One certainty of the looming holiday season is that you and your extended tribe will guzzle vast quantities of alcohol in the name of togetherness. When you tire of the standard fare, uncork a surprise: red wine. Not those Australian and American fruit bombs or the ritzy French and Italian offerings. There's a world of curveballs built for breaking with tradition, and most are more drinkable than the stuff you're used to knocking back.


2008 Enologica Temera Alodio Ribeira Sacra [$15]
The unlikely product of the insanely steep hillsides of Spain's Galicia region, this bracing, peppery red has the sort of insider cachet that should motivate you to buy a case—assuming you can track one down.

2008 Occhipinti IGT Sicilia SP68 Nero d'Avola [$22]
Sicilian wine gets no respect, but this organic knockout—both savory and intensely refreshing—makes the definitive case for reappraisal. It's like a palate cleanser you can't stop drinking.

2006 Leo Hillinger Zweigelt [$22]
Austrian wine got a big profile bump from all the Grüener Veltliner sloshing around of late, but polished reds made from the Zweigelt grape are the real score. This one is packed with bold cherry flavors.

2007 Grosbois Chinon [$17]
Saying this 100 percent Cabernet Franc tastes like delicious dirt is high praise. Coming from an overlooked area of the Loire Valley, it has flashes of anise, chocolate, and strawberry amid its winning earthy funk.

2007 Georges Descombes Régnié Beaujolais [$21]
Forget about that blah Beaujolais Nouveau punch. This Gamay-based red is a shining example of the French region's might: a mouthwatering treat with zero pretense. Go right ahead and pair it with a hunk of meat and a mountain of fries.


NEW YORK: Chambers Street Wines
There are no old standbys at this Tribeca shop, which stocks sleeper-hit bottles of Burgundy and Barolo and star examples of lesser-known Loire Valley reds and Beaujolais. 148 Chambers St., 212-227-1434;

SEATTLE: Garagiste Wine
If you want to feel like a trendsetter, try this online purveyor, which searches the globe for obscure wines and e-mails daily updates. Your job is to pounce before they sell out. 707 S. Lander St., 888-264-0053;

This well-curated Russian Hill boutique goes deep into Italian grapes, familiar and offbeat alike, but it also dabbles in the lesser-known wines of Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia. 1415 Green St., 415-673-2320;