Finding the right gift for a wine lover doesn't require spending $100 on a bottle of Bordeaux, Burgundy or bubbly; many good wines are available at reasonable prices. These suggestions should please both the people on your holiday list and your own pocketbook:
* California offers some bargains in well-made wine. Favorites here, all priced at less than $6 a bottle, include Round Hill Chardonnay, Hawk Crest Sauvignon Blanc and Estancia Sauvignon Blanc. Of the three, the Round Hill is best for meals of seafood or chicken, while the two sauvignon blancs can serve well as either cocktail wines or with shellfish and cold poultry. California red wine values include the Boeger Hangtown Red, M.G. Vallejo Cabernet Sauvignon and the San Martin Baja Zinfandel, all ideal with pizza or pasta.
* Although good values in imported French wines are rarer than among their California cousins, your gift recipient won't be disappointed with Barton & Guestier's Merlot from Bordeaux or Chantefleur's Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays de L'Ardeche. These wines, which retail for about $6 each, have good tannin and flavor and can hold their own with special meals of meat or cheese.
* Arguably some of the best values come from Spain. Two particular favorites here, priced between $5 and $6 a bottle, are Federico Paternina's Banda Azul, Campo Viejo from Rioja and Torres Sangre de Toro from Penedes. Either is suitable with meat or poultry, and the food can be from any culture.
* In South America, Chile leads the way in producing great wine. Fortunately for the American consumer, several wines from that country are available here at remarkably low prices. For $5 to $6 a bottle, consider the Santa Monica, Miguel Torres or Undurraga cabernet sauvignons. If you prefer a white wine in the same price category, there's Cousio Macul's Chardonnay and Santa Monica's Sauvignon Blanc.
* If you want to give something unusual, look to Australia for special values in the $5 to $6 range. Lindeman's Shiraz Bin 50 and Rosemount's Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon are delicious red wines, suitable for serving with grilled meat or roast beef. White-wine fanciers will enjoy the Penfolds Koonunga Hills Semillion Chardonnay or Tyrrell's Long Flat White, either of which can complement both seafood and poultry.
* For those who would prefer a good book, Jim Ainsworth's new works are the perfect stocking-stuffers. "Pocket Guide to Red Wines" and "Pocket Guide to White Wines" (each at $10.95 from Simon and Schuster) are handy references to the wines of the world, suitable for novices as well as connoisseurs.
Celebrating with kosher wine doesn't mean sweet and sticky anymore. Any number of wineries, from Israel to California, are producing quality kosher wines from premium grapes.
One of the best is Hagafen Cellars in California's Napa Valley, a small winery that distributes to major U.S. markets. Hagafen's Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) and Chardonnay ($12) are among California's best and they're all certified kosher by the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of San Francisco. If you can't find Hagafen in your favorite wine shop, contact the winery at (707)252-0781 to find out who carries the wine in your area.
Prices listed in this column are suggested retail and may vary by dealer or region.