12 Reds for the Christmas Crunch
By David Lawrason
Well we can’t shorten the LCBO cashier line-ups for you, but WineAlign can reduce the time you spend in the store by helping you create your shopping list before you leave home. For weeks now we have been guiding you through your Holiday wine purchasing, and I suspect that many of you have already tuned in and done your shopping. The annual surge in traffic on WineAlign attests to that (we are having a banner year!). We are also welcoming dozens of new members every day. So if you are just joining us, here is what we have covered off in recent weeks.
Back in November, VINTAGES released its “finest” big guns, and we picked our faves, most of which will have evaporated from the shelves by now. From the last, huge December 6th release, we highlighted several whites, reds and fortifieds to add to your gift list. Earlier this week Steve Thurlow presented an intriguing selection of less expensive LCBO wines for The Five Days of Christmas, and last week Sara d’Amato guided you to VINTAGES recommendations for the various Personalities on your list. On December 23 watch for John Szabo’s annual Fizz Guide on the run up to New Years.
Today I simply want to present a varied selection of 12 international reds. They should prove to be horizon-expanding for those getting into wine. They are of excellent quality (over 90 points); good value (under $50) and still stocked in decent quantities (about 1000 bottles in inventory as of December 17). It’s up to you of course to decide why, which and how many you select: whether a single bottle for stuffing a stocking, a pair packaged as a host/hostess gift, a six-bottle splurge on wines for entertaining, or a generous twelve pack to seed the cellar of a new collector.
Domaine De Vieux Télégraphe 2012 Télégramme, Châteauneuf Du Pape, Rhone Valley, France ($49.95) – This is the second wine of Vieux Télégraphe the flagship of the meticulous Brunier family. It is refined and engaging, a great gift for the wine fancier, but no harm done if it’s opened and decanted over the holidays.
Confidences De Prieuré Lichine 2010, Margaux, Bordeaux, France ($48.95) – From a great Bordeaux vintage that has been thrilling me in recent months, this is second wine of Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, the producer of a very refined cab-merlot based blend in the Margaux appellation. It’s the ideal introduction to the seamlessness that can make Bordeaux very special. Ideal inspiration for the start-up cellar.
Domaine Les Yeuses 2012 Les Épices Syrah, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95) – This ebullient peppery syrah from the south of France is so well priced, you might consider gifting a six-pack as an instant “house wine” stock-up. Great for Mediterranean cuisine, and that includes pizza.
Tenuta Sette Ponti 2011 Crognolo, Tuscany, Italy ($34.95) – This is a very well made, mid-weight red that walks that fine line between Tuscan elegance and Italian heart. It’s a slightly rugged sangiovese buffed by a small proportion of cabernet and merlot, aged in new French oak. A fine specimen for those setting off to explore/cellar higher end Italian reds.
Ontanon 2001 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($39.95) – In my Dec 6 newsletter I focused on the joys of drinking older wines over the holidays. This is another that is ready to go, but will still age another five years. Spanish Rioja still leads the world in producing mature table ready reds you can buy off the shelf.
Sori’ Paitin 2010 Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($41.95) – At some point every wine fan gets enthused about the gritty nebbiolo-based reds of Barolo and Barbaresco in northwest Italy. I tend to gravitate to the slightly lighter, earlier evolving Barbarescos, and this is a fine example from a great year. Needs ageing for about three years, or three hours aeration in a decanter.
Domaine Tournon 2012 Shay’s Flat Vineyard Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($37.95) – From a rugged outpost of granitic grape-growing 200km northwest of Melbourne comes a biodynamic shiraz by Michel Chapoutier, a leader in biodynamics in Rhone Valley. Click to read more about this French-styled syrah with outback ruggedness.
Wynns 2012 Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($27.95) – Coonawarra is among my top three go-to regions in the world for cabernet sauvignon; just cool enough to showcase the herbaceous side of cabernet yet warm enough to capture classic blackcurrant fruit. Winemaker Sue Hodder’s sensibilities have drawn a fine portrait, at a very reasonable price.
Calera 2012 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California ($33.95) – California has come a long way with pinot noir, guided by Josh Jensen’s pioneering work in the terrain of the Central Coast. This generous wine weaves Burgundian rusticity and California fruit ripeness, and is just plain delicious. Could grace your Christmas bird.
Hidden Bench 2010 Terroir Caché Meritage, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($32.80) – Since 2005 Harald Thiel and his winemakers have been honing what is becoming one of the top Bordeaux-inspired red blends in Ontario (out of 100s that try this combo with very mixed success). I served it blind in a recent WSET class in Montreal, where a student who professed never to have found a Niagara red she liked, picked it as her favourite of the afternoon. Go to school here.
Bodega 2012 Noemía A Lisa, Patagonia, Argentina ($25.95) – From way off the beaten track, in the middle of scrub-infested nowhere in southern Argentina, this biodynamically grown malbec is nothing like those you might have had from Mendoza. It’s vibrant, funky, a bit meaty and shows some great finesse and depth for the money.
Frei Brothers 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, USA ($24.95) – One of my great peeves of 2014 is the confection-ization of California red wines – and red zinfandel in particular. So this honest to goodness rendition of the California’s heritage grape came as a relief. I chalk it up to the Gallo’s deep roots among the old zin vines of the Dry Creek Valley. This is delicious.
Finally, if you just don’t have time to get out there to shop, you can always purchase a WineAlign gift certificate, and be responsible for turning your friends and family on to a lifetime of drinking better wine. Remember again to check in next week for The Fizz Report, and until then I hope you enjoy the run up to Christmas and all the anticipation.
VP of Wine
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!