Eating & Drinking

Holiday Wines — For giving, receiving & sparkling the season

Amid the blizzard of holiday decisions, picking the right wine for a gift, party, or family dinner can be just too much. I can’t make your decisions, but I can recommend some wines that score 90 points or better (excellent) and that should be regularly available in your local LCBO Vintages section. Most belong to the Vintages category called Essentials, with a couple to be found in larger stores on the General List. You can pour them or gift them with confidence, and hints are provided as to where they might fit into your holiday proceedings.

Chapoutier 2012 Les Grands Merisiers Chateauneuf-Du-Pape
$34.95 / Rhone Valley, France / 91 points
This delicious, smooth, rich wine dials up every southern Rhone flavour you can imagine: warmed plums, fresh fig fruit, florals, anise, wood smoke, herbs, and damp earth. It’s medium-to-full-bodied, fairly soft, warm, and very engaging, with soft tannin. Now to 2018. A shoo-in for the sensualist on your list. LCBO 421073

Castelgiocondo-BrunelloFrescobaldi 2010 Castelgiocondo Brunello Di Montalcino
$49.95 / Tuscany, Italy / 91 points
This big, complete Brunello nicely combines intensity, verve, and a mellow aged character. The nose is very complex, with lifted cedar, fennel, spice leather, cherry, and sundried tomato typical of the sangiovese grape. It’s medium-to-full-bodied, quite smooth, with firm tannic and some warmth. Best 2016 to 2020 or later. For the collector and Italian-wine lover. Vintages Essentials 650432

Hidden-Bench-Pinot-Noir-2012Hidden Bench 2013 Pinot Noir
$29.95 / Niagara Peninsula, Ontario /90 points
This is a terrific Ontario pinot showing real verve and elegance from the cooler 2013 vintage. Impressive aromatic lift with cran-cherry fruit, fresh herbs, some toast, and vanilla. It is mid-weight, with fine tension, some sourness, and fine tannin. A great match for a holiday turkey, even better laid away for turkey 2016–17. (If you see the 2012, it will need longer cellaring.) Vintages Essentials 274753

Muga-ReservaMuga 2011 Rioja Reserva
$23.95 / Spain / 91 points
Muga is a renowned, traditional producer of Rioja, with all its wines fermented and aged in wood — not stainless steel. It is generous yet firm, dense, and texturally impressive, with lifted aromas of dried currant/prune fruit, leather, cedar, a certain meatiness and oak vanillin, and spice. Excellent focus and length. For the discerning collector and roast-beef dinner. Best 2018 to 2022. Vintages Essentials 177345

Wynns-Coonawarra-Cab-SauvWynns 2012 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon
$27.95 / Coonawarra, Australia / 92 points
This is a classic from the leading winery of one of the world’s greatest cabernet regions — a complete and interesting wine, with lifted aromatics of correct cassis, eucalyptus, pepper, and graphite, with a touch of mincemeat wildness. It’s full-bodied, firm, edgy, and deep, with a great sense of purity and excellent length. New World fans will applaud this gift, to be enjoyed with lamb over the next five years. Vintages Essentials 84996

Cloudy Bay 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
$31.95 / Marlborough, New Zealand / 91 points
This remains a preeminent sauvignon of New Zealand. The 2014 is tight, compact, and spry, built on great mouth-watering acidity. The aromatics are a citrus salad of white grapefruit, lime, and orange blossom, with underlying fresh herbs and greens and a hint
of passion fruit. It’s mid-weight, but the zesty acidity makes it feel lighter and adds wet-stone minerality
on the finish. A gift for the vivacious. Vintages Essentials 304469

Drouhin 2013 Pouilly-Fuisse
$29.95 / Burgundy, France / 91 points
It’s everything I want from chardonnay grown in the limestone-based soils of Pouilly-Fuissé. Nicely ripened peach/apple fruit is effortlessly ingrained in oak vanillin, vague wet stone, and fresh-churned-butter aromas. Its medium-bodied, sleek, and very well balanced, with some creaminess yet firmness, minerality and lemon curd on the finish. A classy white for an elegant New Year’s Eve fish dinner. LCBO 361683

Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Riesling
$23.95 / Vinemount Ridge, Niagara / 91 points
Perhaps it’s the name association with “quarry,” but you can almost taste the rocks here, along with green apple, lime, and herbal undertones. It’s dry but not austere, with firm acidity and dry citrus and mineral finish. The 2013 vintage is right in the wheelhouse of this wine. Should age to 2020, perhaps beyond, becoming mellower and more honeyed. A great local statement. Vintages Essentials 198853

banner1Sparkling and Fortified Dom Pérignon 2005 Brut Vintage
$219.95 / Champagne, France / 93 points
This is the ultimate largesse gift — one of the most famous wines in the world. It’s a Champagne with great precision, balance, and depth of flavour, although the sulphurous chive-like note in the bottle I tasted wrinkled the nose. There is also subtle vanillin, brioche, and lemon complexity. It bristles with tension and a seamless texture, thanks to tart lemony acidity and an almost steely finish. Vintages Essentials. 280461

Cattier Brut Premier
$42.10 / Champagne, France / 91 points
Most cannot afford Dom, but this value Champagne will show off nicely at a New Year’s celebration or a holiday reception. The aromas show complex brioche, dried fruit, and marzipan. It is weighty yet full of energy and flavour. Excellent length seals the deal. LCBO 325720

Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
$37.95 / Douro Valley, Portugal / 93 points
A gorgeous old wine, from its yellow-rimmed mahogany colour to its intense, pure aromas of molasses, apricot, honey, cedar, orange, and nutty “rancio” character. It’s warm, elegant, sweet (all ports are sweet), and powerful, with outstanding length. Will keep for years but is ready to drink now with powerful cheeses, chocolate, and nut-based desserts. Both a cerebral and a comfort gift. LCBO 620641

SCORES  David Lawrason assigns scores on a 100-point scale. They reflect a wine’s overall quality. A rating of 95 to 100 is outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 86 to 89 very good; 80 to 85 good.