In the run up to Christmas we have provided all sorts of tips and advice on Holiday wines. There was the preview of Vintages December 10th release (the last of the year), various Picks of the Day, Steve’s Top 50 Bargains, and Sara D’Amato’s Holiday Wine Bargains. All are available here for review as you put your last minute list together.
But now it’s time to get personal. It’s time for Sara, Margaret, Steve, John and David to suggest some of their favourite wines as gifts. Or is it really wines they would like to receive? Here is a glimpse into the faves and raves of those who actually taste wine for a living, and still find it immensely enjoyable. (And oh yes, we did check availability at the LCBO as of Monday morning).
Sara d’Amato’s Wish List
I love to be on all ends of Champagne – the giving end, the receiving end and the consuming end – but frankly, my pocket book does not love it the same way. Therefore, I was feeling quite triumphant upon discovering this excellent Champagne at a price that could not be more agreeable: Georges Gardet Brut Cuvée Saint Flavy, Champagne, France
Burgundy is a weakness of mine and a personal favourite appellation is Volnay which exudes such splendid floral aromatics, a myriad of complex flavors and a sensual mouth feel all within an elegant framework. The connoisseur on your list is sure to be impressed with such an offering: Roche De Bellene 2008 Volnay Les Pitures 1er Cru, Burgundy, France $44.95 .
Icewine is a distinctively Canadian gift but many people end up with a stockpile of this extremely sweet, viscous treat, as they are not sure how and when it should be served. Due to its effervescent freshness, sparkling Icewine is not only a fun novelty but it appeals to a wider audience and is suited to enjoying on its own without food. The bubbles help balance the viscosity and sweetness giving the wine great approachability and plenty of drama. All very festive! Inniskillin 2010 Sparkling Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, $69.95 (375 ml in Gift Tube).
Margaret Swaine’s Spirited List
As much as I love wine when it comes to a gift at Christmas I always ask for spirits or liqueurs. They can give me pleasure for months as I slowly sip and savour them, happily toasting yet another thanks to the gift giver. Calvados is one of my favourites. The LCBO just doesn’t bring in enough selection for me so I’m often buying it in duty free on my travels. Thus I was delighted to see Christian Drouin Coeur de Lion Calvados($37.95) in the December 10 Vintages Release. It’s elegant and stylish with a hint of oak, good depth and a great apple cider flavour throughout. Perfect to settle down a big holiday meal.
Bitters, liqueurs with attitude, are other great digestives all too scarce in Ontario. Poli Amaro is an Italian bitter just released in Vintages ($33.95) which I found fantastic. Not too sweet or heavy on the palate, it’s full of brown spices, peppermint and menthol flavours that sooth the stomach after too much indulgence. Then there’s always cognac – my treat to myself when I want to celebrate. Hine Rare VSOP ($86.15) a Fine Champagne blend of over 25 cognacs (more than fifty percent from Grande Champagne) is sophisticated, fruity at first and then follows through with perfumed, elegant and delicate flavours like kissing the angels.
David Lawrason’s Wish List
The best wine I have ever had (my only 100 point score) was a Sauternes – Chateau d’Yquem 1989. It melted me, as did a comprehensive tasting of 1990 Sauternes in this region of Bordeaux back in 1994. In fact now the heart quickens every time I taste Sauternes, a unique sweet wine made from noble rotted (botrytis-affected) semillon grapes then barrel aged to create an exotic liquid compote of marmalades, toffee, honey, herbs and dried fruits. I have no delusions that d’Yquem will appear under the tree but I would still be very happy to receive a stocking stuffer (half bottles fit nicely) of Chateau Filhot 2007 Sauternes 2eme Cru Sauternes at the incredibly good price of $22.00/375ml. One wonders why Sauternes has fallen so far from the popular radar; it is such a complex, unique and riveting wine, and with some imagination and research it can be worked into any part of the meal, or sipped solo late into the night.
I am a huge fan of pinot noir, and one of my pre-occupations is watching its development around the globe. I have always liked the idea of giving mixed lots of wine as gifts (as well as receiving them), so I would love to get a three-pack of the following pinot noirs still available at Vintages. It really could be any mix of regions but for the moment New Zealand’s Central Otago, Burgundy in France, and Prince Edward County right here in Ontario are the most intriguing. So, if you please – from New Zealand Amisfield Pinot Noir 2008, Central Otago, $44.95. From Burgundy I’ll have what Sara is having – Roche De Bellene 2008 Volnay Les Pitures 1er Cru, $44.95. And from Prince Edward County, Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2009, $35.00.
Steve Thurlow’s Gift Ideas for Her
LCBO stores have many gift packages at present but few take such a good value wine and package it with such a great gift – especially if you are buying for a young lady in your life. Stlto Merlot Malbec 2010 from Abruzzo, Italy Gift Box $19.95, (already elegantly packaged with killer heels), is now available with a choice of 5 different colour pashmina scarves. It’s an easy drinking red with mild berry aromas with a hint of vanilla and oak spice. It is full bodied and very juicy with a long pure fruit finish with a touch of alcohol heat. Well balanced and structured for easy drinking or a dinner of roast meats.
French Champagne is often sold like luxury handbags; more for its looks than its content. Fortunately Piper-Heidsieck’s Brut Limited Edition Bodyguard ($49.95) is very glamorous both inside and out. The bottle is luxuriously sheathed in lipstick red faux crocodile skin which, along with the elegant very toasty aroma gets one off to a good start. There are also lifted notes of apple pie with butter toast and bechamel sauce tones. The dry palate is very delicate with gentle bubbles tickling the tongue. The focus is lost a little in mid palate but it finishes very fresh with excellent length. A good aperitif wine and gift I would be delighted to receive myself.
John Szabo, MS
John Szabo Accessorizes
We at WineAlign have already done the work to help you find wine gifts for the holidays – most everything on the LCBO shelves has been reviewed. All that’s left for you to do is decide how much and what type and our search function will deliver the best options. So for my last minute holiday gifts, I’d like to recommend some paraphernalia that will augment the pleasure your recipient will derive from drinking wine:
The RAVI Instant Wine Refresher $39.95. Serving temperature changes the wine drinking experience dramatically. Whites are often too cold, but that’s ok, they’ll warm up. It’s the red, on the other hand, served straight from the counter, closet, or wine rack on top of the fridge that’s already too warm when it hits your glass. Alcohol comes to the form, fruit fades and the refreshment aspect is utterly lost. Enter the RAVI instant wine refresher. It seems a little spaced-aged at first, but a quick lesson will show you how to instantly chill that room temperature red down several degrees (ideally 14º-18ºC), at which point they become marvellously juicy and fresh, inviting additional sips. It’s not inexpensive, but it pays for itself in additional pleasure over and over – I use mine regularly.
The Vin-Aire Instant Wine Aerator, $49.95. Admittedly I’m not a gadget geek, but this handy little instant aerator is a perfect device to soften the youthful, burly reds that so few of us have the patience, or space, to cellar. My experimentation has shown it to soften texture and enhance aromas in bold reds, just like decanting for an hour or two, only immediately. For the biggest reds, use both the Vin-Aire and a decanter. Not recommended for light-bodied, delicate reds.
Hugh Johnson’a Wine Journal (Mitchell Beazley, $17.99 CAN/Hardcover/ISBN: 978-1-84533-603-5). A wine lover’s diary is hardly a new gift idea, but this one from Johnson, his first, functions as both a journal and a source of information. In it, one of the world’s legendary wine writers shares plenty of practical advice on enjoying, buying, serving and storing wine, as well as basic wine styles and how to taste. Interspersed throughout are templated pages to fill in your own impressions on the wines you drink, guiding you down the path to greater wine expertise. “Writing notes is how I remember when, where and (very important) with whom I drank my favorite bottles”, writes Johnson, and no bonafide wine lover is ever without his/her notebook.
Filed under: Wine, Christmas, LCBO, Vintages