Whether you’re buying wine to give as gifts or are restocking your wine rack heading into the holiday season, getting loaded up on vino, so to speak, is actually not too tough a task — even if you’re trying to avoid in-person shopping.
Here’s a quick list of solid wines that can help you shorten your holiday to-do list — whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else. And if you’re hoping to avoid going to a bricks-and-mortar store, most of the vino below (along with lots more) is available for delivery from Liquor Marts or private wine stores in Winnipeg (and, in some cases, beyond — check the websites/social media accounts for more).
Rather than opting for the classically corny wine charms (which are useless right now, owing to social gathering restrictions), there are plenty of smaller-format reds, whites, rosés and bubblies to stuff those stockings. The Joiy NV Shimmering Bubbles (Australia — $4.72/250ml can, Liquor Marts and beyond), for example, is a "prosecco-style sparkling wine" that is pale straw in colour with some modest effervescence. Aromatically it brings apple seed, pear, melon rind and peach leaf. It’s off-dry and quite fizzy, with tart peach-candy flavours as well as lemon zest and secondary green apple notes. The bubbles are quite spritzy and the acidity is racy, making for a crisp, lean bubbly that’s simple and fun — perhaps best mixed with orange juice for a mimosa or blended into a bellini. Available for delivery. 2.5/5
For those who enjoy a lighter white wine, the Villa Maria 2019 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand — $22.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) is an organic white that delivers vibrant grapefruit, lime zest, herbal and chalky notes on the nose that are lively and appealing. It’s dry, razor-sharp and crisp, with loads of fresh citrus flavours (think lemon, lime and grapefruit), some secondary bell pepper and spice notes, hints of chalkiness and plenty of acidity on the racy, medium-length finish. Great verve and energy — drink now. 4.5/5 (Note: The Cellar Selection isn’t available for delivery via Liquor Marts, but Villa Maria’s Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc is, and is also a solid buy at $17.49.)
Adventurous types would be wise to check out the Mar del Notre 2018 Albariño (Rias Baixas, Spain – around $25, private wine stores). Pale straw in colour, this Spanish Albariño offers delightful pear, floral, red apple skin, pineapple and melon aromas. It’s dry, light-bodied and fresh, with some spice notes working well with the tree fruit and tropical flavours, a rich, peachy viscosity and a slightly steely/chalky finish. Clean, crisp and delicious. Available at La Boutique del Vino. 4.5/5
If a classic California Chardonnay is on your holiday to-do list, they don’t get much more classic than the Kendall-Jackson 2018 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay (California — $20.49, Liquor Marts and beyond). Pale straw and clear in appearance, this has all the aromatic hallmarks of California Chardonnay one would expect — ripe apple and peach, tropical fruit, vanilla and hints of spice. It’s medium-bodied and fairly viscous, with ripe, almost-sweet apple, peach and pineapple flavours along with a rich, creamy oak component. While many producers in the Golden State are moving in the direction of less rich and oak-driven Chardonnay, there’s still a market for this style. Available for delivery. 3/5
On the red wine side of things, you can’t go wrong with the classic Ruffino 2019 Chianti (Chianti, Italy — $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond). There’s a herbal, almost-meaty note to the nose of this red fruit-driven Chianti, with some underlying smoke showing not too badly. On the medium-bodied palate, the acidity and light tannins complement the tart red berry, licorice and white pepper notes. An approachable red that’s a no-brainer with basic pasta in a red sauce. Solid for the price and available for delivery. 3/5
On the killer-value front when it comes to big, rich reds is the Acentor 2018 Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain – around $22, private wine stores). Deep purple in colour, this Spanish Garnacha offers fresh plum and blueberry aromas with secondary spice and subtle woody notes. It’s a medium-plus-bodied and ripe red, delivering fresh dark berry flavours as well as peppery, spicy notes on the palate, modest tannins and a long warm finish thanks to the 14.5 per cent alcohol. Try with sharper cheeses, rustic beef dishes or spicy pizza. 4/5
For the Old World red wine drinker in your life, the Clarence Dillon Wines 2014 Clarendelle (Medoc, France — around $42, private wine stores) will be of interest. Deep purple in colour with a slightly faded, brick-coloured edge, this Merlot-Cabernet red Bordeaux blend offers plum, black currant, violet, leather and light spice notes on the nose. Medium-plus bodied and dry, the Clarendelle offers rustic charm on the palate, with cranberry, cassis and white pepper notes, as well as modest tannins and a short finish. The fruit is starting to show its age — drink now. Purchased at The Winehouse. 3.5/5
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.