Not Christmas. No, not yet… but the Buying Season is well under way, kick-started by cold and snowy November and then the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping craziness that has come to be associated with American Thanksgiving.
At the LCBO, the shelves are now populated by gift combinations and special bottlings trying to catch our eye. One thing about wine is that as a consumable, you don’t really have to worry about whether or not someone already has it.
It is always preferable to buy something that you know the recipient enjoys, but even with that “restriction” there’s a lot of latitude at every price range that will make the choices fairly safe.
Whiskey or wine, many combos include glasses with the libation. That’s all fine, provided the “giftee” needs them. For some of us, the capacity for glass wear has long been exceeded.
Still, one enticing option at lcbo.com is the offer of three bottles of the positively-reviewed Calmet & Joseph Villa Blanche Chardonnay from the Midi in France which includes two Riedel crystal glasses for $45. As the wine is on our shelves at $15 a bottle, the glasses are essentially free: they would be worth about $15 for the pair. (At the website, click on “Shop These Offers”, then scroll down to “Last Chance”. The only kicker is that for free shipping to the store of your choice, you must spend $50. I am sure you can find a way to supplement your purchase!)There are lots of gimmicks independent of the contents in the bottle. Reif has their Cabernet Merlot, a $15 product, decked out in a puffy red hooded parka for $19.95.
The LCBO must figure people in northern Ontario don’t need another parka, because this item isn’t showing anywhere from Barrie north. Guelph readers can find it at the Scottsdale store. Basically you are paying $5 for a cute gift bag.
Many of the gift combinations involve boxing together a couple of different offerings already on the shelves. Often, it is a simple cardboard carrier holding a couple of bottles, though some may be found in light wooden boxes instead.
The Remo Farina package includes a bottle of Amarone and a bottle of Ripasso, both good wines, for $69.95. Both are available separately. You end up paying $10 for the box. There are alternatives…
Masi, another highly respected producer in the Veneto, has a more “ordinary” package of good, enjoyable table wines - their white Levarie Soave, and two reds the Bonacosta Valpolicella and Frescaripa Bardolino – for $49.95, all in a nice wooden box for what you would roughly pay for them separatelyThe good-value Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo, $13.45, is boxed together with a 5 year old Reserva Tempranillo and a 10-year-old Valdepeñas Tempranillo for $44.95. Here, the latter two wines are not regularly found in the LCBO, and the packaging cost is much less of a factor; however, this Spanish offering will sell out quickly.
For Port lovers, Taylor Fladgate again has a tempting package. Last year, it was a flagon on blended tawny ports to celebrate their 325th anniversary. This year, as a one-time-only offering, they present a litre of limited edition Tawny in a bottle replicating those used in the 1730’s for $69.95. This truly is a unique opportunity.
Beyond this, you can likely find packages which appeal, or you may find other wines that will go very nicely into a gift bag. The LCBO also makes up gift baskets if you wish.
Now would be a good time, too, to pick up a bottle of cranberry wine. Muskoka Lakes Winery outside Bala, Ontario has the perfect sweet and sour cranberry balance in a wine selling for $16.95. In some households it is becoming as traditional as cranberry sauce itself with the turkey. It is a sweet wine with 94 grams per liter of sugar, but the lip-smacking tartness reins that in nicely.
This week, the LCBO is starting to mark down many of the lovely rosé wines that have been summer visitors. Check with your Vintages consultants to figure these out. They are all relatively dry, and would also pair well with turkey or even ham over the holidays.
For example, the classic Domaine Maby la Forcadière Tavel, $16.75, had this review in the Wine Enthusiast: “full in body, it has spry and crisply concentrated blackberry and currant flavours. The finish is long, accented by lavender and a delightfully chalky tone. Drink now-2021. Editors' Choice. Score – 91.”
The final official Vintages Release of the year will be out on Saturday, Dec. 8. Though there are scads of terrific wines already on the shelves, you may find something next Saturday that will make the perfect gift.
Here are some suggestions.
Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2017, $16.95 – Of this wine from France’s Loire, Natalie MacLean writes “excellent Old World Sauvignon Blanc that has the herbal grassy power and concentration of a New World wine.” - 90
Terranera Greco 2017, $17.95, from Italy’s Campania region in the south, offers deep peach/apricot flavours and a flinty mineral note. The acidity brings a lift on the finish. Vintages suggests trying it with bacon-wrapped scallops.
McManis Chardonnay 2017, $19.95 from California is a decent, flavourful wine from a winery whose wines regularly appear on the Vintages shelves. The Wine Enthusiast proposes a medium-bodied wine that is ripe tasting, rounded and rather soft in feel [which] oozes pear, butter and butterscotch flavors for a rich, mouthcoating effect.” – 86Pierre Sparr Mambourg Pinot Gris 2015, $25.95, from Alsace in France was praised by the Wine Enthusiast for its “honeyed fruit and bright citrus zestiness”, and called it “full on and rich, and a touch of residual sweetness gives this extra heft and conviction.” - 92. P.S. – The suggested retail price according to the WE is $45 U.S.” This is a steal!
Confidencial Reserva 2014, $13.95 is a Portuguese red said to be a blend of at least 10 different grape varieties. It is concentrated with black fruit and deep tannins. It could rest for a while, or you could decant first for a couple of hours. The Wine Enthusiast allotted a hefty 92.
La Celia Reserva Malbec/cabernet Franc 2015, $14.95, is an unusual blend from Argentina that is new to the Vintages portfolio. At the Decanter World Wine Awards it earned a score of 93 and was lauded for “stirring flavours of mint, fresh herbs, red berries, and bitter chocolate.”
Terra Tangra Organic Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Mavrud 2016, $14.95, is an interesting red from Bulgaria. Vintages says it is “brimming with evocations of coffee, mocha, oak spice and dark fruit.”The Black Chook Shiraz Viognier, $18.95, is a perennial Aussie favourite. The dash of white Viognier gives the aromatics a lift, but otherwise, it is oodles of dark fruit – currant and plum – with herbal (anise?) and spicy accents. It has consistent reviews in the high 80’s, low 90’s.
Primus Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $19.95 is an excellent red from Chile, Scoring it 93, Tim Atkin MW acknowledged “plenty of cassis, and red berry flavours, fine-grained tannins, subtle oak, and a minty flourish.”
Nodo D’Amore Rosso 2016, $22.95, is a new wine from Remo Farina, and a bit different in that it blends Merlot and Tereldego – a northern Italian varietal – with the traditional Corvina from the Veneto. The corvina is handled with the traditional treatment for Valpolicella, but the other two grapes -35% of the blend – are partially dried first in the Appassimento style. The winery highlights spice notes of cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and cardamom, along with a balsamic touch.
What do you think?
Have fun shopping – I am sure you can find everything you need to keep everyone happy though another Holiday Season.