Top 10: Mood-Boosting Wines

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Feeling down?  Let these cheerful wines turn that frown upside down.

By Courtney Cochran

This time of year - and this year in particular (sheesh) - there's a laundry list of things that could be getting you down.  Lost jobs, money worries and holiday stress are just a few of the icky items that could very well be a drag on your otherwise sunny mood.  Happily, we're here with a list of wines known for their mood-boosting powers, all packaged into a convenient list.  So, should you need them, we offer not just a few but 10 reasons to stay cheerful this wintry season.
This little-known sweet wine from Hungary is one of the great delicacies of the wine world - and when you're down, a delicacy is just what your WineCountry doctor orders. For our top prescription for a mood boost, match up this unique toffee-, apricot-, and vanilla-flavored charmer with a Snicker's bar. A splurge in itself, Snicker's matches the wines' flavors just so, making for a perfect hi-lo pairing.
We like: Royal Tokaji Wine Co. Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos ($40)

This frothy, red, essentially dry sparkler from Italy's characterful Lambrusco grape might as well have "happy wine" stamped on its label.  Not only does it partner perfectly with casual-delicious pizza, it's also delightfully well priced.  Watch for bright notes of maraschino cherries, red currants and spice, and be sure to pick up a second bottle - it tends to be habit-forming, in a very good way.
We like: Ca Berti Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro "Robusco" ($12)

Leave it to Bonny Doon to create a wine with a superhero on the label (which is supercheerful, natch) and a tasting note describing it as "unusually complex, earthy and full of la dolce vita."  To partake, pick up a bottle of this imaginative, Ital-inspired red blend of 52% Sangiovese, 33% Syrah and 15% Cinsault - and get ready to sip your way back to (super) sanity.  On, Doon!
Check it: 2007 DEWN Super Tuscan ($15 ON SALE; reg $28)

Let's face it: Sometimes a sour mood calls for something stronger than vino.  And when "strong" is a must, there's really only way to go - Tequila!  In order that your palate remain at least somewhat unscathed by this transgression, look to a hand-crafted, super high quality blanco tequila like Fortaleza (fittingly, Fortitude in español). Smooth, classy and earthy, it's the definition of subtle strength Amen.
Get some: Tequila Los Abuelos "Fortaleza" ($50)

Night Train
When down, why not embrace your mood with an ironic cocktail - in this case, one made with an ingredient known as "bum wine"?  Enter "Return of the Bird," a cosmo-like concoction crafted from the likes of super cheap Night Train wine, Rose's Grenadine Syrup, lime and a Ginger Ale float. When served very cold, it's rather palatable, and - most important - guaranteed to provoke belly laughs.
Get some: Night Train Express ($4)

There's something undeniably fun about making Sangria, Spain's festive, fruit-spiked cocktail with a red wine base.  For the biggest mood boost, we recommend making it with pals (fab excuse for a party, right?), and we also like using Lindman's Lambic Framboise beer or a red bubbly for an extra boost of carbonation.  Short on time? No worries: pick up pre-made sangria from Target.
We like: Target Red Sangria Wine Cube ($12 and up)

Moscato d'Asti
We admit it: we're guilty of excessively plugging this lightly frothing, sweet Italian white - but we're not stopping now since we think it's the very definition of mood boost in a bottle! And given Moscato's temptingly low alcohol (just 5.5%), there's really no reason NOT to partake of this exotically perfumed, superbly balanced romp of a wine when in a funk - especially since it means you can drink MORE.
We like: 2008 Saracco Moscato d'Asti ($16)

squareone.jpgSquare One
Again, we get it: Sometimes only a stiff drink will do.  So for another wine fan-friendly spirit (proof: sommeliers love it), look to Square One's expertly crafted "Botanical" bottling, a Gin-like rye spirit that's infused with a choice medley of rose, pear, chamomile, coriander and citrus (but not juniper, key in Gin). Delicious and highly aromatic, it's also highly likely to turn your frown around.
Get it: Square One Botanical Organic Specialty Spirit ($35)

A word of advice: When you're down and out, don't freak out - though you may want to try sipping on Freakout, a super fresh new white blend that's as calming as its name is, well, not. From Napa's Ital-focused Luna Vineyards, this innovative blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio offers plenty of crisp pear, cool melon, white flower and mandarin - and it's priced just right.
Get it: 2007 Luna Vineyards Freakout Napa Valley White Wine ($15)

Call it your own personal bailout: Sometimes you just need to treat yourself to an insanely good bottle you'd never otherwise buy. If this is the case, we recommend that you pony up for a bottle of Scarecrow, Napa's newest "it" cult Cab. Sure, at $500 it's a bit of a splurge, but then again - you're worth it. (Now: Tip back your glass and repeat this over and over again while sipping). Cheers!
Get it: 2005 Scarecrow Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($500)

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