Dini Rao, Chief Merchandise Officer for Lot18
Dini fell in love with wine as a 17-year-old, visiting wineries in upstate New York. Walking the vineyards reminded her of the farming country where she grew up and, after years as her mother’s kitchen taster for Indian spices, Dini found wine tasting a natural fit.
Dini has 12 years of wine experience, having worked as a sommelier and as a specialist for Christie’s. There she evaluated the world’s finest wines for auction, including wines dating back to the 1700s. Dini earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and is currently a candidate for the Masters of Wine, a distinction held by only 30 people in the U.S.
Here are Dini’s Top 5 wines to enjoy, based on each of the following categories…
One white wine under $20 and widely available in the US:
- Ch Ste Michelle’s Eroica Riesling
It’s reliably good every vintage but, more importantly, perfectly straddles that flavor-style balance between Old World and New. It has the fruit of a New World wine, but the complexity and nuance of an Old World wine.
One red wine under $20 and widely available in the US:
- Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc (or Jean Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone if that doesn’t count as widely available)
Both of these are about as reliable as a red can get, and incredibly versatile, whether you’re having a big, elaborate meal or you just want to sit on the couch all night and order pizza. What these reds lack in nuance they make up for in balance and grace.
One splurge (whatever splurge might mean to you):
- Vintage Champagne, like the 1998 Henriot Millésimé Brut Champagne featured on Lot18 recently.
I always have a bottle of vintage bubbly in the house since you never know when you might need it for a special occasion. But, more importantly, it’s one of those wines that when you pull it out for no reason, turns a boring, average evening into an exciting, memorable one.
…and two others of her own choosing (these may be either easy or hard to find):
A wine that is always a great collectable since it isn’t too expensive and it evolves so well over time is a Huet Vouvray like the 2007 Le Mont Demi-Sec. Huet is just one of those producers that always seems to make great wine in difficult years, too. But you never have to feel bad about drinking one from your collections, since replacing it doesn’t involve a bank loan.
And because I love sherry with seafood: Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla sherry. If you haven’t tried this pairing yet, seriously, you must. Take a break from the same old Sauvignon Plonk or Pinot Grigio next time you have calamari, crab cakes or jamon-wrapped scallops and go with sherry.