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Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV

Champagne, France, $82.99

Gifting a bottle of champagne during the holidays is never a bad choice, especially one from the oldest continuously family-owned Champagne house, Billecart-Salmon. To really impress, bestow the Brut Sous Bois Carafe Gift Box, a special holiday gift set that includes an elegant mouth-blown decanter for allowing this partially barrel-aged bubbly to breathe. This limited-edition holiday offering will be available exclusively on wine.com for $220.

A billowy mousse fills the entire glass before slowly settling to reveal fine bubbles coursing like fireworks through the brilliant gold wine beneath. The first nose summons lemon custard and warm apples, pursued by puff pastry notes. On the palate, vibrant minerality is accompanied by Anjou pears, baked apple pie with a pinch of nutmeg, and quince paste. Racy yet rich, this succulent sparkler has exquisite energy and focus. 

Pair it with: classic chicken Française, butternut squash ravioli in sage cream sauce, and lobster mac and cheese.


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Aquila’s Nest Vineyards Queen of Illyria 2018

Newtown, Connecticut, $39.50

Owners Neviana Zhgaba and Ardian Llomi have injected their Albanian roots and much of their personalities into Aquila’s Nest Vineyards, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Ardian assists with the winemaking, while Neviana channels her artistic nature, along with her interests in community and women’s empowerment, into the branding and marketing of the wines.

Queen of Illyria, named for an ancient female ruler from what is now modern-day Albania, is a blend of syrah and malbec. Deep ruby, the wine’s potent nose effuses black raspberries with an underpinning of earthiness. Boysenberries mingle with eucalyptus and a pinch of green peppercorn on the palate before slowly fading to olives on the finish. Juicy and crisp with restrained tannins.

A wooden box with wine accessories is available to present this local gift for an additional $25.

Pair it with: flank steak with creamy peppercorn sauce, smoked brisket, and lamb ragout with olives.


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Le Grand Verre (various)

France, $20–$30, sold in sets of 4

A love of French wine and single-serve containers led three friends to create Le Grand Verre, a brand that focuses on women-led boutique wineries that promote organic agriculture. An elegant alternative to boxes or cans, the wines are packaged in 6.3-ounce, cylindrical PET bottles. Available in sets of four of one variety and themed 4-packs from lgvwines.com. A special holiday offering is available for $39.99.

(From left:)

Domaine Prataviera Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Côtes de Gascogne, France: Light and refreshing with white peach and passion fruit notes. Pair it withappetizers, salads and light fish dishes.

Domaine Nadal Hainaut Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Côtes Catalanes, France: Smooth with hints of black fruits and chocolate. Pair it with: game birds and pork dishes.

Domaine Caylus Rosé Blend 2020, Pays d’Herault, France: Dry and fruity with strawberry, red currant and lime flavors. Pair it withyoung cheeses and poultry dishes.

Château Peyredon Cru Bourgeois 2019, Haut-Medoc, France: Appealing blend of violets, dark cherries, black pepper and oak. Pair it with: aged cheeses and beef dishes.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.