December 15, 2011

These are a few of my favourite things...

– wine tips for the holiday feast

With the holiday season about to land upon your doorstep, it is only proper to offer a drink and a few appetizers to set the festive tone once your guests begin arrive. Can I suggest a range of ready-to-go beverages to accompany the smorgasbord of nibblies that lead up to dinner.   As the house begins to fill, keep their glasses topped-up but allow some time between bottles and always pair alcohol with food to reduce the intoxicating effect. Remember as well that not everyone likes to partake and therefore a supply of well chilled bottled water and non-alcoholic refreshments is an essential addition to the otherwise fermented infusion.    

After the coat exchange and bombardment of hugs and kisses, try…

Moscato d’Asti – light and refreshing
Unpretentious, unassuming, and uplifting; nothing says ‘welcome, please make yourself at home’ like a glass filled with frizzante bubbles. Typically only 6-8% alcohol, so your guests can enjoy this one without feeling any side effects.  
LCBO 212092 | 750 mL

Shiraz blend – fruit forward
So many people enjoy this style that you really should have a bottle or two on hand to offer your guests as they wait for the turkey to brown. But don’t get too fancy here; I`d go for body and mass appeal over complexity.  Australia remains the ultimate expression of new-world crowd-pleasing wine, and down-under they really do make some sensational sippers.     
VINTAGES | 66738 | 750 mL

Alsace Riesling – Fa La La
If the tasty Aussie doesn’t fill their glass then consider an Alsatian Riesling which tends to be drier than its German counterpart.  Pair it with finger foods and appetizers around the island in the kitchen.  
VINTAGES | 249631 | 750 mL

Sherry – A little in the soup
Considering soup as a prelude to your feast?  My wife makes the best French Onion Soup on the planet and this is the secret... add a half cup of Lustau East India Sherry to the broth.  I actually have no idea what this stuff tastes like on its own, but in the soup... OMG!
VINTAGES | 713636 | 375 mL

Burgundy (red or white) – Bottled perfection
Burgundy is always my starting point for the holiday main course wines.  If the style of food does not suit Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, only then do I change the wines.   Remember that not everyone at the table will be as fussy [as some of us might be] about food/wine pairings.  Consider placing a bottle of each on the table and let your guests choose.  Either will work with your holiday feast.
VINTAGES | 208512 | 750 mL
VINTAGES | 608489 | 750 mL

Amarone – Wow Factor
Arguably the most impressive of the full-bodied Italian reds.  If you plan to serve beef rather than the traditional turkey or ham for your holiday feast, consider a bottle this powerhouse red.  It is by no means inexpensive, but if you want to make people’s heads spin, this is the wine!
VINTAGES | 413179 | 750 mL

Rioja – Old-world Charm
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I have never had a bad bottle of wine from Rioja.  If Burgundy or Amarone don’t tickle your fancy then consider a touch of Spanish charm.  The degree of oak influence increases and you ascend through the levels of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva.  A nice bottle of Rioja red is the perfect wine to pair with lamb.  
LCBO | 621003 | 750 mL

Madeira – Dessert in a bottle
Fortified, oxidized, and one that will have them asking questions… after the pressed juice ferments, these wines are heated to extreme temperatures (as far as winemaking goes) and  then allowed to mingle freely with the air; a technique unique to this style.  Madeira can range from quite dry to a sweet wine called Boal that reflects the character of both Tawny port and Oloroso Sherry but with a richness unique to its home on the tiny volcanic island off the coast of Portugal
VINTAGES | 196857 | 500 mL 

Sauternes – Classic sweet Bordeaux  
In terms of dessert wines, this is as good as it gets; not pungently sweet like Icewine and less intoxicating than the fortified selections, Sauternes has a refreshing quality that sips well on its own or when paired with a range of sweet dishes.
VINTAGES | 98582 | 375 mL  

20 year old Tawny Port – the kids are in bed…
The feast is over and the dishes sit sparkling on the sideboard as they wait for the next occasion; I lay my head on the back of couch and close my eyes... 
‘What a wonderful day but dear Lord that was a lot of work’ my wife whispers just above her breath.  ‘You were wonderful my dear – a toast to you’, as I raise my glass one last time for the evening.
LCBO | 620641 | 500 mL

Happy Holidays


  1. Thanks Tyler! I love the whole flow. All the best to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year. Carol Ann

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Tyler is a member of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada and the Guild of Sommeliers. He writes about and reviews wine both online and via a variety of circulating publications. In 2009 Tyler founded North of 9 Fine Wine, a free public wine education resource where he publishes his Thoughts, Theory, and Recommendations. For additional vinous related information and learning, follow on Twitter @TylerOnWine