If millennium fever leaves you cold, these unheralded New Year's Eve wines will fire you up


It's hard to believe that the year 2000 is (finally!) only a month away. But if you've waited too long to get ahold of one of the seemingly hundreds of limited-release millennial bottlings that wineries allover the world have been touting for the past 12 months, or if you don't feel like paying a premium for Champagne, or if you're an iconoclast who doesn't want to usher in the next thousand years drinking the same wine as everyone else, then pay attention to the following. Three leading American wine retailers offer terrific suggestions on wines to try in 2000. Unlike most of those millennium bottles, these 20 wines are not exorbitantly priced (one even costs less than $10). They're also fairly easy to find. And last, though not least, every one of them is absolutely delicious and ready to drink right now.

craig allen
1997 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Cornas $35 This has to be one of the most interesting red wines I have tasted in the past year. Made from 100 percent Syrah, it has big aromas of pepper, leather and exotic spices--imagine violets and roses in the middle of a barnyard and you'll have some idea of its fantastic bouquet. If you like rich, thick and chewy wines, this red will be a great new discovery for you.

1995 Michele Satta Piastraia $43 Super-Tuscan lovers, listen up! Here's a new wine to be reckoned with. It's got as much power as the ball that drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Its name? Piastraia. Made from a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, its taste is, in a word, intense. It is extremely aromatic and moderately full-bodied, with a good acidity that gives structure to its round, supple fruit. Serve it with your favorite Italian food.

1997 Hugel Jubilee Gewürztraminer $30 The 1997 vintage was a great one in Alsace, and this wine is proof of that fact. Made from grapes from the famed grand cru Sporen vineyard, it has a gorgeous nose of roses, lychees and passion fruit and a finish that should last well into the next century.

1997 Domaine Louis Bovard Calamin Cuvée Spéciale Grand Cru $25 This white wine from Switzerland is made from 100 percent Chasselas, a truly unique grape. Medium-bodied, with a flowery aroma and a velvety smooth finish, it is one of the reasons Swiss wine is becoming even more popular than Swiss cheese. Savor it as an aperitif while everyone else is gleefully uncorking their Champagne and spraying it around the room.

1998 Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Dogpoint Vineyard $20 Sauvignon Blanc is proof that New Zealand should be known for something more than the world-leading All Blacks rugby team and the America's Cup yacht team. This bottling, from the Marlborough area, has beautiful citrus, grapefruit and peach flavors that blend wonderfully with its lively acidity. It is a perfect seafood wine.

1997 Caymus Conundrum $26 There is no wine in all of California comparable to Conundrum. It's made from a blend of many grapes grown all over the state, and you can almost taste the flavors of each and every varietal: There's lush Chardonnay and Sémillon, crisp Sauvignon Blanc, intense Viognier and spicy, aromatic Muscat.

randy kemner
Nonvintage Foss Marai Prosecco $13 A dry sparkling wine from Italy's Veneto region, this Prosecco has all the bubbles of Champagne but it's fresher, crisper and lighter, with lovely melony overtones.

1997 Métaireau Carte Noire Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie $12 This brisk, super-dry white is made in the region of France where the Loire river meets the Atlantic. Its rapier-like acidity, balanced by an attractively modest amount of fruit, is designed to cut through the richness of its classic companion, the oyster.

1998 Lusco Albariño $19 If you're looking for fiery passion that lasts all night, serve an assortment of Spanish tapas and accompany them with the crisp, dry raciness of this Albariño from the north of Spain. Clean, fine and intensely aromatic, it's a perfect foil for most fish.

1997 Torres Sangre de Toro $7 This is one of the world's great wine bargains. Cherry flavored and medium bodied, it's an all-purpose red from the Penedès region of Spain that works as brilliantly with roast chicken as it does with grilled beef.

1993 Zenato Amarone $40 This super-concentrated, rich and raisiny red wine from Italy's Veneto region is a completely original experience. Partner it with a chunk of Gorgonzola.

1996 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin $32 Here is a great red Burgundy (from noted négociant Joseph Drouhin) with luscious black cherry flavors unencumbered by tons of new oak. Serve it with beef medallions in a Burgundy sauce. In good years and bad, this Gevrey is always graceful and generous.

thad morrow
1998 Saracco Moscato d'Asti $15 This impeccably made Moscato, slightly effervescent and bursting with peaches and apricots on the nose, has just the right amount of sweetness in the finish.

1997 Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese $22 Why drink Chardonnay when you can have this beautifully balanced Riesling from the famed Scharzhofberger estate? It's loaded with the flavors of limes and stone fruits and is so full bodied, rich and seductive that if it were a woman, I'd ask her to marry me on the first date.

1996 Ramirez de la Piscina Rioja Crianza $13 This wine is so reasonably priced you can buy it by the case and make it your house wine. It's simply screaming with bright red fruit layered with spice, and is so smooth that drinking it is like driving on a newly paved road. The tannins are there, but only for structure. I can't imagine finding a better quality wine for the price.

1997 Castellarin Merlot $11 A lot of exciting new Italian wines are arriving in the U.S., but, unfortunately, many carry big price tags. Not this one. I throw a lot of parties and this soft, juicy wine is one of my favorites to serve, especially in magnums.

1997 Murphy-Goode Liars Dice Zinfandel $16 This has to be one of the most outstanding Zinfandels I've tasted all year. The 1997 vintage was a great one for California Zin and this Sonoma County wine is among the year's big winners. It's packed with super-ripe jammy fruit, and gets a little bit of punch from French oak. Winemaker Christina Benz is a self-proclaimed fruit freak. I must be one too.