Bill’s Best Bets – December 2015
Spending a lil’ more for the holiday season
by Bill Zacharkiw
We are a few days away from the Christmas break, a time when most of us get to take a week to chill out, have fun, exchange gifts, and get together and eat. Many of us also like to spend a little more on wine.
This is the time I dip into my cellar, crack Champagne instead of a sparkling wine, and when I give a bottle as a gift, I’ll drop the extra $20. While value is a relative term, when you are spending more than $30 on a bottle, it is even more important. After all, if you take a flyer on a $15 bottle, and it doesn’t quite do it for you, then so be it. But when you spend over $30, it stings a bit more.
So in honour of all of you who want to spend a little bit more this holiday season, here are some wines that, in my books, are worth the cash.
Champagnes and finer sparklers
I often do blind tastings where I pour 6-8 sparkling wines from different regions and ask guests to tell me both price and provenance. It’s rare that they aren’t able to pick out the Champagnes, even if they know very little about Champagne itself. There’s something about the depth and finesse of the bubbles of a well made Champagne that is very hard to copy.
And as many people can’t afford to drink Champagne very often, they make exceptional gifts. They also drink well right away, and few drinks start an evening off like fine bubbles. My Champagnes for the coming season, which run between $55-$75, include the exceptionally complex blanc de blanc from Larmandier-Bernier, the super oyster friendly and well priced Vignes de Montgueux from Jacques Lassaigne, the 2002 Extra Brut from Fleury for a tête a tête seafood dinner, and for that one evening when smoked salmon is the entrée, a rosé from Nicolas Feuillatte.
For fans of white wine, there are so many styles and interesting wines available, that it is hard to choose. I like to take people a little out of their comfort zone, but white wine drinkers tend to appreciate that. For the chardonnay lover, I won’t give a chardonnay, but rather a wine that is equally rich with a wonderful minerality like the 2014 Roussanne from Pierre Gaillard. If they hate chardonnay, which is usually because they are fearful of the overly oaked, super rich styles of the past, I will obviously give them a chardonnay, but from Chablis. Both the 2014 Montee de Tonnerre from Maligny and the 2013 Vaillons from Daniel Dampt are really good, and of course can be drunk now or held for a few years.
Fans of sauvignon blanc get none of that – are you are starting to see the theme here? Instead they are “forced” to drink assyrtiko from Santorini. Both the 2014 from Argyros and 2014 from Sigalas will do the job just fine. If you are serving seafood anytime over the holidays, these are your wines.
And for my riesling fanatics, I will offer up two choices of the real thing. For the cellar, the Ostertag 2013 Heissenberg is a fantastic wine that drinks really well right now, but will gain over the next decade. For my family to warm up to the Christmas festivities, and for my cellar, the Charles Baker 2012 Piccone Vineyard is my choice. How good is Niagara riesling? This good.
I will be a little less daring for my red wine loving friends. For those who appreciate lighter styled wines, you have to start any conversation about the style in Beaujolais. The 2013 Morgon Corcelette from Foilard is always one of my favourite wines, as is the 2013 from JP Brun. From Italy the 2012 Sant’Emiliano Barbera from Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta is absolutely stunning.
A step up in intensity, I love giving a well made Barolo and the 2011 Serralunga from Principiano Ferdinando is both a great value and a fantastic wine that will hold or drink right way. The 2013 Cotes de Nuits Villages, Au Clou, is one of the better wines I have tasted from Boisset, and a treat for pinot noir fans. And as I love the mid-weight cabernet francs from the Loire, the 2013 La Porte Saint-Jean from Domaine Sylvain Dittière is a great example of drinkability now, with a capacity to age too.
But for those who want lots of torque, or when a prime rib is on the table, there are a few wines which piqued my tastebuds over the last few months. For the fan of riper styled wines, the 2012 Treanna might be the best red I have tasted from Austin Hope. The 2009 Palazzo Brunello-di-Montelcino is drinking wonderfully right now, and will also gain with some more cellar time. I love great grenache the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Mont Redon is an exemplary wine.
Giving a wine with some age already is always a good idea, and the 2004 St. Ercolano from Carpineto is absolutely magnificent, and despite being almost 12 years old, is still tasting rather youthful.
Have a great holidays folks! Thanks for reading and see you in 2016.
“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial
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