Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us, and as usual, I am behind on my Christmas shopping. Today, the cashier at the grocery store asked me if I was getting excited for Christmas, and I was surprised that my response was a scowly face. Let me explain: I do like Christmas. I love spending time with family, eating delicious food and splurging a little on fancy wines. I love the uplifting smell of a pine tree in our living room. I love walking through our neighbourhood at night and seeing all the pretty lights shimmer against a fresh dusting of snow. I love hearing Christmas songs everywhere I go, especially now that it’s December (any stores that played Christmas music in November got blacklisted). What I do NOT love is the consumerism associated with Christmas. I do not enjoy the pressure of having to buy gifts for everyone. Plus I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I want to buy everyone the perfect gift. And since that is not always possible, I get anxious and stressed out. Every year I vow that I will get gifts as I see them throughout the year, but I always seem to forget, so this last week before Christmas is always a panic-ridden mad dash. And that, I do not enjoy. It totally takes the magic out of it.
Just as I am behind on my Christmas shopping, I am posting this holiday gift guide with only a week to go before the big day. Perhaps I need to make some New Years Resolutions about advance planning…
Obviously, this list is by no means exhaustive, it just presents a few tried, tested and true items that I have enjoyed or that have enhanced my appreciation of wine recently. So in no particular order, here are a few holiday recommendations for the wine lover on your list:
Bubbly is a must-have for the holidays. Whether you’re having people over or bringing a hostess gift, bubbly is always a safe bet. Here are two options:
1. Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge ($24.95)
I discovered this sparkling wine this summer during our East Coast road trip, and have had the pleasure of tasting it a few times since, and every time it catches me by surprise. It’s a beautiful salmon colour, with rose petals, anjou pear, pink grapefruit and lychee on the nose. On the palate, it is like wine candy: honeydew melon, candy apple, lychee, candied pineapple and elderflower, with some residual sugar. And this will change depending on what you pair with it. We had it with chicken and shrimp stir-fry the other night, and it was pretty darned tasty! It would also make an excellent apéritif to get you salivating before a meal.
This wine is currently available in Vintages, but if history has taught us anything, it is that this wine goes FAST, so stock up while you can. It’s also available at the SAQ for those of you in Quebec. And for the rest of you, Benjamin Bridge offers online shopping.
2. Astoria Fanò Asolo Prosecco 2015 ($19.80 at the SAQ)
I recently attended a tasting of a variety of sparkling wines.
Of these, the Astoria was my favourite prosecco of the day. As you may recall from my bubbly post from a while back, prosecco is made using a different method than champagne. Rather than the second fermentation happening directly in the bottle, it is done in pressurized tanks. This is called the charmat technique. It makes for a slightly fruitier bubbly than champagne or cava, and is always popular served as an apéritif with finger foods.
This prosecco comes in a beautiful bottle, so the aesthetics are appealing to even the non-wine drinker. Plus, it tastes great, with flavours of lemon, brioche, apricot and white flower and refreshing effervescence. What’s not to like!
This particular bottle is only available at the SAQ, but if you are in Ontario, check out this special keepsake 1500 L bottle ($34.95) which was recently discontinued from the LCBO.
Sometimes it is not appropriate to buy wine for people. Pregnant ladies, for one. Also, apparently some workplaces have policies straight up forbidding wine on site! Sometimes you have to learn these things the hard way. And that’s where wine accessories can be excellent alternatives. Here are a few that I use on a regular basis and can no longer live without.
Vacu vin wine saver
The Vacu vin has actually changed my life. Before, I would actually menu plan based on what wine I had open. Now with the Vacu vin, I can pump all the air out of open wines and extend the life of a bottle for an extra three or four days before the flavours start to go funny and it becomes cooking wine. Not only that, it is super easy to use. I figured it out the very first try! Pretty much everyone in my family is getting one of these for Christmas. Hopefully they don’t read this post until after…
The gift set above comes with the pump, two stoppers and two no-drip pourers, all for $20. It is the perfect stocking stuffer!
There are lots of ways to chill a bottle of wine, but the chilling sleeve is one of my favourites, if only for its versatility. I have been known to not plan my dinner wine ahead of time and commonly come home after work with a wine that requires chilling as quickly as possible. I throw it in the freezer while I cook, then when it’s time to eat, I bring out my secret weapon. You guessed it: the sleeve. It’s got fancy gel packs in it that stay cold for hours after being in the freezer. What I love about it is that you don’t have to worry about running back to the fridge for refills, or messing around with ice buckets (seriously, who keeps that much ice in their freezer??). You just stick the bottle in the sleeve and leave it on the table so your guests can simply serve themselves. The one pictured above is on the pricier side because it comes from France (though it comes highly recommended by yours truly). But if you’re looking for a more affordable option that comes in all sorts of fun colours, here you go:
A classic gift for the hostess with mostest on your list to ensure no one steals your glass at the next wine and cheese.
Well friends, this is likely my last post of 2016. This week promises to be nutty, and the Christmas weekend will involve the traditional 16 hours of driving to various family Christmas festivities around the province. Then just a few more days of work before we are rewarded with a week of sun and sand in the Caribbean! I sure could use the vitamin D after this treacherous month of winter. I am sooooooo looking forward to trading up my big winter boots for a pair of flip-flops! If you have any recommendations for things to do in St. Maarten, leave me a message in the comments!
On that note, happy wining!