Remember when you had a month to get organized for Christmas? Well, for all you procrastinators out there, you now have seven days to get the job done. We can't really select gifts for all your friends but we may be able to help you with this week's most dreaded challenge: "Make sure you pick up some wine for Christmas dinner."
Selecting Christmas dinner wines can strike fear into the heart of any seasoned wine buyer, let alone the casual tippler especially if you failed to sign up for that food and wine pairing class you said you'd go to after last year's Christmas dinner debacle. But fear not — we have the answers you need today and we've done our best to track down wines that are in plentiful supply.
First, there are no right or wrong wines to serve at Christmas dinner. Over time, with much wine wisdom gained, we have come to eschew great wines from old vintages that require special handling, temperature checks, decanting and, frankly, too much attention to detail. None can stand up to the confusion of large family holiday dinners. That said, it doesn't mean you can simply freelance.
Generous wines are always a hit. That means red wines with soft tannins and white wines with a reasonably fruity, aromatic demeanour. After that, as long as you consider the main course, be it the traditional stuffed turkey or perhaps a lamb roast, or a ham, or even a vegetarian dish, you should be able to enjoy some magical matches.
If ham (or any kind of charcuterie) is on the menu, think off-dry riesling. The fruit and acidity is a perfect foil to the smoke and salt. Local riesling options are plentiful and worth checking out, some in government stores, others at VQA stores. Names to look for include Quails' Gate 2014 Dry Riesling ($14.79), Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Riesling ($14.99) and Gunderloch 2014 Fritz's Riesling ($13).
Our feature pick is the Selbach 2014 Riesling (Fish Label) 2014 ($15.79) from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. What we like most about this wine is how consistently delicious it is, especially for the price. It's all Mosel from its peachy apple scent to its crunchy acidity. Juicy, fresh and mouth-filling, it's a sophisticated white wine party in a bottle. And, of course, the colourful fish label was designed by a Vancouver artist. If you love nectarines and not a lot of alcohol, this is the wine for you. Drink this throughout the holidays – before, during, and after the bird. Crazy, good value.
There's also good news for vegetarians who seemed to prosper at Christmas, thanks to the many meat-less, vegetable side dishes and trimmings that combine brilliantly with the emerging category of aromatic blends. But the same wines work with just as well with turkey.
Local picks to look for include Road 13 Stemwinder 2014 Chardonnay Marsanne Roussanne ($15.69), The View 2014 Voulez View Blanc ($13.99) and Church and State Lost Inhibitions White ($15.99). From around the globe, look for Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap 2014 White ($13.49) and Ormarine 2014 Picpoul de Pinet (13.79).
Our top vegetarian pick is the Gabriel Meffre 2014 Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc Cuvée Saint-Vincent ($13.49) from the Rhone Valley, France. This is a fresh mix of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, marsanne, viognier and bourboulenc that opens with pretty floral blossoms and herbal lees notes. The delicate lees carries through onto a finely spiced, lightly savoury palate, drawing light pear, green fig and citrus along with the flow. The finish is dry and elegant. A perfect wine for vegetarian lasagna. Super value.
If lamb is on the menu, the slam- dunk match is syrah but syrah blends are equally welcomed. The theory is the big, gamey powerful meat flavours require a similarly powerful red to subdue the proteins and soften the tannins. If you don't tell anyone, they will also work with a fully loaded turkey with the trimmings. Sure bets include Falernia Reserva 2010 Syrah ($18.99) from Elqui Chile, along with Fowles Wine Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch 2010 Shiraz, ($36) and Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda 2012 Shiraz ($17.99) from Victoria, Australia.
Our pick for the lamb or the turkey is the M. Chapoutier 2013 Belleruche Côtes du Rhône ($15.49) from the Rhone Valley, France. This has a lovely white pepper, black raspberry, smoky, savoury nose with a fresh palate and more meaty, black cherry, orange peel and garrigue flavours with a hint of chocolate. A crowd pleaser with a solid core of fruit.
From Spain, and a little richer, is the Formiga de Vellut 2012 (Organic) ($28.78) out of Priorat. Formiga is a juicy 60/20/20 mix of grenache noir, carignan and syrah with stony mineral black fruit flavours. This is no shrinking violet but the tannins are in check and velvety. A versatile, hipster red that can cope with big flavours. Serious and fine value.
We will leave you with a delicious pinot noir because it is just so much fun to drink. Pull it out for any holiday occasion and you won't be disappointed. Pick up some La Crema 2013 Pinot Noir ($27.49), a delicious Sonoma Coast red that really points to cool climate California. Refreshingly lean and a mix of clones fermented in small open-top tanks and aged in French oak, about one quarter is new and yields a fresh cherries and wild raspberries style with spicy, earthy, savoury undercurrents. Soft and drinkable.
I'm confident you will find all of today's picks in BC Signature Liquor Stores and many will be in private wine shops as well. A number of these wines have been reduced in price for December, a gift from the supplier or distributor who must pay the difference back to the government lest they lose any income.
Remember, if you can't find the exact match, store staff should be able to help you find something similar based on price and the style of our selections.
Well, that's it for 2015, and I can't leave without noting how the years they sail by.
Have a safe and responsible holiday season and, please, plan ahead — do not drink and drive.
Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com