Instead of presents this year, I’m giving everyone my opinion. Get excited.
I totally stole that meme. But it’s kind of true in this particular case.
I can’t give everyone a bottle of wine, so I’m giving you this instead: a gift guide.
White wine lovers will adore the 2020 Paul Mas Réserve Single Vineyard Collection Viognier Nicole Vineyard Pay d’Oc, France (Vintages $14.95). This silvery white exudes the gentle scent of summer in the south of France. Each swirl emits the sweet, shrublike scents of garrigue, sliced pears and sea spray. Those allusive, pristine aromas lead to a slick entry that tastes shiny-bright and cool. But those radiant flavours taste quietly elegant rather than fruity or forward, nodding toward white peach, tree-plucked pear and lemon zest laced with niçoise olive and raw nut. This wine elevates everything. Score: 92
For the wine-loving country music fan, nothing beats a bottle of the 2019 Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Cabernet Sauvignon from California (Vintages Essential $21.95). This collaboration between country musician Zac Brown and Napa winemaker John Killebrew is a marvellous mix of jammy-earthy fruit that floods in with easy generosity. Ripe raspberries, cassis and a touch of damp, freshly-tilled soil just seems to sing in the glass. It tastes bold and grounded while maintaining a certain levity that keeps each sip lifted and quenching. Refreshingly good value too. Score: 93
Give the film buff a bottle of the 2019 Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Appellation Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California (Vintages $29.95). Full of depth and character, this wine opens with sun-drenched aromas of muddled mixed berries, bittersweet chocolate and creamy vanilla before a cashmere crush of fruit sweeps in. Flavours of blackcurrant liqueur, black cherries and peppercorn unspool before tapering toward roasted hazelnuts and coffee finish. Riveting. Score: 91
For the person on your list who just loves to throw a party, give a double magnum of the 2017 Terra d’Aligi Tatone Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC from Italy (Vintages $74.75/3L). The LCBO releases this wine in 750mL format twice per year and it always sells out. So for the holidays, the liquor giant released 800 double magnums of it. It’s an impressive gift that comes in a giant tin.
In the glass, the Tatone Montepulciano d’Abruzzo shines deep ruby and wafts with blackberry and tobacco, Christmas cake and espresso. On the palate, it’s juicy and smooth with silky tannins on the entry and an attractive little grip on the finish — great mouth feel. The flavours cascade with all the nuances found on the nose for layered interest. Sure to please everyone from newbies to connoisseurs, this big bottle is a true crowd-pleaser. Score: 92
Brandy drinkers will appreciate the Monnet Cognac VSOP from France (LCBO $72.45) in its uber-cool, vintage gift box. Cognac is brandy made from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. The grapes are made into wine, distilled, then matured in oak barrels. In this case, the distilled spirit was aged for at least four years in oak. And the final, amber-hued liquid charms the senses with kaleidoscopic complexity. Suggestions of dried apricots dipped in honey, nougat and nut, caramel, licorice, leather and gingerbread ebb and flow. Score: 94
Speaking of spirits, a bottle that takes hedonism to a new level is the gobsmacking good Cambridge Distillery Truffle Gin from England (LCBO $169.00). Made by the Master Distiller William Lowe, who also holds the coveted Master of Wine designation, infuses this spirit with white truffles sourced from Alba, Juniper and a top-secret blend of other botanicals. The result is a deep, euphoric drink that starts with the scent of truffle. Sniff again to find dark chocolate. Burnt wood. Juniper. Steel. Tar. Pipe tobacco. This gin works as a cocktail ingredient or served neat, as a decadent digestif. Score: 94
The wine-loving bookworm will appreciate “Drinking with the Valkyries: Writings on Wine” by Andrew Jefford (Amazon.ca $45.00). This new book is a collection Jefford’s essays published in Decanter magazine and the World of Fine Wine. If you’re not familiar with Jefford’s writing, it’s outstanding. Here’s a sample from page 99 where he describes a Petit Chablis:
“You taste the juicy driving sourness. The tongue plunges in, then splashes and shakes the mouth into life like a wet dog bounding into a warm kitchen. This is the taste of shivering. That, in a way, is all there is: it’s Petit Chablis. We might, as we smelled its aromatic absence, have imagined water running over stones, and water turned stone, but there is no particular stoniness in the wine to dignify its austere, close-shaven, convict-like almost-fruit; no texture, no layers. There is just the confrontation, the shock. Lemon juice again, without spurting fragrant lemon oil, without cream, without layers; bitter lemon, unapologetic with it. Terrific … You’re out; you’re on.”
Jefford’s writing is a tough act to follow. So I’ll stop here.
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