Bill’s Best Bets – December 2017

A really white Christmas
by Bill Zacharkiw

Christmas day might be the day when one can legitimately drink from morning through night. At my family home, we start with late morning bubbly and keep cracking bottles and snacking until our late afternoon dinner, with turkey as the centerpiece of the meal.

This is the perfect opportunity for a grand selection of white wines. So let’s start with the opening volley – morning bubbles. Half my family goes for the classic mimosa. If you are into mixing orange juice with your sparkling wine, don’t bother spending much on a finer bottle. Under $20, there is no lack of great sparklings out there. I like Cava best, so either the Villa Conchi, Segura Vuidas or Pares Balta will more than adequately do the job.

Villa Conchi Brut Selección CavaSegura Viudas Brut Reserva CavaParés Baltà Cava Brut

I am not a fan of mimosas, so I prefer a morning bubbly with a touch of sweetness. It is morning after all. Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7, a cranberry infused cider from Quebec’s Entre Pierre et Terre or Castello del Poggio’s Moscato d’Asti have all been opened up over the past few years. Each year I win more and more converts.

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2016Entre Pierre Et TerreCastello Del Poggio Moscato D'asti 2014

Early afternoon is often when smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese, and other hors d’oeuvres like cold shrimp are served to keep us satisfied until dinner. I love a good sauvignon blanc or  riesling as an early afternoon drink, and both pair perfectly with everything that’s served. There are a number of good Sancerres out there, like Alphonse Mellot’s 2016 La Moussiere, or the 2015 Tuileries from Michel Redde. On a drier profile, riesling fans will be more than sated with either the South African Hartenberg riesling or Barmes Buecher 2016 Harrenweg from Alsace. If you like it a touch fruitier, then the 2016 Stratus Moyer Road will do the trick.

La Moussière Sancerre 2016Michel Redde & Fils Les Tuilières Sancerre 2015Hartenberg Estate Weisser Riesling 2015Domaine Barmès Buecher Herrenweg Riesling 2016Stratus Moyer Road RR1 Riesling 2016

Dinner time I usually offer up a few whites for those who don’t want red. I love a good gewürztraminer, which does well with stuffing and adds a spicy zip to the meal. From Italy, Alois Lageder does a tremendously good, and dry, gewurz. Another personal fave is from Alsatian Jean-Louis Schoepfer. Wonderfully nuanced and meal-friendly. Both will work nicely with sushi as well.

Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2016Jean Louis Schoepfer Gewurztraminer 2015Schug Chardonnay Carneros 2015Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014

But if gewürztraminer is too busy for you, turkey dinner is classic, richer-styled chardonnay territory. I love the Schug Carneros and the Mondavi Napa Valley if you want a Californian take on the grape. From Burgundy, the 2015 Marsannay Le Clos from Rene Bouvier has the stuffing to handle the stuffing. If you want to drop some cash on a great bottle, then try the 2015 Meursault Vieilles Vignes from Buisson-Charles. Has all the texture and finesse one would expect from one of the world’s top chardonnay appellations.

Domaine René Bouvier Marsannay Le Clos 2015Domaine Buisson Charles Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2015Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2015

I have stuck with mostly classic wines here, but any richer styled white will work well. The 2015 Saint-Joseph Blanc from Pierre Gaillard is the perfect example. It is also one of my favourite whites of the year.

Happy Holidays to all of you.


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White 2016