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Weekend Wine: Christmas is coming

This week, Vin shares his picks for memorable holiday gifts
Vin Greco, Wine All The Time

The Season is upon us, and the LCBO has trotted out its Holiday packages,  merchants have lined their shelves with glasses and decanters and other drinking paraphernalia.

Home Hardware currently has its Kuradori Wine Aerator and the Aerator stand on sale for about $5 each, a 75 per cent savings.  This example is on a par with some that retail in the $20 and $40 range, and it allows the wine to breathe and open up more quickly. 

When it comes to wine, there is lots to choose from.  As a thoughtful gift, it is good to choose something the recipient will enjoy, and so it helps to know their personal tastes.  Even if you enjoy it yourself, try to ensure that it suits the recipient as well – or choose something else.

While reds remain very popular, they aren’t all the same.  Many today favour wines that are a bit more elevated in their sugar levels, even though they may be classified as dry.

For example, the Apothic line from California carries about 17 grams of sugar per litre.  Contrast this style with traditional European reds such as Chianti or Côtes du Rhone, which carry only 2 to 4 or 5 grams of sugar per litre, and you see that tastes can differ significantly.

And then there is price.  Generally, it might make sense to spend approximately what the recipients might spend themselves.  That said, you may know of a wine that is less expensive that you think they would enjoy trying, or you might decide to give something above their regular “comfort zone” as a treat.

There are lots of possibilities, and the LCBO staff would be most willing to help you make you selections.

Producers are very conscious of marketing, and many products commonly available during the year are now spruced up in their Holiday best, and packaging is everything.

 A wine still on the regular shelves might be bundled with branded glasses, or even with olive oil.  Argentina’s Zuccardi combines a bottle of Tempranillo with a Malbec and a bottle of olive oil in a wooden case for $49.95.

Freixenet Cordon Negro, a sparkling wine from Spain pairs a bottle of Cava with two champagne flutes for $18.95. The wine currently sells for $13.95, and so for $5 more you get the package as described. 

The excellent Taylor Fladgate Late-bottled Vintage Port comes with two port glasses for $25.95.  The same port is on limited time offer for $15.85, a curious promotion when you would think the emphasis would be on the gift package.

Some are packaged in special bottles - Strewn Vidal Icewine, $29.95 for 200 ml., is in a bottle shaped like a hockey player.

Cantina dei Poeti markets various Proseccos in special bottles – pink, silver or gold – each $27.95.  The pink and silver are made from Pinot Nero, the gold from Glera, the traditional Prosecco white grape; however, its regular list Prosecco retails for $14.95.  Likely we are paying a premium for packaging – but they do look great.  The gold is also available in 1500 and 3000 ml. format for $54.95 and $139.95 respectively – the large bottle would make quite a splash at a New Year’s party.

Other wines are presented in special presentation cases.  Mazzei pairs a bottle of Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2014 with their Ser Lapo Riserva 2013 in a red case for $58.95.  Well made, both offer deep fruit flavour suggestive of tart cherry and notes of tar and a whiff of tobacco or cedar, and the latter is exceptionally balanced.

A little different is the Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine from Coppola which comes in a small carton of four cans, 750 ml. in all for $29.95. You could get two 3-ounce servings per can, and only open what you need.

On the vintages shelves, Mondavi’s Fumé Blanc and its Napa Cabernet Sauvignon are both kitted out in red and white knitted Christmas sweaters – and the prices are their regular $22.95 and $25.95 respectively.

Large format bottles are also more prominent. San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 comes in 1500 ml for $39.95. James Suckling gave it a 91, calling it “polished and poised” and “delicious for the money”.

Occasionally there are items we don’t normally see. Grappa, the Italian eau-de-vie, often appears now in special glass bottles that themselves are works of art. Mazzetti d’Altavilla Grappa di Chardonnay in Amerigo Vespucci has a glass ship inside a presentation bottle of Murano glass… for only $149.95.  Check for availability.

Appearance can have as much emphasis as quality at this time of year.  Personally, I would like to stress what is in the bottle – just find a suitable gift bag, whether you hit the Dollar Store or pick up a fancier model for $5.95 at the LCBO.

Good wines still in Vintages include the Cabernet Sauvignon blend Santa Julia Magna 2014, $15.95, “radiant in red, juicy fruit” – 92 (

One of the top Carmenère offerings is Montes Purple Angel 2013, $59.95, earning scores over 90.  James Suckling gives it 97, calling it superb and praising its “length and layers”.  The December 10 Release will feature Montes’ Limited Selection Carmenère 2014 for just $14.95.  Vintages says it is “creamy textured, concentrated, and elegant.”  This is a great chance to see if the Purple Angel merits quadruple the cost!

Gerard Bertrand Cap Insula 2013, $17, is a Rhone blend from the Languedoc region. With scores of 90, it is “rich and ripe” with “lush black-fruit flavors”. (The Wine Enthusiast)  The suggested retail price in the States is $25!

Two reds, already inexpensive, Big Bill Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa and Anciano Tempranillo from Spain are $2 off this month at $10.95. Budget-conscious shoppers can be confident that they are giving appealing wines, the one fruity and bright, the other harmonious and smooth – the impact with Anciano is drier, though both are low in sugar – just 2 grams per litre. Warning: they sell fast.

In August I wrote about Marc Pistor and his proprietary Fogolar wines. Now, Marc has released his 2014 Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Franc Reserve, along with his Riesling from the exceptional 2015 vintage.  All are available by the case through  You can share it or horde it for yourself.

The 2014 Cabernet Franc about $22 - a nose of crushed blackberry and strawberry precedes a very smooth, dark entry with deep berry notes.  At the end, soft, grainy tannins coat the mouth. A seriously delicious wine.  The 2014 Picone Vineyard Cabernet Franc Reserve, about $40, benefits from the oldest vines on the site. A brightness to this wine lifts it above the regular 2014.  The tannins are less pronounced and the fruit more elevated, with the effect being of silk transmuted to velvet. Impressive and distinctive. 

The 2014 Chardonnay, $22, has great texture with oak and butter at play; given a chance to breathe, those elements resolve to support the fruit through the long finish.  Serve this with your turkey at Christmas and let the Hosannas ring!

As rich as the Chardonnay in its own way, the Riesling (about $19) from the stellar 2015 vintage is as good as it gets.  A whiff of textbook petrol on the nose, and then golden apple fruit blossoms quickly and fully in your mouth, with lip-smacking acidity reining in the fruit perfectly. A great wine anyway you want to drink it.

The December 10 Vintages Release offers a barrage of options for your holiday giving  or enjoying.


Kim Crawford Small Parcels Favourite Homestead Pinot Gris 2014 $24.95, is rich but not overly-rich, with abundant peach and pear in perfect tension with citrus acidity and stony minerality. The finish is impressively long, with that stone-fruit and citrus impression lingering long after you’ve swallowed. This is a white that Santa would love to see waiting for him – forget the milk and cookies!

Wakefield Estate continues to present us with good value wines, in this case its 2015 Chardonnay, $15.95.  Fruit from the warmer coastal Padthaway region lifts up the leaner fruit from Clare Valley to create a wine that offers warm melon and peach character with the suggestion of toast and oak on the finish.

If sweet is your thing, Ruppertsberger Linsenbusch Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2015, $17.95 should be very satisfying.  “Spätlese” refers to late harvest, suggesting greater extraction of flavour and higher degrees of sugar. suggested “flavours of preserved lemon, mandarin, tangerine and marmalade” with the 2014 version.


Among the many attractive reds, you will find Australia’s Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2014, $21.95, platinum winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge Competition, “a beautiful example of juicy ripe Aussie Shiraz” – 96 Shop early for this one.

Argentina’s Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2014, $16.95, is quite intriguing.  “Unoaked raw, and a bit wild,” it is “really showing and captivating…Wild Malbec to buy by the case” according to robertparker.com90

The same site gives an 89+ to Sicily’s Donnafugata Sedàra 2014, $16.95.  This Nero d’Avola shows “cherry fruit, blackberry and plum” with “distant notes of crushed almonds and pistachio at the back.”

Whatever style you or the fortunate recipient of your gift appreciates, this release has many, many more gems that will satisfy.  Be sure to speak with the product consultant in your store.  Happy Hunting.