The festive season is soon upon us and it’s time to stock up on wines for parties, dinners and cozy nights by the fire. Here are some suggestions to get your shopping started:
Serving champagne at your holiday event can put a real dent in your wallet. One way to drink great bubbly for less is to look at smaller producers – referred to as “grower champagne” – which are often more interesting than some of the big names. Tarlant Brut Reserve ($45.20) is a great option at a much friendlier price than many of its competitors.
An even more budget-friendly way to drink bubbly is to drink crémant, a sparkling wine made exactly the same way as champagne and often aged for the same amount of time, resulting in high quality, complex and delicious bubbly. In France, most sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region are labelled as crémant and you can find them from most wine producing regions: Burgundy, Loire, Alsace, Rhone etc. The richness and flavours of these wines will vary depending on where they are from and the grapes used to make them; if you are a fan of the flavour profile of champagne – toasty, buttery, nutty – then a crémant from Burgundy, made from champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier), is a great option. If you prefer a lighter, more fruit forward sparkling, try one from the Loire Valley or Alsace.
Reach for Rioja
Much like bubbly, getting quality red wine on your holiday table that pairs with seasonal meals (turkey or other roasted game bird, beef or ham) and that reflects the festive mood can be an expensive proposition. Many of the famous reds – Bordeaux or Barolo for example – need long aging periods and if you want to buy these wines at the right age you will be paying a high price. Rioja from Spain seems to be a great exception to this rule! Gran Reserva Rioja is also aged for many years before and after bottling, making these wines deeply complex, savoury and smooth. These are perfect wines to pair with many types of holiday foods and will certainly elevate the festive spirit at your table. A real treat in the LCBO right now is the Faustino I Gran Reserva 2005 ($35.95) and for an even more affordable dinner companion try the Baron de Ley Reserva 2013 ($21.95).
After a big meal, there might not be much appetite for dessert. If you still have a sweet tooth to be satisfied, however, try a late harvest wine that has sweetness along with enough acidity to keep it light on the finish. Cave Spring Indian Summer Riesling ($24.95) offers an off-dry, fresh finish to your meal; if you want something a bit sweeter, the De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2016 ($29.95) is a more lusciously sweet ending.
Anjana Viswanatha is the sommelier at Bacchanal in Toronto, the founder of Wednesday Night Wine (www.wednesdaynightwine.ca) and a wine educator at George Brown College. Get in touch with Anjana: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Instagram @wednesdaynightwine.