 13th century Ellinge Castle in southern Sweden, where it is distilled 34 times in a slow integrated process of small batches resulting in a product so pure that no further filtration is necessary. The result for consumers is layered, complex vodka that's resulted in awards at the International Wine & Spirit Festival and San Francisco World Spirits Competition and was named "World's Best Organic Vodka" at September's Vodka Masters and Travel Retail Masters in Cannes. Those less literate in the spirits world will discover a showy bottle of embellished cut crystal that makes for an impressive holiday gift with an affordable price tag -- below $50 for a 750ml bottle.

Scotch whisky drinkers find few better brands than The Macallan by The Edrington Group, one of the world's largest Scotch whisky manufacturers. Founded by Glasgow's Robertson family in the mid-19th century, The Edrington Group acquired the famous Macallan label by buying Scotland's Highland Distillers in 1999. Widely considered one of the best single malts around, The Macallan was born on the River Spey from land around the Easter Elchies House that's now open to visits by whisky aficionados. A 750 ml bottle of Macallan 15-Year Fine Oak ($129) offers hints of cinnamon, orange peel and rose with sweet complexity and makes for a great midrange spirits gift. Those looking to make more of an impression can opt for a 750 ml bottle of Macallan 30-Year Fine Oak ($999) that's aged for 30 years in bourbon and sherry casks for an exotic silky flavor that justifies its almost four-figure price tag.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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