The old guard of France, Spain and Italy form the bulk of my Holiday stash as these countries are back on form. Of course I’ve also included South America and Australia. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of Holiday cheer in the Boards Local red offerings – but I’ve included one that would work well with a traditional turkey dinner. My first 6 picks are more essential than the others for their great drinkability and ability to give easy pleasure – without spending big bucks. Most of them are loosely related through the next ‘hot’ grape variety. Read on!
**Mainly MEDIUM-BODIED REDS for meals and party entertaining**
1. France – GRENACHE IS FINALLY GETTING ITS DAY
It looks like the Grenache grape may finally get the respect it deserves. For decades it has been a ‘secret’ ingredient in some of the great reds of the South of France and North of Spain, but that may change as Grenache starts to appear on more labels, and wine world finds its next ‘hot’ grape variety. Grenache has the fragrances and feelings of the Mediterranean hills, villages and back roads. A herbaceousness that the French call ‘garrique’. Shades of the flavourings a chef would add to a roast or braised dish – for deep, sensual flavours. But what I also like about Grenache is the friendly/playful character – it never wanders into the corporate, dark arena of Cabernet or Syrah. It’s more into charm than power. A broad generalization might place Grenache between the prettiness of Pinot and the manliness of Cabernet. (In Spain the grape is called Garnacha).
MICHEL HAURY 11 Grenache, France 361709 $12.70
2. France – VERY BISTRO
Every time I enjoy this wine – which is often, I want to erase the word Merlot from the label because it’s misleading. La Chasse is medium-bodied, slightly rustic, very gulpable, and typical of house wine at a French bistro – which is very different from our current perceptions of Merlot. The gutsy character is invigorating and makes a better food partner than smooth/rich reds. Meffre is a leading Rhone producer, and La Chasse is typical of reds from that region.
GABRIEL MEFFRE 12 Merlot ‘La Chasse’, France 361709 $12.70
3. France – ROCKIN RHONE
Could there be a more perfect, medium-bodied red! Think elbows on the table – lashings of food, with lashings of this wine. Bring it on. A light chilling adds some pucker and refreshment. Great to see an LCBO oldie-goldie still going strong. Rodet is now part of the Boisset family – who have improved everything they touch. More than likely there is Grenache in this blend. RODET 12 Cotes du Rhone, France 8979 $13.95
4. Spain – THANKS TORRES
The ability to combine refreshment with heartwarming, but never heavy, flavours and feelings – and great drinkability, are the features that kept me loving Toro for at least half of its lifespan. Think log cabin, pick-up truck and other heartfelt experiences. Produced from the Garnacha grape as mentioned above.
TORRES 13 ‘Sangre de Toro’, Garnacha, Catalunya, Spain 6585 $12.95
5. Spain – MORE GOOD GARNACHA
This has more heft – shades of Argentina in dark colour and value price. I really like the the down-to-earth quality and Bistro feeling. Not too rich and very satisfying with with almost all foods and times. Cheerful label too – who needs holly!
BODEGAS BORSAO 12 Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 386961 $11.95 ($9.95 till Jan 4)
6 . Italy – BARBERA
There is lot of Barbera available, but some producers are destroying the wine by crafting for niceness. Look for the genuine, rustic edition from newcomer Boeri – so bright, appetizing and refreshing. And characterful too. The liveliness of Italy in a glass. And at the very reasonable price of $12. Perfect for pasta or pizza night – or the left-over turkey sandwiches. I’m in love with this stuff.
BOERI 12 Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 375113 $12.30
7. Chile – PINOT
While Chile’s strength is with the warm-climate, big reds, a few wineries are crafting appealing Pinots. At amazing prices. Leyda is not only inexpensive, but scores for mature flavours and some of the earthy character beloved by fans of red Burgundy. Along with a spicy, slight sweetness that would love to snuggle-up to a big bird. Or a dinner of grilled salmon. Pinot loves mushrooms, so put some on the plate.
LEYDA 12 Pinot Noir, Chile 358929 $12.50
8. Chile – THE GREAT CHEAP RED
My mission to find the great, cheap, crowd-pleasing red got resolved at the recent Wines of Chile tasting. While Santa Carolina has been sending us great tasting values for over a decade, their current Merlot hits a new high spot. At least for those of us who do not worship dark colour, density and high alcohlol. It has medium, Euro-style proportions, but with the extra ripe flavours of a hot climate. You get a nice combination of yumminess and refreshment. The perfect party gulper, or partner for just about any popular food. The magnum size converts to less than seven dollars for a regular bottle.
SANTA CAROLINA 13 Merlot, Chile 361741 $8.95 504340 1500ml/$13.95
*** GETTING RICHER***
9. Argentina – ANOTHER STYLE OF MALBEC
Malbec is the big red of Argentina – their Cabernet. But not all producers see this grape as just ‘big’. Luigi Bosca has crafted his Malbec in a more sexy, seductive style. There’s charm as well as heft. A Californian parallel might be Zinfandel. Sure to be a hit.
LUIGI BOSCA 12 Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina 79293 Vintages Essentials $17.95
10. Australia – SHIRAZ OF COURSE & THE PROMISED LAND
I know there’s still a lot of die-hard Shiraz fans out there so here’s a really solid, concentrated edition of your favourite fruit cake and chocolate tasting wine. And it’s on sale. And what could be more festive than a red-topped bottle, that actually peels off. No kidding. Wine and toy combined! Wakefield’s reds always have a vibrant, fresh berry character, and this Cabernet is also dangerously drinkable – and gulpable. Good value is another Wakefield trait.
RED KNOT 13 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia 619395 $17.95 ($15.95 till Jan 3)
WAKEFIELD 12 ‘Promised Land’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia 358838 $14.85
11. Local Ontario – TAKE A WALK ON THE LIGHTER SIDE WITH PINOT NOIR
Silver Bay is about as light as you can get in Pinot, and certainly easy drinking. At room temperature I did not care for the slight sweetness, but after chilling, I could not stop gulping the stuff. Perfect for family events, dips/snacks and all popular foods. But it must be chilled. I believe this is a new brand from Henry of Pelham.
SILVER BAY 13 Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara 372789 $14.95
12. France again – REALLY BIG SHOW
We’re back in the South of France – Grenache country, for my ‘big’ red. Gigondas is the world’s best value when it comes to super-rich reds. Hard to imagine a better winter warmer. Blockbuster stuff with enough flavor and personality to blow your mind/palate. This year or in two or three.
DOM le CLOS des CAZAUX 12 Gigondas ‘La Tour Sarrazine’, Rhone, France 279562 Vintages $29.95 (no photo)