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Holiday match-ups

In this instalment of Wine All the Time, Vin shares some of his genius for wine pairings
Christmas Turkey
Stock image

Go to half-a-dozen sources and you are likely to find half-a-dozen different kinds of wine suggested to accompany your ham or roast or turkey. It can depend on the writer’s particular perspective, and where they are situated.  

An American could lean towards California wines, an Italian towards wines of that country, etc. Here in Ontario, while we like to give a nod to our local industry, we generally have a more “cosmopolitan” approach and are open to many possibilities.

That said, when it comes right down to it, the style of wine should suit the dish you’re serving. Ham, Turkey, Salmon, Prime Rib – they can all invite different kinds of wine, and the method of preparation will also influence wine selection.  Try to match the intensity of the wine to the intensity of the dish.

Finally, there is personal taste: just because a particular wine might be the wine for roast beef, it doesn’t mean it’s your wine. Go with the wine that best meets your own tastes. 

A baked ham generally has both sweet and salty flavours, and this invites wines with a touch of sweetness to them, along with higher acidity and bold fruit. You don’t want a wine that is too tart, especially if there is a lot of sweetness in the glaze.  You can go white or red here, but the whites would be better off-dry, and the reds fruity and less tannic.

Rieslings can be ultra-sweet or bone-dry. Off-dry examples would likely work best with ham. Ontario excels with this varietal. The Angels Gate Sussreserve Riesling, $14.95, with 18 grams of sugar per litre is about as sweet as I would want.  

The drier Cave Spring Cellars Estate Riesling,2015, (9g/l.), #42 on the Wine Enthusiast’s 100 of 2017, is described as “a dry-style Riesling, though it still lends a ripe, fruity impression. Lemon, lime and grapefruit are shuffled into a winning hand, with ample details of cilantro, fennel and wet stone. It's a vibrant, refreshing wine that is immensely food friendly.” -93.

Outlook-FALERNIA RFalernia Reserva Carmenère 2014, $14.95

With reds, Falernia Reserva Carmenère 2014, $14.95 in Vintages may surprise, as it is neither as dark or as sharp as many Carmenères can be, nor does it have any vegetal notes that can come when the grape hasn’t ripened perfectly.  Instead, this version has medium body with lovely fruit and a tinge of sweetness at 8 g/l.  The grapes were allowed to hang until they had started to raisin: hence, ripeness is all.  It is like a Ripasso, really, and should be perfect with ham. 

Pinot Noirs are not all created equal.  With ham, I would be looking to California where the fruit is emphasized. On the regular list, Mirassou Pinot Noir, $14.95, will be silky smooth with only the lightest of tannins, and will suggest raspberry and plum.  It carries 10 grams of sugar – about the limit I would think for a truly dry wine.  For a drier example, look in Vintages to Kilian Huhn Pinot Noir 2014, $18.95, from Baden in Germany.  With 6 g/l, it will impress as dry.  It should be “light-medium-bodied [and] juicy, with impressively ripe-sweet, cherry-like fruit along with hints of herbs and earth,” according the Globe & Mail.

With turkey, we again want to steer away from the tannins, and we want the whites to be richer in flavour with lots of fruit, whether dry or off-dry. Reds should be lighter in style.  For whites, Rieslings will also work well here, or you could try Pinot Gris.  The Angels Gate Pinot Gris 2016, $14.95, has a richness and depth that is very satisfying.  Peach, pear and vanilla spice, and a smooth texture developed through aging in mature oak barrels make it pleasurable indeed.

For a drier red, consider either a French Beaujolais or Ontario Gamay.  13th Street Gamay Noir 2016, $19.95, took gold at the 2017 National Wine Awards.  Serve it slightly chilled to enjoy its red berry fruit accompanied by tart acidity. 

 An off-beat but worthy alternative, especially for those who prefer sweeter wines, would be the Chiarli Castelvetro Lambrusco from north central Italy, a sparkling red wine on the regular list with only 8% alcohol and 52 g/l of sugar.  The carbonation gives the wine the zip it needs to relieve it from being too, too sweet, but it would play well with the turkey.  

Muskoka Lakes Cranberry WineMuskoka Lakes Cranberry Wine $16.95

You could also try a Cranberry wine from Bala in the Muskokas.  Muskoka Lakes offers both a Cranberry and a Cranberry/Blueberry wine, each $16.95.  Both are relatively sweet (100+ g/l), but have high acidic tartness, as you would expect from cranberries, and both pair very happily with “The Bird”.

A key element with red meats such as beef or lamb can be fat.  Here the tannins in big, red wines can be welcome as they help to cleanse our mouths of any fatty coating.  The vintages Essential Torres Gran Coronas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $16.95 – that’s $3 off until December 31 – will do a yeoman’s job with the roast.  Berry and dark cherry fruit, hints of cedar and juniper, and fine smooth tannins make this a good match.

Also consider the general list Wakefield Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.95 from South Australia. The 2015 made this year’s Top 100 Best Buys in the Wine Enthusiast, which deemed it an “impressively detailed and complex wine. Floral notes reminiscent of lavender or rosemary mark the nose and impart interest to the palate, which deftly marries herbs, baking spices and dark fruit. Crisp acids combine with soft tannins on the silky finish.” - 90

Two newer options on the general list might surprise you.  The Passo Del Sud Apassimento 2016, $11.95, applies the “ripasso” method associated with Valpolicella to the southern Italian grapes, Primitivo and Negroamaro, with very good results.   The wine carries some sweetness, but over-all is deep and dark with oodles of inky fruit.  A Spanish blend of Tempranillo and Syrah, The Gran Sello 2015, $14.05, has bright dark fruit good acidity, and good tannic structure.  It isn’t complicated, but it has an impressive, long finish.

GoldWineMénage à Trois Gold Chardonnay, $13.95

Salmon can certainly play a role in our holiday feasts. A baked salmon can handle bigger wines than a white fleshed fish might, and so oaked chardonnays, dry rosés, lighter reds, and even sparkling wines can come into play. California’s Ménage à Trois Gold Chardonnay, $13.95, does a great job for the price. The Wine Enthusiast writes “classic nutmeg and vanilla aromas lead to vivid and delicious flavors echoing baking spices, ripe apples and a touch of sweet cream. Quite full bodied, the wine's texture is also rich enough to encourage a lingering finish.” -89

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2016, $17.35, a relatively dry blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Gamay, is lively with very good acidity and weight, and flavours reminiscent of strawberry, grapefruit, and even, some suggest, watermelon.  

For reds here, consider Beaujolais, and even one of the Beaujolais Nouveau that still linger on the shelves from earlier in November. Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2017, $15.95, will have the lively freshness of the new wine, but still have the tart but fruity character that the Gamay grape promises.

Whatever you are serving, there are wines that suit. Go with your own tastes, and enjoy the Holidays thoroughly.

December 9 Vintages Release

As usual, there will only be this one release in December.   With almost 300 wines listed, you can easily find something here that will appeal for your celebrations. If you need help choosing, just speak with the product consultant.  There are wines from as little as $13.95 and all the way up, with the Roederer Cristal Charmpage, to over $300!


Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $14.95.  This bargain from Chile was well received by – “Asparagus and snow pea aromas. Fresh and super ripe style with tropical and rich citrus palate. Clean and dry finish.” – 90

Cantina Gallura Piras Vermentino Di Gallura 2015, $15.95, from Sardinia also impressed at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2016. “Fresh bright and nutty with a touch of pear, preserved lemon and typical grassy character on the palate” – 90. Both this and the next wine would be terrific with your Christmas Eve Seafood Feast.

La Fortezza Taburna Falnaghina Del Sannio 2016, $16.95, hails from Campagna. Vintages calls it “rich and mouthfilling with a smooth, round, luxurious texture.  Long, with an emerging spiciness.”

Peninsula Ridge Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2016, $16.95, from Niagara is uncomplicated, but very sound.  Vintages refers to baked apple, peach and pineapple, along with vanilla and banana cream pie (!) Good value – be careful not to over-chill in order to get best impression of the fruit. 


Outlook-OYSTER BAYOyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé, $21.95

Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé, $21.95, from the company producing a very popular Sauvignon Blanc, impresses Ottawa writer Natalie MacLean, who calls it “crisp, clean and fresh, with notions of citrus and strawberry.”  -91

Of the other dozen Champagnes and other sparklers, only one is slated for release in most of the north.  If you want any of them including the Cristal or the Dom Perignon 2006 Brut, check with your consultant this weekend to see if they can get them for you before Christmas.


Viña Tarapaca Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015, $17.75, is a good example of a more classical Chilean Carmenère, compared to the Falernia mentioned above. The Wine Spectator writes “lip-smacking flavors of plum tart, cherry and kirsch…lively acidity… with notes of black olive and fresh-roasted coffee bean.” -90.

Botter Gran Passione Rosso 2016, $17.95 is an IGT blend of Corvina and Merlot from the Veneto, and so may be a bit different from what you usually experience with the area. This has generous, lively dark fruit, good balance, and dark cherry and plum notes and satisfying acidity

Peter Lehmann The Barossan Shiraz 2015, $21.95, from Australia also earned accolades from the Wine Spectator for being dense and tannic with focused and pure “spiced plum and wild blackberry.  Tobacco, espresso and nutmeg details add aromatic interest.” -92

.Convento San Francisco 2010, $20.95, from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region is 100% Tempranillo. says “the palate is medium to full-bodied, with fine-grained, slightly dusty tannins giving it character and an elegant rusticity.”   It should be drinking perfectly now. -91.