‘Tis the season for holiday entertaining and gift giving. What if you’d like to give someone a bottle of wine? How do you know which one to choose? How much do you spend? Here to help us with that is wine expert Natalie MacLean.
Welcome Natalie. So if choosing the right wine is so tricky, why should we give wine as a gift at all?
When you give the gift of wine, doubles are fine unlike toaster ovens, there are no wrong sizes unlike that ugly sweater and re-gifting is so much easier compared to fruit cake or a bathroom scale.
Plus if you’re trying not to add to the clutter in someone else’s life, a la Mari Kondo, the gift of a consumable like wine, is ideal. But please forget that fruit cake, will you!
Sounds great! Let’s start with a wine that you bring to a dinner party… what do you suggest?
You can’t go wrong with bubbly. It always sparks joy, as Mari Kondo would say: it’s also so celebratory and sidesteps the landmine of personal taste that’s more of an issue when you’re giving red or white wine.
Taittinger Champagne from France, Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine from Niagara and La Marca Prosecco from Italy, are all terrific choices.
Nothing says ‘let the party start right now’, that the visual splash of a big bottle, like this Veuve Clicquot magnum. It’s 1.5 litres of festive fun, the equivalent of two regular-sized bottles.
Your host can choose to open the bottle, if you’ve brought it well-chilled, or save it for a future occasion.
Champagne A.C., France
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne
Champagne A.O.C., France
La Marca Prosecco
Veneto DOC, Italy
Tell us about these next wines… who are they for?
We’re always talking about pairing wine and food, but how about pairing wine with the people on your holiday gift list? These wines are for the person you met though an online dating website or app. You’re now on your second or third rendezvous but you’re not quite sure about a long-term commitment, so give a wine that’s a classic, but not too strong, yet still full of character; a well-known name brand wine, like Californian cabernet or chardonnay. Yes, they’re safe bets, but until you know for sure that this is the one, play it safe. Be smooth, be cool.
Try Benziger Cabernet from California, a robust, deeply delicious classic red wine with aromas of fleshy ripe dark plums and berries with a hint of campfire smoke, and your next date together. Or try Louis Martini Chardonnay, also from California, a lovely, voluptuous white wine with aromas of Asian pear, peach and dried apricot. Creamy, but not too oaky. You see where I’m going with those wine descriptions, don’t you?
Benziger Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Sonoma County, California, United States
Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Sonoma County, California, United States
Ghost Pines Chardonnay 2016
Napa, Sonoma, Monterey, California, United States
I see another big bottle of bubbly here… who’s getting this treat?
This imperial of Moet & Chandon is for your psychiatrist, therapist, bartender or whomever is giving you good advice lately. Surprise her/him with a large-format bottle. Big thinking means big progress for you. If it’s been a year of emotional breakthroughs for you, then why not say that with a magnum of Champagne?
Of course, he/she’ll analyze whatever you give, so choose a wine that’s all about balance. You could also go with an easy-drinking pinot noir from Henry of Pelham in Niagara or Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, both are silky smooth and medium-bodied, yet packed with flavor. These wines also work well for psychologists and marriage counselors.
Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne
Champagne A.C., France
Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne
Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose Diamond Suit
Henry of Pelham Winery Pinot Noir 2017
Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, V.Q.A., Canada
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2016
Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand
Who’s next on your shopping list?
The person who delivers your mail or newspapers: When it’s absolutely, positively got to get there every morning, go for a wine that can be enjoyed in the snow, rain, sleet, heat or hail. When it’s absolutely, positively got to get there every morning, go for a wine that can be enjoyed in the snow, rain, sleet or heat.
A wine that’s consistent year after year because it hails from (pun intended) a warm climate. Try the southern Italian red wine, Cusamano Nero D’Avola from the island of Sicily, or an equally full-bodied and delicious Shiraz from Australia or South Africa, with its layers of smooth, dark fruit pleasure and gratitude.
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Carnivor Shiraz 2018
South Australia, Australia
Cusumano Terre Siciliane Nero D’Avola 2018
Nederburg Manor House Shiraz 2015
Western Cape W.O., South Africa
Great suggestions! What do we have here?
Let’s talk about your mechanic: yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not something more racy, like Ferrari sparkling in Italy, or a complex Bordeaux, that’s as complex as the computer systems one needs to deal with in your car, or try this Stave and Steel, a robust California Cabernet Sauvignon aged in bourbon barrels that once held Kentucky whiskey. It’s a dark, brooding kind of wine with a seductive toffeed edge.
Ferrari Trento Brut Sparkling
Alto Adige, Trentino D.O.C., Italy
Chateau Timberlay 2015
Bordeaux AOC, France
Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
California, United States
Travel Agent: he/she’s traveled the world and has planned terrific vacations for you. You’ve always discussed your latest wine finds with them. This lovely bubbly, from southern France, is a perfect thank-you for that trip you took last winter.
Your agent has also become intrigued with New Zealand wines. He/she’s been to the country, of course, but hasn’t tried many of the wines yet. Give your agent a Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc, which is made from small vineyards planted in the Marlborough region. (Your travel agent loves tidbits like this.) Marlborough is nestled on the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, and is famous for its sheltered coves, forests, skyline ridges and of course, Sauvignon Blanc. The wine has vibrant, zesty aromas of lime, chives, grass, lemongrass and green apples. Medium-bodied and mouth-watering. Pair with: grilled swordfish, turkey burgers and planning a trip to New Zealand.
Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Marlborough, New Zealand
Gérard Bertrand Thomas Jefferson Brut Crémant De Limoux Rosé 2017
Languedoc A.P., France
Who are these last wines for?
Now you’ve shopped for everyone else, don’t forget yourself! A fortified wine, like Fonseca Port, is just the thing to sip as you’re watching the seventh re-run of equally sweet Miracle on 34th Street or listening to sappy Christmas songs. The extra alcohol in port is ideal when navigating for holiday gatherings.
Icewine from Niagara’s Reif, Strewn or Pensinsula Ridge wineries are also a great accompaniment to off-key caroling and those sugar plums dancing in your head.
Fonseca Porto Bin 27
Douro Valley, Portugal
Strewn Vidal Icewine 2013
Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario VQA, Canada
Reif Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2017
Niagara River, Ontario VQA, Canada
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Beal Vineyard Cabernet Franc Icewine 2011
VQA, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada