A case of wine for the holidays

Maybe you rarely buy wines. Or maybe you stick with a few sure favorites. But for the holidays, you’re feeling the need to be more expansive and keep some wines on hand that are as friendly as you are, especially for drop-in guests or hostess gifts when you’re invited out.

Here are three wines and an ale that you can serve with confidence to anyone, be they wine (or beer) geeks or novices. They can be enjoyed on their own or paired easily with food.

Smart money buys a mixed case of the wines for discount. Plus, this is the season for mark-down specials, so it’s easy to find most of these wines priced below suggested retail. The ale is also inexpensive enough to keep a few bottles on hand. Most are widely available, although the ale is only in stores with artisanal beer selections.

Bah Humbug! Christmas ale
From Wychwood Brewery in England comes this beautiful, toasty amber ale. It’s mouth-filling and intense, with 6.2 percent alcohol. Beyond the traditional hops and malted barley, fruity notes like tangerine peel, allspice and white pepper are balanced with a bitter note. But it’s never rough or rogue-ish. Definitely made for sipping around the fire, or to go with mild Italian sausage or beer-simmered meats.

Gruet Brut NV
It’s always startling to see “Albuquerque, N.M.,” on Gruet’s labels, but the European winemaking Gruet family knew what it was doing when it chose to locate in the US state. Today Gruet Brut reigns as a classic, inexpensive sparkler, with regional roots, to boot. Crisp and citrusy, the nonvintage bubbly echoes the flavors of tart lemon curd on fresh country toast. Fine bubbles and a crisp, clean mouth-feel melt into a long, citric afterglow. Raise it for holiday toasts, or pair with light, cream-sauced pasta or fish, or mac ‘n’ cheese.

Banfi Le Rime 2005
This approachable, unoaked Tuscan blends chardonnay and pinot grigio to excellent effect. It’s light and crisp, with tropicals like pineapple and mango, dashed with lemon in the nose. Yet there’s a pleasant ripe-pear undercurrent. These flavors spill over to the mouth, where the fruit dances lightly, for a wine that’s crisp and clean, never sweet, and shaded by mineral notes. A friend to fish, fowl and pork.

Louis M. Martini 2003 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine introduces itself with bright, black-cherry fruit edged by dried strawberry and soft, leathery accents. Take a sip, and its fruit is amplified on the tongue as the tannins tug gently on your cheeks. Keep going, and hints of smoke and sage join in. The long finish changes like a kaleidoscope from darker, leathery notes to pure, fresh grape. It’s a natural with red meats and tomato-sauced pasta.