No doubt there is still shopping to do, and no doubt there are many wonderful wines on various wish lists, but with this last column of the year, it is almost de rigueur that we consider the wines that will do justice to our holiday feasts and celebrations.
One tradition that many Italian families enjoy is a Christmas Eve feast of fish featuring as many as thirteen seafood courses, with seven being the unofficial minimum, it seems. An odd number of courses is considered lucky.
One would naturally assume that white wine would be a prominent beverage, but, depending on the manner of preparation, red wines could feature as well, especially if there is a tomato–based sauce involved.
The dishes served will vary, often depending on family traditions. Well known New York chef, Lydia Bastianichʼs "Secrets to the Feast of The Seven Fishesʼʼ described at www.delish.com contains recipes for such dishes as Baccala Mantecato – a salt cod spread, Shrimp alla Buzura – shrimp in a white wine sauce, Paccheri with Lobster Brodetto – a pasta noodle with lobster and a tomato-based sauce, and Pesce Spada – lightly grilled swordfish steaks.
There are excellent Italian whites currently in Vintages.
Terredora Falanghina 2014, $16.95, and Donnachiara Greco di Tufo 2013, $17.95, are two gems from Campania that will be both rich and clean and perfect with most dishes.
As well, from Lake Garda in the Veneto, Zenatoʼs Lugana San Benedetto, $16.95, is fruity but dry with nice depth and texture.
On the regular list, the very dependable Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi is just $9.95 this month – I love the bitter almond note on the finish – and, at the Station Mall store, if a wine from Calabria is a must, you can find S.X.E Bianco a blend of Greco and Malvasia Bianco, $13.95.
It will be serviceable and authentic.
A red wine for the Feast should be bright and medium-bodied; I would look for something like a Barbera such as the Ascheri Barbera dʼAlba, $15.30 – vibrant, with good berry/cherry fruit at the centre and soft pleasing tannins.
A Canadian Gamay Noir, such as Angels Gate Gamay Noir, $13.95, would be a lively alternative with a light profile and dried cherry on the finish.
The first wines of the season, the Novellos, are still available at the Great Northern road store, and they would be a hit, too.
The accent is on freshness, and the Mezzacorona example, $9.95, shows oodles of fresh fruit with some spice on the finish.
All three of these wines are available on the regular list at the Great Northern Road store.
As for the Christmas dinner itself, turkey and ham tend to be the most popular "proteins” on the table.
In both cases both white and red wines could serve, depending on the method of preparation and oneʼs preference.
For a good, fruity white, from South Africa we have the Woftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc, $13.95.
Nicely balanced with good aromatics, this will complement a turkey without jarring in any way.
With Ham, which would likely be more salty, I would want a somewhat richer wine, and would certainly consider a white from Alsace.
In Vintages, Domaine Zinck Pinot Blanc 2014, $19.95, integrates both zesty citrus and lush orchard fruit deliciously.
On the regular list from New Zealand, Kate Radburnd Sun-Kissed Pinot Gris, $15.95, presents with ripe tropical fruit, very good balance, and enough acidity on the finish to seal the deal.
If you prefer red, a Pinot Noir would go well with the turkey.
The Cono Sur Bicicleta from Chile provides textbook character and is surprisingly good for just $10.95.
It is on the light side of the spectrum, but dry.
If you wish for more oomph – even with ham – from California there is the Vintages Essential, Meiomi Pinot Noir.
Crafted with 13 grams of sugar per litre, this has dark cherry and chocolate notes, and would be most effective if the ham is somewhat salty or honey-baked.
You could also consider Monasterio de Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2005, $16.95, a Granacha/Tempranillo/Carinena blend that emphasizes fruit and is at its peak. It is a great buy.
Come December 31, Champagne or other sparklers are customary for welcoming in the New Year.
For a genuine Champagne from that classic district in France, the best buy is Champagne Victoire Brut Prestige, $39.95 which carries a Wine Spectator 89 for its “fine dense, persistence effervescence” mango fruit and floral nose.
I am impressed with Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2011, $24.95, which hits well above its price point, and ticking off all the positive characteristics which traditionally made sparkling wines aim for – lovely fine bubbles, toasty notes, good fruit and crisp acidity, and complexity.
This should be available at both Wine Rack stores and in Vintages.
From Colio, and available both at Pinoʼs and the LCBO is Lily Methode Cuvée Close Sparkling Wine, $16.95, a Riesling based bubbly with the Co2 introduced under pressure.
It is refreshing with peach-apricot and lemon notes. Winecurrent.com gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
Lastly, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, $14.95, is a consistent best buy in several publications.
It is medium-bodied with medium length and moderate complexity – I think it would work for my Midnight!